Cast: Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, Susan Sarandon, Robin Williams, Katherine Heigl, Amanda Seyfried, Topher Grace
Director: Justin Zackham
Synopsis: With an all-star cast lead by Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, Susan Sarandon and Robin Williams, The Wedding is a smart, witty and often outrageous comedy that gives an intimate view of a modern family through their highs and lows over a single weekend of celebration. In The Wedding, Don and Ellie Griffin (Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton), long divorced, are suddenly thrown back together for the sake of their adopted son's wedding when his very conservative biological mother decides to come in for the nuptials. The Griffin's soon learn that acting the happily married couple is not so easy and especially awkward for Don's girlfriend, Bebe (Sarandon). In the midst of these charades, the Griffin's children face their own troubles as Lyla (Katherine Heigl) struggles with a secret, Jared (Topher Grace) contemplates his love life or lack thereof, and Alejandro (Ben Barnes) tries to keep everyone together, including his new bride, Missy (Amanda Seyfried) who is appeasing her parents by getting married by a priest (Robin Williams) in a traditional Catholic wedding.
Writer, Director and Producer, Justin Zackham (The Bucket List), is the mastermind behind The Wedding and designed the film in the vein of a European comedy with a subtle dramatic underpinning that captures the idiosyncrasies of family life. Throughout the film, the Griffin's are amusingly and poignantly forced to watch their past, present and future unravel for everyone to see... all while trying not to kill each other in the process.
The Big Wedding
Release Date: 9th May 2013
Weddings are by their very nature, stressful. Emotions run rampant and so often, the pressure of capturing the illusive perfect wedding and meeting expectations takes away from what is bringing the happy couple together in the first place. Add an eccentric family to the mix and chaos and mishaps are bound to ensue.
When writer, director and producer Justin Zackham began to conceive of this project, he was initially inspired by the premise of the French-Swiss film Mon frère se marie where an adopted son asks his adoptive parents, who have since become divorced, to pretend to be married for the weekend of his wedding. From there, Justin Zackham took his story in a different direction thematically with his own wedding experience in the back of his mind. 'We were ready to elope," said Justin Zackham. 'And then two days before, she said she couldn't do it because her mom would kill her. We went through hell for the next year and a half preparing for the wedding. People do crazy things around weddings for reasons that if you'd talk to them any other time of their life, they'd say they'd never do such a thing."
In writing the film, Justin Zackham was also guided by his hometown of Greenwich, Connecticut with its country clubs, private schools and high society life, where he was actually an outsider looking in. 'As the sort of poor token Jew[let's ask Annie]"I saw how these kind of crazy, rich, wonderful families interacted with each other"they could fall apart and come together so easily," said Justin Zackham. These memories of growing up in Connecticut influenced Justin Zackham's development of the characters and the quirky functionality of the Griffin family.
Costume Designer, Aude Bronson-Howard worked with Justin Zackham to find the feel for The Wedding that was typical of the area, yet at the same time atypical given the story they are trying to tell. There was a balance in finding a look that wasn't too formal or stuffy for the Griffin's. 'A lot of these characters are so non-conventional even though they're in conventional Greenwich, Connecticut, said Aude Bronson-Howard. 'As in every film, you have to give people their own individuality, their own personality."
In The Wedding, the older generation is actually much more unruly than the younger generation and so Aude Bronson-Howard dressed the younger characters a little more traditional and conservative than the older characters. For the wedding, Aude Bronson-Howard kept the look light with a floral theme from the dress to the interiors of the wedding tent and the cake, and all of the center pieces. 'I looked to English garden parties for inspiration because it's often informal and people aren't afraid of colour and it felt like there's more culture that way," said Bronson-Howard.
'And I thought why not bring a little bit of that here to this Greenwich extravaganza."
As fate would have it, Justin Zackham's decision to shoot in Greenwich, Connecticut became a common bond for several of the producers and cast members. Producer Richard Salvatore who was married in Connecticut recalls, 'Everything came full circle. Producer Clay Pecorin is from Connecticut, Justin Zackham's from Connecticut and I didn't even realize that Katherine Heigl and Topher Grace were also from Connecticut till further down the road." The familiar setting helped ease the cast into their family dynamic for the film. 'Katherine Heigl is a longtime friend of mine, who's from the next town over in Connecticut," said Topher Grace. 'So it's been amazing to have that kind of connection with someone and play that sister/brother relationship. It's like, if you had to choose someone to be your sister, where you guys kind of finish each other's sentences" she's the one you you've got to choose."
'That Connecticut connection...," says Katherine Heigl. 'When Topher Grace signed on to do the project, I knew it would be fun because he and I have this banter. I knew we were going to have a great time working together, and I'd have my buddy on set with me."
The playful and familiar atmosphere on set helped shape what was taking place on screen with the Griffin's. 'Everyone is having so much fun on this movie, myself included," said Justin Zackham.
'We shot a scene one day where you looked through the lens and it's at a point where it's not Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton and everyone anymore"they actually feel like a family."
'Justin Zackham, I think, went out of his way to create a kind of society here that would bleed into the film," said Topher Grace. 'We're all hanging out in our free time, and that rarely happens, that you voluntarily, after spending 16 hours together, want to hang out.
'The atmosphere on set has been great and I think that all starts at the top," said RichardSalvatore. 'If you have a great director that cares about his actors, then the actors care more about the film. Every person on the movie has brought their A game and are getting along really well."
Richard Salvatore was drawn to the project because of Justin Zackham's ability to not only write comedy, but the underlying dramatic moments as well. 'I thought this had a lot of heart," said Richard Salvatore. 'I thought that with this powerful of a script; we would be able to put together a strong cast." And that's exactly what happened as Justin Zackham and Richard Salvatore got Diane Keaton interested from the very beginning and found the perfect -Don Griffin' to play opposite her in Robert De Niro. 'It was always Robert De Niro in our minds," said Richard Salvatore. 'But he'd been busy while we were putting the film together and then finally there was a break, and we dove in. Once he was interested we got Katherine Heigl involved and it became something where everyone else wanted to be a part of the movie."
'With all of these people, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, Bob De Niro, it's a wonderful cast," said Robin Williams. 'To be a part of this ensemble is kind of why I took the role"it's like a paid vacation. Don't tell anybody... but it's lovely."
Walking into a cast that includes Academy Award® winners Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, Susan Sarandon and Robin Williams can be daunting for a young actor, but as Amanda Seyfried explains, 'They are all serious and well-respected actors, but you get all of us in a group and it doesn't feel daunting. They are so intelligent, and completely their own, which makes acting opposite them more interesting and natural."
Ben Barnes found himself pausing and trying to wrap his head around working with such a seasoned cast. 'My very first scene"my second day"was with Bob, Diane Keaton, and Susan Sarandon and I just thought... -How did I end up here?'," said Ben Barnes. 'I think about day five, I finished a scene with Bob and he sort of put his arm around me and said, -See you tomorrow kiddo.' I was like, kiddo, that's me, that's my new name, officially."
There was a very specific moment when Topher Grace suddenly realized there were four Academy Award® winners in front of him. 'I was sitting at this table the other day, and everyone's got an Academy Award® but me," laughs Topher Grace. 'To be able to do a comedy scene with Robin Williams or do a heartfelt emotional scene with Robert De Niro or Diane Keaton, or work with Susan Sarandon, whose work I've loved forever"I feel so lucky and it doesn't get any better than this."
With vast experience came a freedom and comfort level of improvisation for Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, Susan Sarandon and Robin Williams. Katherine Heigl recalls, 'They taught me a lot in that they tend to improvise and just get into character in a way where they just sort of say what they think and feel in the moment. And it is in that moment that they think of the most brilliant thing to say. That's talent and experience and wisdom and genius. We can't all do that."
The Wedding is very much told through the eyes of Ellie Griffin (Diane Keaton) who comes home for the first time in ten years to the house that she and her ex-husband Don Griffin (Robert De Niro) shared with their three children. The film opens with Ellie Griffin stopping by the red maple tree where their moments as a family are captured in time, immediately giving the audience the sense that theirs is a close-knit family.
The Wedding moves directly into the more outrageously funny territory as we're introduced to Don Griffin (Robert De Niro) and his longtime girlfriend, Bebe McBride (Susan Sarandon). As Don Griffin, Robert De Niro is in rare form. Justin Zackham explains, 'Bob has traditionally played the straight guy in comedies and I feel that, though he may disagree, for the first time he's the comic character." Justin Zackham continues, 'He's stealing scenes and he's laugh out loud funny and has this great chemistry with Diane Keaton where you just completely buy that they're exes."
'Don Griffin is definitely curmudgeonly and just wants to keep the peace, said Justin Zackham. 'He doesn't like any drama and he just wants to keep things nice and smooth"everyone have a good time"but of course that never works out.
Susan Sarandon's character, Bebe McBride, has been with Don Griffin for over ten years and has settled into her place as the eccentric step-mother in the family, but over the course of the weekend, she's forced to revisit her past and revaluate her relationship with Don Griffin. With the dynamics between these three characters already complicated enough, they suddenly find themselves thrown into an awkward situation when Don Griffin and Ellie must pretend they are still married for the weekend of their youngest son's wedding. Alejandro (Ben Barnes) was adopted by the Don Griffin's at a very young age and has never told his very conservative biological mother (Patricia Rae) that his adoptive parents divorced. Thinking his mother would never travel to the United States for his wedding, Alejandro is caught off guard when she agrees to attend.
Conflicted with the secret he's kept for years, he decides it's best to continue the lie for the duration of the weekend to keep the peace and not upset his mother.
'Alejandro's brought up for the first few years of his life by a very Catholic family in Columbia and then moves to America to be raised by a Jewish/Buddhist mother and a father who thinks that any organized religion is for morons," said Ben Barnes. 'So the idea that his biological mother gave up her only son so that he could have a chance at a better life in the States with a -dysfunctional' family that would commit a treacherous sin of divorce is more than he can handle."
'My character is very catholic and I think there are circumstances in her life that really make her cling to her beliefs," said Rae. 'So Alejandro is under this misconception that she's a very closed-minded woman but she is really just as human as everyone else."
While his decision to protect the feelings of his biological mother may be in her best interest and the wisest decision to keep the peace for his wedding, Alejandro has unintentionally thrown his adoptive parents and Bebe for a loop.
Meanwhile, Alejandro's fiancé, Missy O'Connor (Amanda Seyfried), is struggling with her parents who are less than thrilled that their daughter is marrying someone from another country and from such an unconventional family. 'She loves her parents even though they're uptight and sticklers about certain traditions," says Amanda Seyfried. 'I think they did not see this for her, even though she is obviously very much in love with Alejandro."
As Muffin O'Connor, Christine Ebersol explains, 'They want to set their daughter on the right path so she can be as admired as they'd like to be. Accepting their future son-in-law has them a bit anxious because it's not really what they had in mind and not being able to control that produces anxiety."
Both Alejandro and Missy have decided, against their own wishes, to be married in a traditional Catholic wedding to please her parents and his biological mother. As the priest, Father Monaghan (Robin Williams) is from a very wealthy parish that is very much in keeping with what the Muffin O'Connor's would approve of.
The Griffin's two other children, Jared (Topher Grace) and Lyla (Katherine Heigl) come into town for the wedding with their own share of baggage. On coming home, Jared finds himself questioning his decision to remain a virgin until he meets Alejandro's sister from Columbia, Nuria (Ana Ayora) and falls in love. 'Jared's almost 30 and he's carved his own path, but he's starting to waiver," said Topher Grace. 'Then he kind of falls head over heels immediately for his adopted brother's biological sister. He's got a lot of issues in terms of what this means."
'Nuria takes advantage of her sexuality to lure him in with a certain freedom that he doesn't have, but she ends up really caring about him and it turns out better than she would have even imagined it to be," added Ana Ayora.
Lyla's marriage is on the rocks and she has a secret that she knows will complicate matters. Since the divorce, her relationship with her father has been strained and this weekend is the first in a long time that they've spent together. 'Lyla's biggest problem with her father is the fear of becoming like him because they are so similar," said Katherine Heigl. 'But she finally sort of looks at him and goes"he is who he is, I am who I am, we love differently but it's still enough."
With all of their differences and quirks, this is a family that loves each other and supports each other through all of life's moments. 'This is a film about a wedding, but even more about family," said Topher Grace. 'More importantly, it shows all different kinds of love represented in a real modern family is ."
'I hope when our movie is out in theaters, that everyone brings their families," said Richard Salvatore.
'Because not only is this a feel good comedy, it's also heartfelt and something that everyone should be able to relate to."