The Oral History of ‘Wedding Crashers’
‘How does it feel having worked on this generation’s Animal House?’
There have always been plenty of movies about getting married — from Father of the Bride (the original and the remake) to The Graduate to The Wedding Singer to My Best Friend’s Wedding. But until Wedding Crashers, there weren’t any with a bromance at their core—exploring just how fun, crazy and intense the close friendship between two men can be.
Opening in July 2005, Wedding Crashers now can be seen as a bridge between eras of R-rated summer comedies. In previous years, films like American Pie and There’s Something About Mary had done big business with date-night crowds, generating huge laughs from their raunchy exploits. But Wedding Crashers — directed by David Dobkin and starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson — moved away from the gross-out humor of its predecessors to tell a slightly more sophisticated story about needing to grow up and embrace adulthood. Of course, that didn’t preclude the film from offering a treasure trove of nudity, F-bombs and—in one scene co-starring up-and-comer Isla Fisher—a memorable midnight rape of one of the main characters.
Earning more than $200 million, Wedding Crashers remains one of the most commercially successful R-rated comedies of all time, popularizing the bromances that have flourished in the last decade (The Hangover, I Love You, Man and much of the Judd Apatow canon) and helping foster an atmosphere in which female characters can be as interesting as their male counterparts. Writing in Salon, film critic Stephanie Zacharek observed, “Wedding Crashers may be the most optimistic Hollywood comedy of the year, because it restores at least some dim hope that directors, writers and actors with actual brains in their heads can somehow triumph over unimaginative studio execs.”
Maybe just as importantly, the movie spoke to something inherently true about the conflicting emotions that accompany every wedding — how they generate such joy while also eliciting anxiety, and how they bring feuding in-laws, horny single guys and weepy bridesmaids all together under one roof. Lots of men laugh at Wedding Crashers because of Vaughn and Wilson’s antics, but they also quietly relate to the characters’ slow realization that one stage of their life is ending — and they’re not quite sure if they’re ready for the next.
MEL spoke with Wedding Crashers’ filmmakers, cast and crew to get a behind-the-scenes account of what went into producing a classic comedy. And we talked about everything: whose audition was the funniest, what scene had to be reshot to ensure they didn’t get nailed with an NC-17 rating and how they feel about accusations that the movie is homophobic. Even better, they finally give some hints about what’s going on with the long-awaited sequel.
Steve Faber (screenwriter): [My writing partner Bob Fisher and I] had met with and talked to a lot of executives at various studios while making the rounds. When we met Andrew Panay at Tapestry Films, he said he had always wanted to do a movie about wedding crashing. Bob and I thought about the idea for a little while, let it cogitate and thought, “Yeah, we can maybe make a story out of this.”
Bob Fisher (screenwriter): The thing about the idea for us was that we weren’t sure, right off the bat, if it was going to be able to sustain a whole movie. It really came together for us, however, when we came up with the idea that the family [of] the two women that [these guys] are interested in are very much like the Kennedys. When Steven and I were kids, we were totally into the Kennedys, and I think deep down, we both figured we’d grow up and marry one of the Kennedy daughters and be part of the family. When we thought about that, we knew we were on the road to [the idea] becoming a cool movie, at least for us.
Andrew Panay (producer): I thought of the idea for Wedding Crashers because, at the time, I was in my 20s, getting ready to go to a wedding and for some reason I was excited. I thought “Why am I so excited for this?” and the truth was I thought I might meet a girl. That feeling, that moment truly inspired me to write the story. Then, I met with Steve Faber and Bob Fisher and pitched them the idea. At the time, they had just written a script called We’re The Millers that I loved, and I thought they had a very special voice — a voice where emotion and comedy were wrapped into one. We become close very fast because we shared an understanding of male bonding — and how intimate male relationships can be. We wanted to explore male friendship through this crazy idea of crashing weddings.
David Dobkin (director): I was at my Shanghai Knights premiere, and Vince came, because he had been in Clay Pigeons [which I directed]. We were at the after-party, and I’m talking with Vince and looking over at Owen. I swear to God, Abbott and Costello popped into my head. I remember grabbing my agent and saying, “I want to find something for Vince and Owen.” He knew I had been looking for an R-rated comedy. Literally, eight weeks later, he called me up and said, “I think I just read the script.” My agent sent the script to me, and I saw what it could be for both of them — especially for Vince, because Vince and I had been looking for a movie for five years, and you don’t want to swing until you know you’ve got the thing that is going to be a bulls-eye.
Bob Fisher: In college, I interned one summer for Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey in Washington, D.C. I had zero money and needed to eat, so I’d make up these fake name tags saying I was a legislative aide for Sen. Tunney or Sen. Cranston … and crash these lobbyist events. They threw huge spreads with free liquor, and you could sit down and eat with senators and congressmen.
Faber: [After hearing Bob’s stories] we crashed Democratic platform committee meetings in L.A., [as well as] Republican, Libertarian [and] Green Party functions.
Bob Fisher: We’d line our pockets with Saran Wrap and leave with our pants stuffed with cold cuts. This shows you the level of how pathetic this all is, because the guys in our film crash weddings for sex. Um, we were crashing for food.
Dobkin: While the script was funny, the thing I brought to it was the bromance. That relationship wasn’t there as much. I’d had the experience of being close with my guy friends. We were like a unit, and then all of a sudden, somebody falls in love with a girl. You’re like, “Whoa, she’s going to be here all the time? What’s that going to do to us?”
That had been a big experience in my younger years — and an impressionable one — and so it fit into the movie. Even in a comedy, I need an emotional anchor. I’m not nearly on the level of Judd Apatow, but you look for the thing that people are going to follow, and in the movie that’s what they’re following. It’s a love story: There’s Owen and Rachel, and there’s Vince and Owen.
Owen Wilson (actor, John): [Vince Vaughn and I] have a different kind of energy. He’s from Chicago; I’m from Texas. I think by working on the script with the director and the writers we found a lot of common ground. The nice thing about working with Vince is that he’d give me ideas, and I’d be very open to them, and I’d do the same — so it was a two-way street, you didn’t have to tiptoe around the person.
Vince Vaughn (actor, Jeremy) [from the Wedding Crashers DVD commentary]: I remember just hearing the title of the movie, Wedding Crashers. [It] made me laugh. … I would say, “Owen and I get to go crash weddings,” and people would just start laughing.
After signing Vaughn and Wilson, Dobkin went about filling out the rest of the ensemble — including a heretofore unknown Alias cast member (Bradley Cooper) and a young actress who was busy doing an under-the-radar romantic tearjerker called The Notebook (Rachel McAdams).
Dobkin: My saying is that you never, ever hire someone in the room — you have to always go back and watch the tape. Bradley Cooper is the only person who was an exception. I couldn’t find anyone [for that role], and then he came in the room and he was amazing. He was like a thoroughbred. I remember going up to him and saying, “Dude, you’re awesome! You got the part!”
Lisa Beach (casting director): Isla Fisher was the funniest audition ever. She came into the room and did the scene where she puts the make on [Vaughn’s character] in the bathroom and suddenly just goes out of her mind. And Isla, dare I say, spread her legs, flopped me down on my back and was just crawling all over me.
Isla Fisher (actress, Gloria): I just got lucky. Every girl that went in before me was famous. I remember sitting in the [waiting] room and thinking I shouldn’t really bother because usually they just pick a name. I was with Shannon Elizabeth and that girl that won the Oscar for The Piano [Anna Paquin]. … We were all in a row.
Rachel McAdams (actress, Claire): I was just interested in working with these guys, and after having met the director in the audition, I knew that we had worked up a really good rapport immediately. Ever since I did The Hot Chick, I never thought I’d be doing comedy, because I was terrified of it. With this one, I thought, “This is an opportunity to work with people who are the best of the best right now,” in terms of this kind of genre, and I hadn’t done an adult comedy and I wanted to try it.
Dobkin: I’d seen more than 200 people for [Claire], and the studio [New Line] had called me to meet with them. They were going to force me to make a decision, because the casting was going over budget and I couldn’t find the person. The very last person before that meeting was Rachel McAdams. She was the only person that could do the role right. [Claire] was in the middle of a somewhat misogynistic, wealthy American dynasty. I didn’t want her to hate her family; I wanted someone who felt trapped by that and you felt bad for her. You knew that she loved these people, but she was confused.
Jane Seymour (actress, Kathleen Cleary): I know that pretty much every actress my age, and a little bit above, tried out for that part. All stars—it was crazy. My agent told me that I would have to have a meeting and do a screen test and an audition.
I’ve almost never auditioned in my life. I’m absolutely dreadful at it, and I never had to because I somehow ended up starring in things from an early age. When I first read it, I just thought it was hilarious. But I was straight off of Dr. Quinn, and I thought, Oh God, that audience is going to hate me for doing this. Then I read it a second time — it was even funnier, specifically the [seduction] scene that I would be doing [in the audition]. And I said, “To hell with it, I’m doing it.”
So I went in and did a reading. They obviously liked it because Dobkin called me that evening and said, “If you come back in, do you think you can up the sexuality?” And I said, “Yes!”
I came in the next day, and they put this really amazing hunky actor [Geoff Stults] who ended up playing the groom [Craig]. They said, “Okay, why don’t you two go into this room and work on the scene and then come and do it?” I was looking at them and thinking, “This has to be illegal!” [Laughs]
Dobkin: I remember watching her audition tape. My girlfriend walked in the room and said, “Oh my God, you can’t do that! You can’t have her do that role.” I’m a very irreverent personality so the minute she said I couldn’t, I knew [Seymour] was the right person.
Seymour: The funny part was that they kept saying, “We loved you in Live and Let Die.” They kept going on about Live and Let Die. I kept thinking to myself, “That’s really weird — I did that when I was 20, and now I’m in my mid-50s.” Clearly, they have no idea what I’d been doing for the last 35 years. And I’m looking at [producer] Peter Abrams at the back, and he’s looking at me rolling his eyes like, “Yep, these guys have no idea why this would be really funny to have you play this role.” They had never seen or heard of anything else I’d ever done. They were obsessed with a Bond film that I did before they were born.
Beach: We had a list of actors for Senator Cleary, and there were big names on that list. I’m sure we put Harrison Ford on there. But Christopher Walken was on there, and David Dobkin said, “He’d be so perfect. Do you think we can get him?” I remember [casting partner] Sarah [Katzman] and I saying, “Go for it. The worst thing he can say is no, but we love this.”
Dobkin: Chris Walken was someone I really believed in. [New Line] wasn’t sure why I wasn’t picking someone who wasn’t purely comedic for the role. Burt Reynolds was hot off Boogie Nights, but I just said, “I see Walken,” because I knew I wouldn’t have to lift a finger to make people scared of him. He’s already doing that heavy lifting for me. He’s also one of the greatest actors alive, so at the end of the movie — when you’re going to have those tiny moments between him and [Claire] that really need to count — you know he’s going to be real and he’s going to ground it.
Keir O’Donnell (actor, Todd): My girlfriend at the time had gone out for Isla Fisher’s role. She had the script laying around, so I read it. The role of Todd, instantly, I was like, “Oh, I know what to do with that.” I could see it perfectly. So I called my manager, and he said, “I’ve been trying to get you in.” It was the early days in my career, and I hadn’t done anything big yet. Eventually, the casting directors saw me, and within three days, I got the role.
Dobkin: I remember being up at, like, 1 a.m. in my office, still trying to finish the casting. My producer Andrew [Panay] is asleep on the couch, and I’m yelling, “Wake up, we found [Todd]! He sent in a VHS tape!” We watched this thing, and we were like, “Oh my God, that guy’s insane!”
O’Donnell: The role was a lot smaller originally. I think they didn’t really know how it was going to be portrayed. In those early drafts, it was a little bit more that he was this stereotypical, flamboyant gay character. But I just saw him amongst his family as being far more misunderstood and dark. Especially in high school, I had been an outcast and a weirdo, so I knew what I could bring to it.
[I went into the audition] with this hunch and my hair to the side. I found a jacket that was a little bit too small, because I always had this vision that he was still wearing his schoolboy outfit and that nothing quite fit that well. To them, I was like some sort of creepy little weirdo that walked in off the street and just plunked right into the role.
After filling out his cast, but before he started filming, Dobkin set aside time to rehearse with his lead actors and create something you wouldn’t necessarily expect from a movie like Wedding Crashers — a sense of realism.
Dobkin: We rehearsed for three and a half weeks. It’s a process I do on every movie, and it’s the one thing I put my foot down about and say, “This has to be this way.” You get in a room, and first, you work with the leads individually alone. Then you bring them together. You do a week like that. Then the secondary characters come in, and you start putting it together with them. Finally, the last week, you get into putting some scenes up on their feet and doing blocking and going to locations and getting them used to everything. I don’t know how to do it any faster. I come from a theater background, so it’s the only thing that makes sense to me.
Julio Macat (cinematographer): [Dobkin] liked my approach to comedy. Namely, I didn’t believe that comedy should be “bright” — it should be realistic and grounded and true to the real situation. One of my favorite comedies is Being There, and I remember saying that it was important that everything feel very lush and very rich, like Being There. He was so in sync with that. The weddings had to be upscale — everything had to glisten and shine like a jewel.
Seymour: I could see when we were on the set, [Dobkin] was very prepared. He literally had storyboards for every single shot. It was very unusual [for a comedy], it’s more for action sequences. But I think there were so many people involved — and it was such an ensemble piece — that he probably felt that’s the way he could keep a handle on all of the elements that he needed.
Early in the film, there’s a memorable montage in which we see Jeremy and John run through a litany of weddings, always being the life of the party and going home with random beautiful women. It’s a fun sequence, but it was hell to make.
Mark Livolsi (editor): With a lot of comedies, the trick is to set it up early as a comedy — to have good jokes work early on, so that people know they have permission to laugh. You can run into trouble when you have something that’s maybe not a comedy, but just comedic, and there’s nothing comedic in the first act. You have to set that stuff up, or people don’t understand what they’re supposed to be watching. So that opening montage sets a tone: You have fleeting glimpses of nudity, and you understand what you’re watching is an R-rated comedy.
Wilson [from the Wedding Crashers DVD commentary]: That montage seemed to take forever. It was, like, two weeks to shoot. David, bless his heart, just had this vision for that montage. And we went along with it.
Livolsi: He impressed upon me that he wanted it to be this amazing never-before-seen montage. We’d get all of the wedding crashing out of the way and satiate the audience, so that he could get on with the plot.
Dobkin: That montage wasn’t written as long as I shot it. I knew I needed it, though. I wanted to open the movie with something that felt like a comedic action scene, where at the end of it you’re like, “That’s awesome, you got me in my seat, let’s go.” I wanted this incredible volume of weddings — an incredible repetition of champagne popping and [fake] names, and it was all detailed.
That was the entire first week of shooting. Normally, a montage like that is given a day or two. I knew I was going to put myself in an incredibly difficult position to finish the rest of the movie if I took the entire first week to do that. And I remember on the fourth day of shooting the guys were like, “Haven’t we already done this?” The studio also was like, “What, you’re still shooting the montage?”
But I understood that there’s only so much sand in the sandbox, and I pushed a ton of it right in the front of the shoot for this montage. I knew that everything else was going to have that much less time [to shoot], but I also knew that it was something that, if it ended up later in the schedule, no one was going to ever give me the time back. There were many nights when I was like, “Do I do this? Do I not do this?” But I just had to explain to people what this film’s concept was — you had to show [Vince and Owen’s characters], and it had to be entertaining.
Macat: We would take half a conference room in a hotel, and it would be dressed like an Indian wedding, while the other half was dressed like a Jewish wedding. We would shoot in one direction and do the chuppah and the chair [dance] and then shoot in the other direction. We had three or four sets like that that were split down the middle.
Livolsi: David always wanted to use the song “Shout” — in fact, it was filmed to that, so that was pretty much a no-brainer. I put together a serviceable version, and then when David came in, we started his cut. At that point, he started to dig into it, and we started to have a little fun. He wanted to use the part of the song that’s the breakdown and start to intersperse little pieces of life in there: Vince jump-cutting himself and gorging himself on cake and talking to other people at the tables. It’s a lot of nonsense, but it had a feeling of reality to it, so that it wasn’t just about the seduction of the girls. It was important that the audience understand that they weren’t doing this as just predators trying to achieve this goal. They really, truly enjoyed [weddings].
Dobkin: There was a big concern [before production started] from the marketing department, who sat me down and said, “I don’t know how we’re going to [sell] this movie — these guys are predators.” I had just never thought of it that way. They said, “They’re going to these weddings, lying about who they are and doing all this stuff to get these girls to sleep with them.”
“No, you don’t get it,” I responded. “They love weddings, authentically. They like the free food, they like the music and the bands, they like the dancing and the kids, they like talking to the grandparents. These guys make the weddings better. You would want them to crash your wedding.”
That’s the distinction. It’s not misogynistic and, in fact, what it’s doing is replicating a real seduction, which is, “I want to go to bed with you, but I have all these walls up. Can you make me laugh, make me attracted to you and find a way to make this really fun so we could get to the good part?” That’s a seduction. So, if I can seduce the audience — if I can make them laugh and be entertained and think these are okay guys — by the time they’re dropping the girls in the bed, it’s a magic trick. That was the whole idea.
Because Wedding Crashers is filled with so many seemingly ad-libbed moments, it’s tempting to assume that Dobkin allowed his actors to improvise wildly. But, in reality, the director and his stars worked hard to create a framework in advance to create the space for spontaneity.
Dobkin: Vince and Owen did a lot of the writing on the movie, finding their voices and their characters. But it’s not “improvisation.” I don’t work that way, and they don’t work that way. It’s improvisation in a rehearsal room, where you work really hard for a month, and then you rescript based on that stuff. That’s not easy.
Wilson: When I first read the script, I wasn’t comfortable. It was a funny concept and story, but part [of it] felt corny.
Vaughn: [We] went through the entire script, and there wasn’t a scene that we didn’t go through and change.
Macat: David did a smart thing. Even after you think you’ve got the scene, a good director will say, “Is there anything else that you guys want to do that we haven’t done? Do you want to try a crazy take just to see what happens?” They would do it, and about 50 percent of the time, that’s in the movie.
Dobkin: There’s an incredible amount of energy in that movie. It’s like every day going out and playing a football game. It was draining. Vince, I’ve never seen anybody output like that. It’s very cerebral, physical and intense. He was bringing a masterpiece performance, but it was taking a lot out of him.
Isla Fisher: Once he’s committed, he’s like a train that’s going to stay on that track; if he’s gone off on a tangent, you’ve got to go with it. There’s no point in trying to return to the text.
Bradley Cooper (actor, Sack): Then you had Owen, who was just the perfect counterpart to him. He is, in my mind, incapable of anything inauthentic.
Wilson [from the Wedding Crashers DVD commentary]: One thing that helped, I think, Vince and me got bicycles at the beginning of this movie and we’d take ‘em for rides. … It was a good little thing to get your energy going. Just go ride your bike and brainstorm for a little bit.
Livolsi: There are a lot of challenges when you’re dealing with improvisation — namely, how to stitch it all together to make sense from take to take. Not to take anything away from any actor, but they read the lines different ways in every take. Sometimes, you just couldn’t join take one and take two because, grammatically or for a million other reasons, it wouldn’t work. So you had to think about the material and dialogue in ways that you might not have to on films that don’t rely so heavily on improvisation.
The movie’s most talked-about sequence takes place at the Cleary dinner table, as John plots his move to win Claire away from Sack (Bradley Cooper’s character). But unbeknownst to John, Jeremy is facing his own ordeal: Gloria decides to give him a hand job under the table, with everyone around the table unaware.
O’Donnell: It took about four days to shoot that entire dinner scene. We had a blast, but by the end of it, we were all ready to walk away from that scene. It was pretty grueling being there for days on end.
Vaughn: It’s one of those scenes that you don’t know. This could be really funny or this could be really not funny. … There’s no half-assing it with a scene like that, so you just have to really go for it. But you don’t know, and when you’re doing something like that, you can’t look for set laughs. … You would have to stay in the moment, and as stupid as it sounds, just try to be as connected to that [hand job] as you can. But you can’t have anything enter your mind except, “This is happening.”
Livolsi: I wasn’t cognizant of trying to push boundaries per se at that point. I just thought, “What’s the funniest [take]?” By the way, the [crotch] shot under the table is a reshoot. In the original shot, they had a prosthetic, and when I got the footage, I called David and I was like, “Dude, you’ll never get an R rating if you put this in. It’s too much for me, and it’ll be too much for everybody else.”
So they went and reshot it a little subtler. It became about her hand-play and him slapping her hand away. In that instance at least, I kind of knew what the boundary was. But beyond that, I was all-in and happily oblivious to transgressions.
Speaking of transgressions, Wedding Crashers offered a sly twist on the fantasy of hooking up with a cougar. John is startled that Claire’s mom, played by Seymour, starts flirting with him, resulting in her offering him a clandestine squeeze of her newly surgically enhanced breasts. However, while shooting the sequence for the film, it was her costar who was anxious…
Seymour: It was a closed set, which meant that only the few people that needed to be there were there. I had a little tent area where the director and the camera people — everyone who was watching the screen — were. It was an intimate, quiet thing. It was understood that it might be embarrassing for Owen and also for me.
Wilson [from the Wedding Crashers DVD commentary]: To be honest, I like to come off with a lot of bravado. … But the truth was, I was nervous to film that scene. And it is awkward doing that. There’s a crew there, it’s Jane Seymour — she has this great family who I met. And now, in front of a crew of 50, I am being asked to put my hands on her breasts.
Seymour: Isla and Rachel both decided to have body doubles for everything they were doing. So it was the joke — Isla said, “I think it’s cool that you’re 50-something, and you’re the only one that is going to actually be half-naked.” Vince Vaughn kept going up to Owen and making him even more uncomfortable, which isn’t hard to do. He kept saying, “Are you excited to See More?” I kept looking at Vince like, “Really? You think that’s an original joke? That’s sad.” [Laughs]
Macat: There’s always the trust you have to earn from the actors as a [cinematographer] when you’re showing sensitive stuff. You try to be delicate and establish that relationship. I’m married to an actress, Elizabeth Perkins, so it’s easier for me to relate and make sure they feel safe and secure. Once that happens, they know you’ve got their back and you can play.
Seymour: The first time Owen put his hands on my breasts, his fingers were all stuck together. David yelled “Cut!,” came out and said, “Owen, it’s really great, but can you just open up your fingers a little bit?” He looked at me like, “Am I allowed to do this?”
I said, “Look, Owen, here’s the deal. If it was Jane Seymour, we might have a problem here, but currently, you’re talking to Kitty-Kat, so that’s fine.”
So we do take two, and he realizes he has to open his fingers, and he opened them kind of sharply and it was kind of weird. David goes, “Cut! Okay, Owen, that’s really good — I like the fact that you opened your fingers, thank you. But can you, like, move them a little bit?”
At that point, I was beyond being embarrassed, and I just wanted to laugh, because it was hilarious.
Dobkin: The truth of the matter is that she is that woman. She has a very pure soul, but she’s also a woman.
Seymour: All that snarling “Kitty-Kat” stuff was all me. I think Owen added one word to the end of that scene — he said, “Just [exit], and say ‘pervert.’”
Everyone we talked to had warm memories of working with the one and only Christopher Walken. But this story was the best.
O’Donnell: At a certain point, he really treated me as his own son. When we were shooting out in Maryland, I started to get a little bit of time off. I got a knock on my trailer door, and it was Christopher Walken’s driver. The trailers were a little far from set, so they would drive him to set. The driver was like, “Mr. Walken is going to set right now, and he wants to know if you wanted a ride.” I was like, “I don’t think I’m shooting right now.” But he said, “Oh no, he requested you. Can you go with him?”
I go out, and there’s Walken sitting in the back of this Lincoln Town Car. I get in the back, and he just looks at me and smiles. He doesn’t say anything. We just drive up to set, and they drop us off.
After that, it started happening every day. He’d get called to the set, I’d get a knock on the door from his driver and he’d say, “Mr. Walken is going to the set, and he wants to know if you wanted a ride.” I still don’t know to this day if he was just messing with me, or if he liked the company, even though we never said a word to each other. Either way, it was a special moment for me.
I definitely do know this: The more that you hang around with Walken, the more you realize that even if you did get an answer, you’ll constantly question if that was reality or not. That’s the magic that is Christopher Walken.
In the movie, Jeremy ends up having a nightmarish evening at the Cleary estate. Still recovering from his dinnertime hand job, he tries to go to bed, only to be assaulted by Gloria, and later, propositioned by Todd.
Isla Fisher: David wanted me to play [the character] like Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, and I said, “No, you mean Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction.” We were on different pages so I’d nod my head whenever he spoke and then do my own thing.
Ron Canada (actor, Randolph): When I first met Isla [at the cast dinner], it was a bit of a head-scratcher for me. This little tiny girl [would play Gloria]? She was almost like Mary Tyler Moore — upbeat, clean-cut and enthusiastic. Clearly not a Hollywood vamp. But she was fearless.
O’Donnell: Vince and I ended up doing a bunch of rehearsals with the director, and we ended up improvising a lot — especially the famous bedroom scene. That was originally just a half a page or a page long. And the more we improvised, the more I loosened up. Vince, of course, is on fire all the time, and we found all these great moments. We decided that Walken should come in, and I hide in the closet. When we were shooting it, it was quite dark in tone. No one was laughing, and I kept looking at Vince and thinking, “Is this working?” But I approached it as if Todd needed a connection more than anything. His father didn’t give it to him, so he finds this connection with Jeremy as a friend or a lover.
Dobkin: The nude painting of Vince on the wall was Owen’s idea. The painting was supposed to be something different. Then Owen said, “It should be Vince in the Garden of Eden.” He said that to me as he was leaving the set the night before we were shooting it. So someone in the art department stayed up all night and did that. [Laughs] I don’t know where it is now.
O’Donnell: The last that I heard, David Dobkin had it up in his office. He doesn’t have it? God, I would love to see that thing again. I wonder if you can hunt that down.
Some critics, however, blasted the scene, accusing the film of homophobia. Uproxx’s Louis Virtel wrote sarcastically in 2015, “Well, here go those homosexuals again, preying on the irresistible Vince Vaughn in the middle of the night, stroking his chin. and announcing they’ve made sexual art about him.” He went on to declare the scene “still one of the most annoying moments of ‘comic’ homophobia in the past decade and a half.”
Dobkin: I’m not a mean guy — I trust my own gut when it comes to tone about what’s okay and what’s not. I think you have to do that. But also you have to know where something was really funny, and I read that script and that stuff was funny.
O’Donnell: I was pretty shocked by some of the reaction. I mean, we pushed the bar a little bit with that. But I’ll tell you, to this day, the reason I got the role — and the reason I think people remember me from the role — is because I played him as a misunderstood, tortured youth. It had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that perhaps he was gay — maybe he wasn’t gay, you know? Maybe he was craving attention and connection, and that’s how he happened to find it. I tried to play it with more layers than, “He’s just gay and likes this guy.” The way that I approached it gave me more dimensions to find within the character.
During casting, Dobkin went for a mix of stars, established veterans and up-and-comers. As filming went on, it became apparent that the newbies were ticketed for great things.
Dobkin: The women had to be the best characters. The guys were already the guys and were great, but I really paid attention [to the female roles]. My mom was a hardcore feminist, and I’ve always had that part of me that knew that Hollywood traditionally didn’t have those roles for them, or they just weren’t good. There was no Bridesmaids yet. Letting women do stuff that was outrageous just wasn’t there.
Vaughn: A lot of times in these comedies, girls are stuck laughing at what the guy says, whether the guy’s funny or not. But Isla’s funny as hell in this movie. … [B]y default I become the straight man when I’m in scenes with her. … I kind of liked that she got to be really funny with it.
Canada: She’s playing these scenes with this gigantic guy, but you see that she has no fear of him. She can stand up to him in terms of being as bold a presence as he is. She equalizes the situation. At the end of the movie, I wasn’t surprised when she introduced me to her [now-husband] Sacha Baron Cohen. I thought, “That makes perfect sense.”
O’Donnell: Rachel had just shot The Notebook, and they set up a screening for us in Maryland. Everyone was talking about how “This girl is going to be such a big star.” But I was thinking, “It’s just Rachel…” I’d gotten to know her really well at that point. Then I saw that film about halfway through shooting, and I realized: She’s a mega-star.
Canada: I told people a long time ago — and I’ve been vindicated over and over again — that Bradley Cooper was special. We were doing the dinner table scene, and I’m watching this young man working and listening. I’m thinking, Who the heck is this guy? He’s really present! He’s holding his own here! We did a scene together, and I knew, two takes in, “This guy is the real deal.” When we were on a great short-lived television show called Jack & Bobby, I remember sitting in the makeup trailer saying, “Get ready: Bradley Cooper is going to be in your life for the next 30 years.” People kind of looked at me, because he was a secondary character. I said, “Just mark my words.”
Seymour: The first moment I saw Bradley out there, I went, “Hold on to your pants.” He just came in and took over. We all went, “Whoa!”
O’Donnell: I became extremely good friends with Bradley, and we’re still great friends to this day. After the movie, we’d hang out, and I’d help him put himself on tape for auditions. [Laughs] He’s quite well-known now.
Near the end of the film, John goes to meet Chazz, the legendary original wedding crasher who mentored Jeremy. Will Ferrell agreed to play the role, but only at the last minute.
Macat: We only had Will for one day. In the morning, we went to do the cemetery thing, and in the afternoon we went to do [the character’s] mother’s house. If you look closely at that sequence, when he yells, “Ma, meatloaf!,” I was operating the camera. I couldn’t hold it — I lost my shit — and you can see the camera jiggle because I’m laughing behind it.
Dobkin: We were begging him to do it. He had a really busy schedule, and it was at midnight the night before [the scene] that we confirmed him. I think we had Nic Cage as the backup, or on a wish list.
Macat: If you’re working with actors like Will Ferrell or Melissa McCarthy, [improvisation] is where they thrive. They never do two takes the same. Will Ferrell will always just surprise you with something even funnier than the last thing. And he’s exploring too, because you never know what’s going to play as really funny. Even when it’s funny to the crew, sometimes it’s not funny to the audience. So you have to cover your ass and do different things.
O’Donnell: [The casting directors] liked my girlfriend so much that, after I got the role, David Dobkin wanted to give her something. If you remember Will Ferrell at the funeral scene when they decide to crash funerals, she’s one of the girls on his shoulder crying.
At the film’s finale, longtime friends Jeremy and John are on the outs, just as Jeremy is about to marry Gloria. Having a change of heart, John arrives at the wedding at the last minute to be Jeremy’s best man — and to make one last plea to Claire. It was an ending that went through some changes from the original script.
Wilson [to Vaughn] [from the Wedding Crashers DVD commentary]: It used to be a crazy, like different type of ending.
Vaughn [to Wilson] [from the Wedding Crashers DVD commentary]: The original thing was me and you crash her and Bradley Cooper’s wedding.
Wilson [to Vaughn] [from the Wedding Crashers DVD commentary]: Right, and instead it became a thing that, hopefully, we’re going to be getting laughs and be invested in yours and Isla’s relationship, so we can sneak in the corny, sappy stuff that I’m supposed to say to Rachel in the context of a fun kind of scene. … Both of us don’t want to be sappy or corny, but you do want to get emotion. You do want to get heart.
Dobkin: The theme of the movie is when men move from sex to love. It’s about growing up — and growing out of looking at women and the world that way. Part of the beautiful shape of the movie is that Owen wants to fall in love, and he has a love-at-first-sight moment with Rachel. He keeps it from his friend because he doesn’t want to ruin the dynamic, so he’s kind of manipulating his friend to go along with him in the second act of the movie, which is a classic Shakespearean comedy trope — the case of mistaken identity. But even to each other, there’s a secret. Unbeknownst to Owen, his friend, in his own evolved way, falls in love and gets there first. It blows Owen’s mind because he lied to him about his intentions. In the end, they have to come together around that.
Livolsi: Will Ferrell’s reappearance at the final wedding was shot after the first preview. We realized how much people loved his cameo, so it made all the sense in the world to end on the highest note we possibly could. We put it in the second preview — I don’t recall the score that we got, but it was substantially higher than our first one.
One of the film’s appeals is, of course, its R-rated content. But it wasn’t clear if that content was going to make it to the screen.
Macat: Originally, the studio didn’t want to release an R movie because they were afraid it would shrink the audience. Not as many kids are going to go see it.
Dobkin: The studio and I had talked about it a lot of times, and there were real conversations about changing the rating. I really fought to keep it what it is, and they ultimately honored that. I always just felt like it’s my taste. Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor: Those were the guys that I liked. I also just think that real life is R-rated — as an adult, that’s just how people really talk.
Vaughn: [When] I grew up, I loved these rated-R comedies like Animal House and this stuff. So for me, if you’re going to do an adult-themed movie called Wedding Crashers, well, what are you going to do? You gotta get into it, and it’s fun to get into it. So there’s a lot of pressure not to make rated-R movies, and if you do make rated-R movies, there’s a pressure to be shocking just for shock’s sake. And we don’t want to do that either. I don’t want to try to out-gross everybody. That’s not my style. I don’t want to go and just be shocking to see if I get a response. If it makes sense within the course of the film, then it’s great. So this movie wants to be R for language and also for, like, the dinner-table scene, and the tying-up scene and that kind of stuff. I think you’d just have a glass of milk if you didn’t have that stuff in the movie.
Wilson: I hate the idea that if you say “fuck” you get an R. It just seems like such bullshit.
Seymour: At that time, I was married to [actor] James Keach, and I think he was the one who said, “Are you sure you should be doing this thing after Dr. Quinn?” I figured that if people who don’t like R-rated movies don’t like to watch it, that’s fine — we were not aiming for that audience anyway. Most of the Dr. Quinn people wouldn’t even know it ever existed, let alone watch it. But the funny thing is, I have an art career, too, so I go out on the road and have fine-art showings, and people show up from all parts of the world, and a lot of the Dr. Quinn people loved it. They just went, “Oh my God, it was hilarious.”
Livolsi: We were all-in as R-rated. There might have been some discussion about the nudity in the [opening montage]. But ultimately, people agreed that it was important to set it up the right way and not hold back. There was really no way around it, with the four-letter words, the basic tone of it all and the midnight rape of Vince by the different characters. It’s just in the DNA of the movie.
Opening on July 15, 2005, Wedding Crashers lodged itself near the top of the box office charts for several weeks — a rarity in an era when studio movies open huge and then quickly fade away. Plus, critics were on board. Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal wrote, “It’s the best comedy I’ve seen this year,” while Entertainment Weekly’s Lisa Schwarzbaum hailed it as “an unabashedly jiggly, bawdy, it’s-all-good comedy.”
Dobkin: While we were making it, we were under the radar — nobody was really looking for this movie. There was no sense of what it was going to be, and there was nobody on our backs from the studio. They were very, very supportive — they just let us run. In fact, [New Line executive] Richard Brenner called me one day and said, “I hear my assistants every day crowding into a room to watch the dailies and laughing their asses off.” There was a general sense of “Oh, there’s something here.” [New Line production president] Toby [Emmerich] went out there and started talking a big game about the movie to the press. I got really nervous. So I called him and asked, “Why are you doing that? You’re setting us up to be something that people want to swat down.” He was like, “I just know it. I know the movie is going to be big.”
O’Donnell: On opening weekend, I was getting calls from the producers saying, “Oh, we did it!” I was just like, “Okay, this is just what happens. This isn’t a fluke. This isn’t something exceptional. This is just the natural course of things.” It’s only later that you have films that don’t perform as well that you go, “Oh, that one was extraordinary.”
Dobkin: I don’t remember what theater it was, but I’ll never forget the feeling of looking into the theater and seeing all of these older women — women in their 50s and 60s, tons and tons of them — coming to [watch] these two young guys in their suits doing this thing. The minute I saw that, I was like “Oh, there’s something else going on here.”
Livolsi: When I was working on my next film, the director said something to me like, “How does it feel having worked on this generation’s Animal House?” That’s when I realized it had real potential. But I didn’t expect it to do as well as it did. I remember talking to David, and both of us were a little surprised but happy when it hit $200 million. That was the first time I’d ever touched that kind of rarified box office.
Dobkin: Here’s the unfortunate, sad thing about anytime you succeed at that level: People want more of it. But you feel done with it and don’t really want to go back and do that again. You’re offered every other version of that [movie] — and by the way, there aren’t that many other great versions. I kept saying to my agent, “You bring me Tootsie, and I’ll go make it.”
I was attached to and had developed I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, and that was what I really wanted to do as the follow-up. I wanted Vince and Owen to come and play two guys that have to be gay firefighters that aren’t really gay but get married and explore that whole thing. But it didn’t end up working out, and Adam [Sandler] went off and made that movie with Kevin [James]. Instead, I made Fred Claus [starring Vaughn], which was a PG-13 movie originally and turned into a PG film. That’s not my gig, man. We got caught in all kinds of poor decisions, and that movie didn’t come out the way I wanted it to.
Eventually, I swung back and did The Change-Up. The script was incredible and funny, but that may be a movie [where] I swung too hard at certain things. Then I made The Judge. I’m a nightmare, man; my agent wants to kill me. Whatever it is that I succeed at, I’m always off doing the next thing. I’m not an easy kid to build a career around.
Seymour: For me, the Wedding Crashers crowd is very good for the ego. It doesn’t matter where I go — 30-to-40-year-old guys, when they’ve had too much to drink, look at me in a different way. They’re like, “Hey, you’re lookin’ hot.” That’s when I think, “Thank you very much, Wedding Crashers.” It’s also interesting when people are watching it on airplanes. You can see these guys pretending like they don’t know I’m there. They keep going backwards and forwards over that one scene to see if they can see any breasts. But there aren’t any — it’s all brilliantly edited so that you never actually see anything, but you think you have.
In November 2016, during an interview on Today, Isla Fisher revealed that progress had been made on Wedding Crashers 2, sparking anticipation for a possibly imminent sequel scripted by Fist Fight writers Evan Susser and Van Robichaux.
Dobkin: I’ve been involved [with talks about a sequel] since the beginning. [The studio] calls me every year. For a long time, there was nothing to do but make the same movie, and I wasn’t going to do that. I should’ve done that, because then I wouldn’t have to work again, but I didn’t want to. None of us really wanted to [do a sequel] unless there was a great idea. Then, about a year and a half ago, a light bulb went on in my head, and I sat down with Vince and Owen about it, and we all liked it. That’s in development now. We’ll see how it comes out. If it comes out really, really good, we’ll take a swing. There’s no reason not to. Those characters are beloved by us. We’re not making it for an audience; we have to make it for ourselves and then hope it works for everybody again.
You see, I had this moment of hitting 45 [a couple years ago] and going, “Oh, what happens when this and this happens…?” [The sequel] came from the [same] emotional story of what it means to be a man at [a certain] age and in certain situations and having to go back out into the world. It has a relevant, real story in the middle of it — you can then build the comedy around that. [With Wedding Crashers], it was about being 35 and having to come of age and going, “Wait, how much longer am I going to have to wait before I get going with love and life and monogamy and marriage?” So, we had a little bit of an exploration of that conversation. There’s another conversation happening right now that I think is just as relevant.
Tim Grierson is a contributing editor at MEL. He last wrote about his father, the teetotaler.
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