It’s a warm October morning in Los Angeles when ComingSoon.net takes our place in a pew within the massive Hollywood United Methodist Church, to watch Frozen’s Josh Gad exchange wedding vows with “The Big Bang Theory’s” Kaley Cuoco, with ubiquitous funnyman Kevin Hart officiating. But as we quickly learn, this is all just a dream sequence in The Wedding Ringer, the feature-film directorial debut of The Break-Up screenwriter Jeremy Garelick. In reality — well, the film’s reality — Gad’s character Doug is marrying Cuoco’s Gretchen, but is so desparately in need of a best man that he hires one in the form of Hart’s Jimmy, whose business is befriending those who lack friends. Of course, with such an offbeat pairing, there’s no telling if Doug will actually make it to the alter. But Garelick and his two stars do their best to reassure us that everything will work out the way it’s supposed to when we sit down to chat with them once the scene has wrapped.
Garelick, who’s co-written The Wedding Ringer with his screenwriting partner Jay Lavender, says it isn’t easy working with the forever-riffing Hart.
“Kevin Hart is so funny,” he laughs, “that many takes are ruined because people are laughing around him, including me. And I’m sitting about a hundred feet away. I’m laughing so hard that we have to cut. He’s ridiculously funny.”
Garelick admits that he doesn’t need to offer Hart much the way of direction.
“If you’ve got LeBron James playing for you,” he says, “you don’t want to coach LeBron James. You just wanna let him go play. He’s an artist — the more freedom he’s allowed, the more fun and creative he’ll be.”
The filmmaker explains that The Wedding Ringer‘s story, as far-fetched as it sounds, is semi-autobiographical. “[The idea] came from a true story that happened to me. Somebody I went to high school with called me out of nowhere and said, ‘Hey, how you doin’ man?’ I was like, ‘Great.’ He’s like, ‘You know, Rebecca and I are getting married.’ I’m like, ‘Congratulations!’ And I didn’t even know who Rebecca was. He’s like, ‘We would be honored if you would be in the wedding party.’ And didn’t know what to say. I was like, ‘Sure.’ Now I’ve committed to going to this wedding. I ended up going to the wedding, and it was me, the bride’s brother, and another guy from high school who I didn’t know. There were fifteen bridesmaids, all perfect. It was a massive wedding, and the entire time I’m sitting there and I’m telling stories about, ‘When we were in gym class together we used to do this…’ or how great this guy is. I’m sitting there thinking, ‘God, I’m making this guy look so good.’ Then I was like, ‘I should start a job. I could be a professional best man.’ Then I was like, ‘Wait a second. That’s kind of a good idea for a movie…’
“I pitched it to a friend of mine at the time who worked at CAA with me. We were always fans of each others work and helped each other. I pitched him the idea, he loved the idea, we wrote it together, and here we are 12, 15 years later making the movie.”
While Garelick confesses he’s never come across a business like the one Jimmy runs, he’s met a few folks who would welcome its services.
“So many people I’ve pitched the idea to have said, ‘Oh that would be a great thing. I could use one of those…’ [But] it’s not necessarily about weddings, this movie. It’s about friendship. It’s about the friendship between two guys. These days we’re all fiddling with Twitter and Instagram and Facebook. Our friends are not really our friends. They’re just numbers and statistics that we add up. A lot of people have forgotten what it means to be a true friend. Because we’re caught up in our own lives and in success and in work. It’s hard to really unload to somebody and to be there for somebody when they break their arm or when they’re going through problems in life. That is really what this movie’s about. It’s about friendship at a time when people think they don’t need true friends, but it is truly important.”
Regarding his cast, Garelick remarks, “I got really lucky, specifically with Kevin and Josh. Because they were brought in before I was brought in as the director. I’ve worked with Todd Phillips a lot, and one of the things that he taught me was, if you’re going to do a funny movie, the most important thing to do is put funny people in it. So once we had Kevin and Josh, I felt like my job was 90% done. Then surrounding them with Kaley Cuoco and Cloris Leachman, who’s won more Emmy Awards than anybody in history, and Ken Howard. Olivia Thirlby is just incredible. We’ve got Jeff Ross, Whitney Cummings… And all of our groomsman, every single one of these guys is amazing. They’re such fresh faces. I’m so excited for people to see this movie and say ‘Who are those guys?’ Because they’re not recognizable. Maybe Jorge Garcia is, from “Lost,” but he’s in such a different role than what people are used to… Yes, I’m truly blessed to have an amazing, amazing cast.”
Chief among that cast is Gad, whose best-known role (as Frozen’s summer-loving snowman Olaf) is one for which his face does’t appear on camera. But Hart tells us he’s excited to have people witness the full range of his co-star’s skills.
“It’s such an endearing character to play because there’s a fine line… Because [he’s] playing a loser that’s successful, who’s found a woman of what he thought was his dreams. And now that he’s found her, he’s realized that he hasn’t lived life. He doesn’t know if what he thought life was is right. He’s a guy with so much sh*t going on in his head. If played as a character it’s not funny. If played to where it’s unbelievable, we’ve gone too far and the movie makes no sense. But the beautiful thing about Josh Gad is, he made it real. It’s not about him not having friends. He never thought that he had to! I believe he got a beautiful woman that he never thought he could get, and he thought he loved her just because he didn’t think he could get her and he got her. I believe that he would throw the money that he threw away because he thinks it’s gonna make him look great; and making him look great can justify her love back for him. It’s all about other people. Once he realizes that, ‘Wow, I don’t have friends. Am I a loser? Am I f*cked up?’ The guy he’s paying to make him feel better actually makes him feel better… Josh is good, man. It’s not just about being a comedic actor. Josh’s Broadway background and coming from an educated background helps him a lot. I don’t have any training. I’m just a funny guy, and they said, ‘Action’ one day and I got lucky. [Laughs.] I get better as I continue. But Josh is an amazing guy, and I think this movie’s gonna propel him into more things… On the set, there’s nothing but good times.”
“I got a phone call from Jeremy Garelick,” says Gad, still wearing his character’s wedding tux, about joining the project. “I had known about the script for a long time. Because it’s one of those scripts… It was called ‘The Golden Tux,’ and it was a really famous hilarious script that was around town. Early on I had heard that Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson were gonna do it. Then another pairing. Suddenly I just got a call to do a reading. Kevin was attached and they wanted me to play the other guy. I went in and we read it together, and it was immediately clear that this was just hysterical. There was something about the odd pairing of me and Kevin that just worked.”
“I really, really think that one of the things that makes comedy work so well when you have a duo is chemistry and that ‘Odd Couple’-like thing, and Kevin and I really couldn’t be any more of an odd couple. Just the look of the two of us next to each other. I look at the pictures, and I’m like, ‘One of these things is not like the other!’ You get a real sense that it just is funny. We have different rhythms. We have different kinds of sensibilities when it comes to stuff like that. That’s the key for something like this. These characters are very different, and it’s their differences that work so well to make the entirety hilarious.’
Regarding his role, Gad says “Doug is one of those guys who doesn’t have many close friends to call upon. He’s getting married to this very type-A personality in Kaley Cuoco, and she insists on the perfect wedding. She wants nine bridesmaids, and she wants him to have nine groomsmen to match that. The problem that he has is he doesn’t have one person to call on to be a groomsman. So in kind of this last-ditch effort, out of despair, he finds this company called Best Man Incorporated, run by Kevin. He basically goes to the guy and says, ‘I need you to help me out here.’ The guy says, ‘Okay, I can be your best man. It’s gonna cost X, Y, and Z.’ And he says, ‘I don’t need a best man. I need nine groomsmen.’ So he gets a package called ‘The Golden Tux.’ The Golden Tux is he’ll hire nine people to pretend to be your best friends. To create a history, to build a past with you. Then essentially fool your family and friends into believing that they are your groomsmen and they are your friends from childhood. So my character’s kind of desperate and awkward. But through Kevin and his relationship with Kevin… They kind of come into each other’s lives at the perfect time, as is often the case with these films, and they kind of help each other grow.”
“They bring out the best in each other,” adds Gad, “in that both of them are at a crossroads a little bit. I’m questioning whether or not I’m settling for something that is right for all the wrong reasons. And with Jimmy, Kevin’s character, he is so immersed in the world of lying and in the world of trickery and in the world of being what everybody wants him to be that he doesn’t realize that he’s enough, that his relationship to somebody can actually mean anything. Because he’s used to being a gun for hire. So they help each other to get beyond those blocks that they’re facing.”
As for Cuoco, Gad tells us, “She’s so good. And she’s playing a character that’s so fundamentally different than the one that she plays on ‘Big Bang.’ I think that people are really gonna be struck by that. It’s kind of a bitchy character, but in such a unique way. I think it’s hysterical.”
Before everyone heads back to set, Hart offers his take on his Jimmy: “I make you look like you are one of the best guys to ever walk the face of the Earth. And I get paid to do it. I’m very good at it. I’m a man of many personalities and many faces. But, to contradict what I do, I don’t have a life myself. I do so much for other people and provide for so many people and pretend, I don’t have anybody doing the same for me on an emotional level. So it’s actually a really funny movie with a great emotional backstory to it as well.”
The Wedding Ringer opens in theaters on January 16, 2015.