Tagline: He’s the best man… money can buy.
Jimmy (Kevin Hart) provides best man services for socially challenged guys, who – for whatever reason – have no one close enough to agree to stand by them on the day of their wedding.
Doug (Josh Gad) a groom-to-be, has found himself in just such a situation, but, to make matters worse, he fabricates the names of not only a best man but nine groomsmen as well. When all else fails, Doug seeks out Jimmy’s services to carry out a charade designed to make Doug look his best, but threatens to destroy everything if it fails.
The Wedding Ringer is an comedy film directed and co-written by Jeremy Garelick. It stars Kevin Hart, Josh Gad, and Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting. The film was produced by Adam Fields, Will Packer Productions and Miramax Films, distributed by Screen Gems, and released on January 16, 2015. Despite receiving generally negative reviews, the film was a box office success, grossing over $79 million against a $23 million budget.
About the Production
Are you bro-less? Buddy-deficient? About to settle down with a girl without ever having lived it up first with the boys? You might just need The Wedding Ringer. For any man getting married, there’s a lot to take care of before the big day. But no matter how stressful it gets, he can be certain of one thing: the guys that make up his wedding party – from best man to groomsmen – will help him out, from the bachelor party to the reception toast.
They’re his crew, after all: the guys who have always been there for him, through good times and bad (and good times that memorably go bad, right?). They’re the guys who matter. The guys that lovable, socially awkward groom-tobe Doug Harris (Josh Gad) never had, and doesn’t have.
And if he doesn’t want to look like a fool to his bride, they’re the guys he desperately needs. Fast. Where most men have the luxury of choosing among childhood friends, current friends and close family for a best man, Doug’s in an especially tight jam because he can’t find anyone to be his best man. In fact, after going through his entire address book, Doug — with less than two weeks to go before marrying the beautiful girl of his dreams Gretchen Palmer (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting) — has come to realize that he simply has no friends.
Enter Jimmy Callahan (Kevin Hart), owner and CEO of Best Man, Inc., an off-the-radar company that provides the ultimate in best man services, which includes making socially challenged guys look like bro-magnet rock stars. With very little time to work with, Jimmy pulls out all of the stops in assuming the role of Doug’s right-hand pal, putting together an all-star team of bogus groomsmen in order to impress Gretchen’s increasingly suspicious parents Ed (Ken Howard) and Lois (Mimi Rogers) Palmer.
But as Doug’s wedding and future hang in the balance, an unexpected bromance develops with the flashy operator he’s hired, which fills Doug with the confidence he never had. What ensues in the boisterous comedy The Wedding Ringer is a hilarious charade as Jimmy and his misfit team of rent-a-friends create a series of outrageously funny dude-ventures while circumventing myriad tests initiated by the Palmer family, in order to pull off their biggest and boldest con to date.
A New Wedding Business Is Born
The genesis for the premise of The Wedding Ringer can be traced all the way back to a random phone call director Jeremy Garelick received from a high school classmate.
“A person I knew in high school called me out of nowhere many years later and said ‘Rebecca and I are getting married,’ recalls director Garelick. I said ‘Congratulations’ and in my mind I am thinking ‘Who’s Rebecca and why are you calling me?’ He asked me to save the date, but I’m thinking why would I even go to this wedding? I wasn’t really friends with this guy in high school, but a month later he called again and said ‘Rebecca and I would be honored if you would be in our wedding party as one of my groomsman.’ I was caught off guard and didn’t know what to do, so I said yes and after I hung up the phone, I thought, ‘What did I just agree to’? Now I have to fly from Los Angeles all the way back east for this wedding with people I don’t even know.”
Being young and a good sport, Garelick decided to make the most of the wedding and be a supportive friend and groomsman. But when he arrived, there was another surprise waiting for him.
“I showed up to the wedding because I thought, what’s the worst thing that could happen? I was single and weddings have good food and lots of girls, but when I got there I discovered that it was not many groomsmen yet there were 15 bridesmaids. I felt bad for him and it was clear that this guy didn’t have any friends. So I started telling stories, making up things about how great this guy is and how we used to hang out and run on the track team together and what a great athlete he was. At the end of the night I thought to myself, I should be getting paid for being at this wedding. And then it hit me, I should write a screenplay about this experience.”
Garelick then turned to screenwriter and friend, Jay Lavender, who he worked with at CAA. “I had read Jay’s scripts and I was always a big fan of his work,” says Garelick. “I didn’t really know how to write a screenplay and I was just sort of learning, and Jay was a great guy and we had a similar sense of humor.”
“I loved Jeremy’s attitude and could see how hard he worked,” recalls Jay Lavender. “I called him and said ‘Let’s write something together.’ We both had ideas, and were going back and forth when he pitched me a great idea. He said, ‘What if there’s a professional best man?’ I immediately started laughing and we were at that age where you’re either in the wedding parties or the young guys at weddings. We thought it was so ripe to make fun of from the guys’ point of view that wasn’t mean about weddings, but that captured the pomp and circumstance of it. So we started working on the script together between our other projects and jobs.”
For Garelick, one of those other jobs was working for Joel Schumacher, who at the time was directing Veronica Guerin out of Dublin. Says Garelick, “I asked Jay if he wanted come over to work on the script, so he flew out to Dublin and he stayed in my hotel room and we finished it and felt we had something really special. I think that weddings make such great targets for comedy because most great comedies are crossroads in life stories and getting married certainly is a big one.”
All the years of working hard on sets prepared him to direct his first film. “I always wanted to be a director and when I moved out to Los Angeles, I was told to go work for a director,” reveals Garelick. “So I got a job working for Joel Schumacher and it was the greatest film school of all time. I met so many talented people, some of whom are actually working on this film. After Jay and I wrote The Break-Up, we were able to be on set from start to finish and I learned a ton from Peyton Reed. Then when I worked on The Hangover I was on set every day with Todd Phillips and so I was able to learn so much from great people.”
Finding The Best Men And Best Women
The director continues, “One of things that always stuck with me was when Todd Phillips said to me, ‘If you want to make a funny movie then put funny people in it.’ So to me, casting is a critical part of my job, because if I put together an amazing cast then a big part of my job is done before I even step on the set to direct.
For Garelick, casting the right actor to play the lead character of Jimmy Callahan, the fast-on-his-feet owner of Best Man Inc., a company that provides professional best man for grooms who just don’t have friends, was important. Enter Kevin Hart, the funnyman whose recent comedies Think Like a Man and Ride Along were box office gold. Hart says that making the right choices is key to a successful career, “because you don’t want to do the same thing over and over again,” he says. “The movies I’ve been picking lately have been a variety of action comedies and relationship-based comedies. I would consider this more of a buddy comedy and with a nice little drama that isn’t too serious. You get to see how men think and I think that that’s refreshing entertainment.”
Hart adds, “Jimmy will be your best man and create the ultimate wedding party for you. He will even throw in a bachelor party if you pay enough. Jimmy provides the business service of a limited-time friendship. Doug is the worst case Jimmy has ever seen. He needs the full package, which Jimmy has never performed before and so he questions himself, ‘Can I pull this off?'”
Even more fun was the comic thread of Jimmy and Doug in a near constant state of deception, with often hilariously disastrous results. “Once you step into it,” says Hart, referring to the best-man sham that involves faking out so many people, “you can’t go back. I think that made room for so much fun, from the consistent lying to the cover-up and back peddling that we do together. It’s a funny comedy beat played continuously throughout the movie.”
Casting Doug required finding a sympathetic, lovable loser, since Doug is someone who puts all his time into his work, has no male friends, and a fiancee pushing him to give her the names of his best man and groomsmen. For the role, the filmmakers chose acclaimed actor Josh Gad.
“Doug is a little bit neurotic. No, strike that, Doug is very, very neurotic,” says a laughing Josh Gad about his character. “He’s in a little bit over his head as he is getting married to a type A personality, and his fiancee tells him that basically she’s going have seven bridesmaids and he’d better have a groomsman to match every bridesmaid. He soon realizes that he doesn’t have any friends who he can call, because he’s never really made any close friends in his life. But he doesn’t have the guts to tell her this and ruin her perfect wedding.”
Producer Will Packer says, “Doug has tried to call people as far back as elementary school to ask them awkwardly to be in his wedding party. His fiancee doesn’t know that, so he makes up some very interesting names for the groomsmen and of his best man.”
Gad says the screenplay’s reputation as a sidesplitting bro-centric comedy was a familiar one over the years. “This script was legendary in the circles that I was in,” informs Gad. “I kept hearing about it for many years and how funny it was. I loved The Break-Up and thought the script that Jeremy and Jay wrote was brilliant. Then one day I got a phone call saying they’d wanted me to come in and read alongside Kevin for the film. I could immediately tell from the read-through that this was just one of those rare scripts that is so funny on the page.”
“I’ve been a fan of Josh Gad for a really long time,” says director Jeremy Garelick. “I was so psyched when we cast him. He’s so smart and funny. He is a great balance to Kevin and I felt that we had a new, great comedic pairing when we cast the both of them.”
“Josh is cool,” exclaims Kevin Hart. “He’s a funny guy and great actor. In fact, he is a trained thespian and this is a guy who’s put years and time into his craft from Broadway to television and now he’s doing it on the big screen.”
Gad returns the praise about Hart. “He is one of the funniest human beings I have ever met in my life. He’s always, always, always making me laugh. Even when he shouldn’t be making me laugh! So we ruin a lot of takes generally.”
Creating all of the pressure and stress for Doug is Gretchen Palmer, who is determined to have a perfect wedding. She’s played by “The Big Bang Theory” star Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, who thought the script was “laugh out loud funny,” and sheds more light on the character and her motives.
“Gretchen starts out like Little Miss Sunshine; sweet and not affected, but as the wedding gets closer she gets more stressed and a little darker,” says Cuoco-Sweeting. “She doesn’t start out that way, but there’s definitely a bit of a build, which is fun.”
The actress continues, “Gretchen’s family isn’t exactly in love with Doug. I don’t really understand it, but they think that she should be with a gorgeous, tall athlete. Doug and Gretchen’s relationship is cute at the beginning and you think that they are both totally in love, but as things go on, you see that Gretchen is probably in the relationship for a lot of the wrong reasons.”
Cuoco-Sweeting thanks director Garelick’s wife for turning her on to the film. “I actually kind of owe this film to Jeremy Garelick’s wife, Sam, who I go spinning with,” says Cuoco-Sweeting. “I was in class one day, and she was sitting with me and she said ‘Oh my God, Jeremy’s doing this movie called The Wedding Ringer and there are a million names for it, but you’d be so perfect for the wife.’ She told Jeremy and the rest is kind of history. So I would like to say, thank you Sam!”
Gretchen’s family is a big source of concern for friendless, nervous, eager-to- please Doug. He can sense they’re not big fans of his with every attempt to win them over. Never missing an opportunity to take a shot at Doug’s manhood is Gretchen’s domineering father, Ed Palmer. A former football player, Ed just doesn’t think that unathletic Doug is good enough to be with his daughter, and he lets him know it.
Ken Howard, who took on the role of Ed Palmer, explains why his character has such disdain for Doug. “Ed doesn’t think much of Doug and he can’t relate to him at all,” says Ken Howard. “He is an alpha male and all he can think about are that his daughter’s wedding is costing him a lot of money, and he can’t stand the guy she is marrying.”
Producer Adam Fields says Howard’s role – a constant reminder to Doug of his inadequacies — is essential for the movie’s comedic focus. “Ken Howard is a great anchor for the film and creates tension in the film, which heightens the comedy,” says producer Adam Fields. “Ken has been in so many great films and brings such a gravitas to the character that you feel for Doug because anyone would be intimidated given the situation.”
While Ed has drawn a line in the sand, his wife Lois has a soft spot for Doug that occasionally emerges. The filmmakers cast Mimi Rogers in the role. “Lois is definitely on the fence about Doug,” explains Rogers. “She likes the fact that Doug is successful and is a good earner, but ultimately doesn’t think that Doug is good enough for her daughter.”
“Ed and Lois love their daughter very much and are overprotective of her,” says director Garelick. “They feel like she’s settling for this guy. But they’re not ready to fight their daughter on this. They’d rather let her learn her own lessons. They’re a tough, judgmental, politically incorrect, dysfunctional family.”
While Lois shares many of the same qualities as Gretchen, she does not see eye to eye with her youngest daughter Allison, played by Olivia Thirlby. Allison is the proverbial black sheep of the family, who sees things for what they are and says it.
“The relationship between Gretchen and Allison is not the closest,” explains Thirlby. “I think they have a mutual respect, but they’re very different types of people. It also seems like Allison is the only one in her family who smells something a little off about Doug’s best man Jimmy and his whole backstory. She’s the only who picks up on the lies, but instead of being angry or annoyed by them, she’s quite charmed. Jimmy’s very handsome and she ends up falling for him a bit despite herself.”
“Allison is an important role and we were thrilled to get Olivia to play this character who really is the sane character in the insane world of the Palmer family,” says director Garelick. “We also needed her to be one of the anchors for Jimmy’s character arc in the film.”
Adding to the insanity is Grandma Palmer, the feisty matriarch of the family, played by Academy Award-winning screen legend Cloris Leachman. “I’ve never played a character like this where I talk trash all day long,” says Leachman. “It’s just comedic mayhem and a kind of humor that you don’t see every day. Grandma Palmer is a tough cookie with everything she has had to endure in the film.”
“God bless Cloris Leachman,” laughs Will Packer. “Grandma Palmer is this funny, cranky, politically incorrect grandma who just says anything and does anything, which is not unlike Cloris Leachman in real life. She was a great sport and is incredibly funny in the film.” Says producer Fields, “she’s the only woman older than me that can still make me blush.”
Kevin Hart concurs. “Cloris is amazing not only because of her age, but the fact that she’s still able to do what she does and roll with the punches,” he says. “She had little teeny lines, but she made them such big moments by saying everything with her eyes and facial reactions. For her to still have that comedic timing, that’s amazing, man.”
With Leachman, the daunting smorgasbord that is the Palmer clan was complete, a formidable challenge to fool when Doug’s predicament is laid out. Says producer Packer, “The Palmers might be one of the worst families to marry into when you’re trying to impress and you have nothing to impress them with. Doug’s a great guy, but he’s being judged by all these expectations that her family has put on them.”
Rounding out The Wedding Ringer and its broad, no-holds-barred humor are a collection of eccentric characters who provide plenty of hilarious color. For starters there’s flaming, fabulous wedding planner Edmundo, played by Ignacio Serricchio.
“Edmundo is a wedding planner who ever since Father of the Bride came out, thinks the only way he could get steady work is to dress very chic and pretend to be flamboyantly homosexual,” says Serricchio. “He does have a heart and tries to help Doug by telling him ‘Just make sure the bride and her mother are happy, and that’s it. Show up. Don’t say anything stupid. Don’t do anything stupid. Agree to everything, whatever they want.’ It’s always yes, yes, and yes.'”
Says director Garelick, “Ignacio was the first guy to audition for Edmundo and he was so amazing in the audition that I expected every other person who came to be as good or better, which didn’t happen. We saw a ton of people and every person who came in, I just kept feeling; he’s not as good as Ignacio. So we finally stopped the search and let go of the fear of casting the first actor we saw in the room. I was incredibly grateful that we found him as he really elevates a character that could become one-dimensional in the wrong hands.”
“Ignacio is our secret weapon,” says producer Packer. “He brings such a zest to his performance that is so natural and so authentic, but then when he has to turn and flip it, he does that with such ease. The character is going to be very memorable and he is going to break out from this film.”
With the bride’s wedding party consisting of seven bridesmaids, Jimmy must dig deep into his arsenal of talent to fill the seven spots that will become Doug’s groomsmen. Adding to the difficulty level for Kevin Hart’s character is the fact that Doug has already given them names that will sound strangely familiar to any sports fan. Put on the spot, he rattled off favorite professional athletes from the posters in his office. These names were then given to a misfit cast of characters Jimmy hires to be Doug’s groomsmen. When Doug makes their acquaintance, he immediately loses confidence that they can fool the discerning eyes of the Palmer family.
This ragtag group of ersatz groomsmen – as oddball an ensemble to grace a modern comedy – add a priceless element of out-there comic tension to the what-could-go-wrong construct of The Wedding Ringer, and their casting needed to be spot-on. They include Corey Holcomb as Alzado (as in Lyle), Colin Kane as Plunkett (as in Jim), “LOST” star, Jorge Garcia as Garvey (as in Steve), Affion Crockett as Drysdale (as in Don), Dan Gill as Dickerson (as in Ernest), Aaron Takahashi as Rambis (as in Kurt), and Alan Ritchson as Carew (as in Rod).
For director Garelick, having a talented group of comedians who could keep up with the ad-libs of Kevin Hart and Josh Gad was a great luxury. “For all of the groomsmen, I wanted to have guys who really funny in their own right and could add things that were not on the page,” says director Garelick. “When you see Corey Holcomb, Dan Gill, Affion Crockett, Jorge Garcia, Alan Ritchson, Colin Kane and Aaron Takahashi together as a collective group it just makes you laugh.”
“Needless to say, this is not the most polished group of gentleman in the world,” laughs producer Packer. “It makes it all the more interesting, because when you see the groomsmen together with their various quirks and style and deficiencies and out-and-out weirdness, you say, ‘Who in the hell put this crew together’?”
Hart has nothing but praise for the movie’s septet of strangeness. “This group of guys aren’t necessarily big name actors, but they are some of the funniest guys I’ve ever worked with,” says Hart. “These guys all brought so much to their characters, from appearance to nervous tics to voices to language to style.”
Helping to manage all of these characters and the business details at Best Man Inc. is Doris, Jimmy’s right hand woman, who cracks the whip and keeps everyone in line, and is played by the beloved Jennifer Lewis. The actress describes Doris’s relationship with her boss.
“Doris loves Jimmy,” says Lewis. “She’s proud of Jimmy, despite the fact that the business is based on a bunch of made-up lies. But we’re helping people feel good and making them feel like they belong so that makes up for it. It’s a great racket and there’s just a lot of comedy that comes with that.”
Rounding out the talented cast of The Wedding Ringer are Whitney Cummings, Nicole Whelan, Ashley Jones, Jeff Ross, Joe Namath, John Riggins, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Peter Gilroy, Josh Peck, Lindsay Pearce, Amy Okuda, and some of the top You Tube stars, including iJustine (Justine Ezarik), Lisa Nova, GloZell Green, and Mary Doodles (Mary Gutfleisch).
The filmmakers were ecstatic with the ensemble they had put together. “One of my biggest obsessions in casting a comedy is audience goodwill,” explains director Garelick. “The movies that always seem to do well are populated by actors who make audiences smile and laugh when they come on screen. This is the common thread that runs throughout the entire cast of The Wedding Ringer.”
“From top to bottom, this film is loaded with comedic talent,” adds producer Packer. “With 17 principle actors – all of which are uniquely funny – it’s pretty much a guarantee that in almost every scene there is someone who will make audiences laugh and smile.”
The Wedding Ringer
Directed by: Jeremy Garelick
Starring: Kevin Hart, Josh Gad, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, Affion Crockett, Dan Gill, Cloris Leachman, Jenifer Lewis
Screenplay by: Jeremy Garelick, Jay Lavender
Production Design by: Chris Cornwell
Cinematography by: Bradford Lipson
Film Editing by: Jeff Groth, Shelly Westerman, Byron Wong
Costume Design by: Genevieve Tyrrell
Set Decoration by: Dena Roth
Music by: Christopher Lennertz
MPAA Rating: R for crude and sexual content, language throughout, some drug use and brief graphic nudity.
Studio: Sony ScreenGems
Release Date: January 16, 2015