Paul Feig’s “Bridesmaids” hit theaters 10 years ago, and although it was projected to be “kind of a failure,” according to the director, the film went on to become a commercial and critical success, receiving two Academy Award nominations.
“We really felt like we had something really good – but then our tracking, when they’re trying to see if an audience is going to show up and if people have heard of it, was really bad,” Feig told TheWrap. “We were kind of predicted to not do very well. The morning of, we were actually looking to be kind of a failure and I was pretty disappointed. And then throughout the day, the numbers kept going up and up and up, and then we realized, ‘Oh, we might actually be OK.'”
He added: “Your dream is that people will still be watching your movie 10 years from now, and the fact that the people still watch it and still come up to me constantly and everybody can quote lines from it, that’s better than any award we’ve locked. We had the greatest honor of getting nominated for two Oscars, which never happens in comedy, but that’s not why we did it. We didn’t expect it. And that just showed, you just try to make a movie that makes people happy and then does everything you want it to do.”
“Bridesmaids” was written by Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, and directed by Feig. Judd Apatow, Barry Mendel and Clayton Townsend produced the comedy, which starred Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne and Melissa McCarthy. Wiig played a maid of honor in her best friend’s wedding, but soon, one of her friend’s newest friends draws wedge between the two besties.
“This kind of came to me like a wedding movie, a romantic comedy, but what drew me to it was the fact that it was about a female friendship,” Feig explained. “The romantic comedy aspect of it is just like a reward for getting your life together with her. Chris O’Dowd’s character, her love interest, doesn’t solve her problems because O’Dowd is sort of this prize at the end when she solved her own problems with herself and with her friend and with her weird competition, you know, and all this insecurity… We never wanted to be like, ‘Oh, women can’t get along.’ It’s just like, you’re in a competition fighting over a friend. If it was guys, it’d be the same emotions that everybody has.”
To Feig, the iconic dress shop scene – you know, the one where everyone falls terribly ill – represented more than just comedy. For him, it was a culmination of Wiig’s character fighting for the livelihood of her friendship.
“I would say the reason why that dress shop scene works is it’s a very relatable thing of trying to compete with somebody else and trying to look like you’re richer or cooler or something better than the person you’re competing with,” Feig said. “And you just go too far and make a mistake, and then you won’t admit it.”
Read TheWrap’s Q&A, which contains snippets of McCarthy’s improv and funny on-set moments, with Feig below, and watch the full interview above.
TheWrap: When did you know that you had something so special and did you always knew it would blossom into this iconic film that would be quoted all the time 10 years later?
Paul Feig: You always hope that’s going to happen with everything you do, but it very rarely happens. But I always say, nobody ever sets out to make a bad movie, and you always kind of go into it going, like, “Everyone’s going to love this.” But you know, you get into the day-to-day of it and it just becomes a thing you’re doing. But you’re having fun every day and definitely going like, “Wow, this is really funny. And we’re getting really great stuff.” But you know, whenever I’m making a movie, especially when it’s going well, I always kinda go, “I hope it adds up,” because you know, you can make a movie in every single scene and every moment is so funny. But then you string it together and sometimes it just isn’t as good as the whole thing. But this one just really came together really well. We had such an amazing team. That cast in front of the camera was so good and so funny, but also such good actors too, that’s the difference.
Everybody remembers the dress shop scene, which is outrageous, but at the same time, if the movie was just that, it would’ve just been some kind of a raunchy comedy. I would say the reason why that dress shop scene works is it’s a very relatable thing of trying to compete with somebody else and trying to look like you’re richer or cooler or something better than the person you’re competing with. And you just go too far and make a mistake, and then you won’t admit it. And so that’s really just why that whole scene exists. For her to not admit in the face of overwhelming evidence that she has screwed up, we really felt like we had something really good – but then our tracking, when they’re trying to see if an audience is going to show up and if people have heard of it, was really bad. We were kind of predicted to not do very well. The morning of, we were actually looking to be kind of a failure and I was pretty disappointed. And then throughout the day, the numbers kept going up and up and up, and then we realized, “Oh, we might actually be OK.”
I read somewhere that the whole dress shop scene was mainly your and Judd’s idea — that you really wanted that scene to be part of the movie. Is that true? And also where did that idea stem from?
There was always a dress scene in there about them going to try on dresses and it was a very funny scene. It was about that Annie didn’t have enough money and so she was always competing with Rose Byrne, and she was trying to get them to buy cheap dresses, which is kind of still in there. But then there’s a scene where Kristen’s character tries on her dress, this fancy dress that’s expensive. And she has this kind of really funny kind of Harlequin romance fantasy about what her life would be like in this dress. And it was really funny. Judd and I just kind of felt like, Oh, you know, it’s so fantasy that we should really make this again about a very relatable thing that advances the story and the character of like, you’re in competition. You’re going to try to compete with Rose Byrne’s character, and you try to do something that you are saying is good and inexpensive by taking them to a crappy restaurant that you’re saying, ‘Oh, this place is the hot place.’ And then it backfires on you. And so the whole thing is that it’s a fun way to show this competition of like, she’s not going to back down. And so it’s really about you’ve screwed up. “I’m fine. Everybody’s fine. What are you talking about? We’re not sick.” People are throwing up. People are crapping in the streets. It felt like the perfect way to illustrate a character flaw in the most big-ticket way possible.
Obviously it’s one of the iconic scenes and the other two that come to mind for me are the engagement party, where they kind of one up each other, and obviously the plane scene. And I was wondering how much of those scenes was improvised?
The whole competition was scripted. It had a lot of that back and forth, but then when we started shooting, Kristen and Rose just started going back and forth – it didn’t originally have that many ups and downs. And as we were shooting, we just started having all these ideas and they were coming up with these crazy things. And then we were giving ideas and everyone really started weighing in. And so we shot that scene for several hours, just cracking up because like, “Oh, go in and do this,” or, “Oh, she’s going to go surprise me.” And so it really grew. But that’s what I love. It’s funny: Some of my detractors always go, “Oh, the movies are all just ad lib.” But it’s like, we never ad lib because that to me just means like you show up and do whatever you want. We always have very tightly scripted scenes. But then within them you go, “Oh, try this instead,” or “surprise me with this.” You’re on the roadmap that you need, but then the moments can be different and you can play around with that. And that’s where the talents of these great actors that we get, who are so not only good at acting, but also great at comedy and improv, then it all comes full circle. And then it’s just up to us to sort it all out in the editing room, because we tend to have an embarrassment of riches of funny stuff.
Even the scene where Melissa McCarthy reads Kristen’s the riot act on the couch – it was scripted, but then it started growing as we did it, and Melissa was playing off of Kristen and Kristen was playing off of Melissa. And the whole thing about like, it turns out she’s a super rich and she owns tanker trucks and all that, that just kind of came out of improv. You have a great blueprint of a great script and then you turn people loose within it and their minds go wild.
I also read that there was a whole Paul Rudd scene in the movie, was that accurate? Were there are a lot of other deleted scenes that you wish would have made the cut?
We had two date scenes. One was with Paul Rudd, which is hilarious. It was this guy who seems like the nicest guy in the world and turns out he got this explosive temper where they are on this ice skating date and a kid skates over the tip of his finger and he loses his mind and wants to kill the kid. It was hilarious. And then there was another scene, which was one of my favorite scenes from the whole movie that we had to cut out, because it was another date scene where she goes to the date’s house and he says, “Oh, can you sit with my kid? I have to make a phone call.” And this kid was so funny. He was just staring at her and just had the funniest lines. He was ad-libbing. My favorite thing he said was, “My grandmother died where you’re sitting on this couch.” The movie is over two hours long so it’s already pushing the envelope for a comedy. It just felt like Annie was having so much trouble trying to kind of keep the Jon Hamm relationship going and sort of rejecting Chris O’Dowd’s character that it felt like if she’s dating on top of that just felt like sort of a hat on a hat.
Was there ever a conversation about the title of the movie?
I think at the original table read, I think it was called “Maid of Honor,” and I think the first time I went to a table read of this was three years before we made it and that name was on it, we all kind of knew that’s not really the right one. It just didn’t feel right. But we didn’t really name the movie until right before we went into production. We were kind of worried that it might sound too generic, but at the same time, both Judd and I are kind of fans of that. I mean, if you look at my movies, you know, “The Heat, “Spy,” you know, I like these kinds of things that just kind of says it, and then the movie does the heavy lifting for you. There’s nothing I hate more than like a clever title, and the thing I hate most in this business, and a thing I’m always trying to fight, is, guys see a bunch of women on posters, and you think, “Oh, that’s a chick flick,” which is my least favorite term in all of showbiz because I find it very reductive and just sort of dismissive. I think at the same time we knew, look, we’re going to have six women on this poster anyway, so, you know, guys are going to do that. All you can do at that point is kind of go with us to make the funniest movie possible, and when they see it, they’ll realize how funny it is, which is exactly what happened. What really helped with our success is, I think a lot of guys got taken to the movies by their significant other and found that it was very applicable to their lives too. Because it was really just a story about losing your best friend, you know, but it’s kind of like the way when “The Devil Wears Prada” came out, it was that same thing of guys not wanting to see it. And then he goes, he goes, “Oh, it’s about a tough boss.” Everybody gets that.
Talk to me a little about how you got involved and what drew you to directing the film.
I went to the table read in 2007. When Judd did “Knocked Up,” Kristen had that really funny role. And so Judd, as he does with a lot of people he works with, said, “Hey, you should write your own vehicle. If it’s great, we’ll try to get it made.” So they did. In 2007, he called me up because he knows I love doing movies with female characters and he basically said, “You know, I think you’d really liked this.” It wasn’t a completely different script, but it was still sort of in its early stages, but just seeing the opportunity for such a great comedy with such a great female cast, I was really drawn to it, but I was also in the middle of another project, and I had another one coming up. And so I was like, “OK, well, you know, I’d love to do this, just I don’t have time to kind of shepherd it right now. But if it comes around later, I would love to do it.” And then it sort of disappeared for three years just because of scheduling and other factors. So it was really in 2010 when I was in the middle of directing a bunch of TV commercials and feeling kind of terrible, and then Judd called up and said, “Let’s do it.” And I sat down with Kristen and she was good with it too, because I cast Kristen in her first movie role in a movie that I was doing at the time called “Unaccompanied Minors,” which was a very unsuccessful Christmas movie. I tend to always go to the “Saturday Night Live” shows when I’m in New York, and so I got to know the cast really well and it just kind of was a no-brainer. And then I couldn’t wait to do it. I was so honored to get the opportunity to do it because I knew how funny it could be.
I know Kristen has said the film doesn’t need a sequel — if one was green-lit, would you consider directing it?
Yeah! I mean, that group is so fun. But I’m kind of with her that I’m not a big sequel guy, because I think movies work so great because you are meeting a character in a moment that they have to go through an entire life-changing experience. And that’s really what pulls you through all the bells and whistles of the dress shop and the crazy airplane scene and all that stuff… To do a sequel, you know, she can’t fall apart again because then you’re like, what? I thought we just got your life together in the first movie, why are you having trouble now? Look, with this group, I guarantee you, it would be great. It’s just, is it necessary? But it’s Kristen’s baby. And so like, if she one day said, “Oh my God, I got the greatest idea and have this great script,” and I was lucky enough for her to want me to do it again, yeah. I would do it.