KRISTEN WIIG MAYA RUDOLPH ROSE BYRNE WENDI MCLENDON-COVEY ELLIE KEMPER MELISSA MCCARTHY CHRIS O’DOWD
Executive Producer PAUL FEIG
Produced by JUDD APATOW CLAYTON TOWNSEND BARRY MENDEL
Written by ANNIE MUMOLO & KRISTEN WIIG
Directed by PAUL FEIG
This summer, producer JUDD APATOW (Knocked Up, The 40-Year-Old Virgin) and director PAUL FEIG (creator of television’s Freaks and Geeks) invite you to experience what happens when best friends forever meet the wildest Bridesmaidsever. KRISTEN WIIG (TV’s Saturday Night Live) leads the cast as Annie, a maid of honor whose life unravels as she leads her closest friend, Lillian (MAYA RUDOLPH of Away We Go), and a group of colorful bridesmaids—Helen (ROSE BYRNE of TV’s Damages), Rita (WENDI MCLENDON-COVEY of TV’s Reno 911!), Becca (ELLIE KEMPER of TV’s The Office) and Megan (MELISSA MCCARTHY of TV’s Mike & Molly)—on a wild ride down the road to matrimony.
Annie’s life keeps coming up short. But when she discovers her lifetime best friend is engaged, she simply must serve as Lillian’s maid of honor. Though lovelorn and broke, Annie dives into all of the required rituals as she gets to know the other ladies in the bridal party, including one particular rival (Helen) who is perfectly poised to fulfill all the duties that Annie struggles through. As she brings Lillian’s bridesmaids along on an escalating series of disasters, Annie realizes the person who knows her the best has introduced her to four strangers who will shake up her life for good.
Collaborating with producer Apatow and director/executive producer Feig on Bridesmaids are fellow producers BARRY MENDEL (Funny People, The Sixth Sense) and CLAYTON TOWNSEND (Knocked Up, The 40-Year-Old Virgin), as well as screenwriters/co-producers Kristen Wiig and ANNIE MUMOLO.
The comedy’s behind-the-scenes crew is led by cinematographer ROBERT YEOMAN (The Royal Tenenbaums, Yes Man), production designer JEFFERSON SAGE (Knocked Up, Paul) and editors WILLIAM KERR (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Superbad) and MIKE SALE (The Hangover Part II, Get Him to the Greek), as well as costume designer LEESA EVANS (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, American Pie). Music for the film is by MICHAEL ANDREWS (Donnie Darko, Funny People), and the music supervisor and music editor is JONATHAN KARP (Knocked Up, Pineapple Express).
Longtime friends Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo met years ago at The Groundlings, the Los Angeles-based improv troupe where they wrote sketches with one another. Wiig recalls: “Annie and I went through the company around the same time, and we found each other to write together. We’ve always written so smoothly that there’s never any ego, and we’ve never fought over anything to be in or out of a script. It’s a great creative relationship where we respect each other. She’s one of my best friends.”
After her breakout cameo role in producer Judd Apatow’s second film, Knocked Up, the popular Saturday Night Live actress was asked to try her hand at another side of filmmaking. Apatow appreciated her unique comedy style and wanted to see what else she was capable of onscreen. Wiig explains: “I was approached by Judd to write a script, so I called Annie and asked if she wanted to do it with me. She had this idea that she had talked about before, and said, ‘Let’s write it out.’”
Apatow discusses his involvement in the project: “Every time we do a movie, I always think, ‘Who stole some of their scenes? Could any of these people star in their own movie?’ After Knocked Up, I thought Kristen deserved to be the lead of a movie. I asked her if she had any ideas and she came back to me with this idea about bridesmaids she’d worked on with her friend Annie Mumolo.”
Mumolo says that she and Wiig share a no-holds-barred style of comedy: “The first day we wrote together at The Groundlings, Kristen and I bonded, and we had great success. Not only did we always have so much fun there, we were to able to get a lot of material in and worked together often.”
Mumolo and Wiig began writing the script in 2006 after Wiig had been on SNL for about a year. Says Mumolo: “I had this story about how I had been a bridesmaid a number of times, and I was disgruntled about it. I was very much a delinquent bridesmaid, so we started writing about my adventures with these different girls.” When it came time for their big chance, Mumolo remembers that it happened very suddenly: “After Knocked Up, Kristen asked me to go in and pitch Judd. She said, ‘Just go in and tell him what the movie is about.’ I had never pitched anything before, and I didn’t even realize that was what pitching was, but I went in and told him the basics of the story.”
Over the next several years of the film’s development, Mumolo and Wiig honed their script with Apatow so it wouldn’t read as anything close to “another weddingthemed movie.” Wiig says that it was important to differentiate this film as one that is not simply a romantic comedy about a girl who’s in a wedding or a bride in a love story. She relates, “Bridesmaids focuses on something that a lot of women can relate to: the people who are in the wedding. We wanted to tell the real story of what it’s like to be in one and what you’re expected to do. It’s a lot, and it’s kind of a pain in the ass.”
When they considered source material from which to draw, they didn’t have to go far. Wiig laughs: “Annie’s been in weddings and gone to showers, and her stories sound like they came out of a movie. She was in a wedding in which she couldn’t afford to go to the bachelorette party because it was a crazy trip. She got an e-mail that read, ‘It’s going to be $2,500 a person, and everyone chip in.’ Her response was, ‘What? How did this happen? How do I have to spend all this money and time?’”
Mumolo agrees with her collaborator that the humor of their story comes from the relatable conversations and situations leading up to the big day…with a bit of embellishment. Their aim was not to make a treacly rom-com about trying to land a man, but rather a ballsy comedy that celebrated how real women interacted with one another. Mumolo says, “We wanted a movie without the frill. We wanted to tell the story of what our experiences were like—the down and dirty, gritty version of bridesmaids, where not everyone’s hair is perfect and everyone looks good and has cute stories. We learned as we went, and Judd guided us. He has a commitment to being original, and he doesn’t stop until he finds it.”
When the search began for the director of Bridesmaids, Wiig remembers that one of the first names discussed was Paul Feig. She reflects: “Judd mentioned him, and we met to discuss. Paul cast me in my very first movie role in Unaccompanied Minors as a slutty mom. After meeting with him, I called Judd and I said, ‘Yes, yes, yes!’ Not only is Paul incredibly talented and hilarious and has such a good mind for comedy, he’s also incredibly patient and collaborative. All the girls loved him to death. I can’t imagine anybody else as our director.”
In addition to his work with Wiig, the director had partnered with Apatow on a project that was one of the defining moments of both of their careers, Freaks and Geeks, the classic TV show created by Feig and executive produced by Apatow. Feig shares: “Throughout the years, Judd and I have kept in touch and wanted to figure out a project to do together again. Bridesmaids came to me several years ago. Judd invited me to a table read of Kristen and Annie’s original script, and I thought it was very funny. I was very interested.”
Friends since their days at the University of Southern California in the late ’80s, Feig and Apatow have a shorthand with their comedy. The producer commends of Feig’s directing style: “Paul is really good at keeping the scenes grounded, but also allowing them to be funny. That sounds not that complicated, but is the most complicated thing in the world. How can you continue to care for these people while finding opportunities for them to do things that are tear-down-the-house hilarious? At the same time, those things can’t make you believe these people don’t exist.”
It would be a few more years before the opportunity to revisit Bridesmaids came around for the director, producers and the cast. “In the beginning of 2010, I was in New York shooting commercials,” recalls Feig, “and I got a call from my agents. I got on the phone with Judd, and within two minutes I was committed to the project and it was set in motion. It’s been a whirlwind since.”
Feig adds that his primary interest in the script was due to its honesty and relatability that blended well with dirty humor. He says: “I’ve always been interested in doing more female-based stories. I enjoy these stories and the emotions and the comedy that can be had in them. It’s exciting to bring Judd’s style of humor to a movie about women and still make it honest and real. We’ve explored themes that women can relate to while guys will also find it hilarious. What we wanted to capture was women talking like women do behind the scenes where guys aren’t privy to it.”
Accompanying Apatow in production duties were frequent collaborators Barry Mendel, with whom Apatow worked on Funny People, and Clayton Townsend, whose working relationship with the producer extends back to their time together on The 40Year-Old Virgin.
Mendel, who had recently worked with Wiig on Whip It, shared the team’s desire to explore a new take on a comedy subgenre that is often seen as trite. He offers: “The aspects of planning a wedding are very coordinated, and Kristen and Annie wrote about how women sometimes get carried away when planning them. There are a lot of movies that deal with people getting engaged and getting married, but they can feel very lightweight, and the emotions can seem manipulative or not that lifelike. They’re entertaining and diverting and fair enough, but our question was ‘Is this movie going to be one of them, or could it be another type of film entirely?’ Now that we are on the other side, I can say that we actually did it.”
Female Fight Club: Casting the Comedy
We are introduced to the women of Bridesmaids through Annie, a thirtysomething jewelry-store employee who can’t seem to get her life in order. She’s lost her bakery, boyfriend and hope for a perfect future and has just found out that her best friend is getting married and moving on. Feig notes: “It’s a very elegant story of one person pulling her life together. There’s such humanity about Kristen. She has the ability that few comedy performers have: she can play real and small as well as big and crazy. Yet she always grounds the bigness and the craziness in reality. My theory on comedy is that you can go as big as you want, but it has to come from a real place. She brings all that weird humanity to this role, and she’s able to summon up vulnerability at the same time that she is holding it together.”
As Mumolo and Wiig crafted the characters with Apatow, they wanted to flesh out the nuances and eccentricities of each bridesmaid. They knew it could be easy to fall into the stereotype trap, and every decision was designed to avoid that while maximizing comedy. Wiig notes: “Sometimes girls in movies are portrayed as very girlie and perfect and they’re simply the neighbor or the wife. There’s so many funny actresses out there that to have a movie that has many funny roles for women, instead of just a couple on the side, was gratifying for Annie and me to write and help cast.”
When looking for the actresses to play opposite Wiig as the directionless Annie, Feig and the producers conducted an exhaustive casting process. “Bridesmaids is a gang comedy, so it’s very hard to write until you cast,” Apatow notes. “The most fun part of this process was to audition every funny woman in town and to come up with a group of people to play these characters. Then we spent a few weeks with Paul, improvising and letting everybody make the characters their own. That’s when the really funny stuff came out.”
When casting the bride-to-be, Lillian, the team turned toward a longtime friend of Wiig’s and past partner-in-crime of hers on SNL. “Maya and Kristen’s friendship came through beautifully,” says Feig. “It was important for Lillian to have a real relationship with Annie because the camera is an honesty detector that picks up on those little signs of authenticity. The natural energy of their friendship comes through and lifts up the premise of the movie, which is what happens if you think you’re about to lose your best friend. You want to feel like they’ve known each other forever, and you don’t need a lot of dialogue setup if they’ve known each other for this long.”
Mumolo explains that arriving at this character was not an easy process. She offers: “We had a hard time figuring out who Lillian was because the role wasn’t initially a huge part. She changed slightly from when we first wrote her to when we cast Maya. At the time Maya Rudolph came into the picture, it answered so many questions because of how great of an actress and comedian she is. She’s the girl that everybody wants to be friends with; she’s so loose, happy and ready for a good time.”
Rudolph was not only keen to play Lillian, a character she refers to as “the glue to these women,” she was eager to work once again with Wiig, with whom she has been close since their days at Saturday Night Live together. Rudolph says: “When you know somebody well, you have a shorthand. It’s so much fun to incorporate it into this film, because it makes it feel real…not just for the audience, but for us as well. Kristen and I have this strange way of talking to each other and making each other laugh, and you can see it throughout the movie. When do you get the opportunity to do that with somebody who shares the same brain?”
In serious contention for the role of maid of honor is the sweet-but-patronizing Helen, a paragon of her community and fixture on the country-club circuit. Feig explains: “My goal with Helen was never to make her villainous, but a character with odd sincerity that drives people crazy. Where a lot of these movies fall apart for me is when the emotions get so high and the bad girl becomes really bad. It can easily become a battle between her and the protagonist, and it just gets very amped up and shrill.”
The role of the conflicted antagonist was offered to an actress who has long been known for her dramatic choices…until her last Apatow production linked her to pop star Jackie Q. Feig recalls: “Judd had just produced Get Him to the Greek, in which Rose Byrne played Russell Brand’s character’s ex-wife. It hadn’t come out yet and Judd said, ‘Go down to the editing room. I want you to take a look at her scenes.’ I was blown away by how funny she was playing this extreme character. Then Rose came in with such energy and was willing to do anything. She has that combination that is hard to find: absolutely stunningly gorgeous, funny and real.”
While initially asked to read for one of the other roles in Bridesmaids, Byrne requested something else. Her request? “Give me a crack at being the bitch.” She recalls: “It’s rare that you read a script about a group of funny women in a situation that is familiar to everybody. Being a bridesmaid in a wedding drew me in; the part was so funny. Helen was just delicious; every time she came on the page I thought, ‘What’s she going to do now? No she didn’t…oh, yes she did.’ It just kept getting worse.”
For the role of Megan, the team was searching for someone who would serve as the counterpoint to Annie. While Annie just wants to fit in with the other bridesmaids, Lillian’s future sister-in-law, the fight club-loving/nuclear-engineer wild card Megan, could care less. “We knew Megan would be a pivotal weirdo, real comedy relief,” laughs Feig. “We saw all different types and then Kristen and Annie said, ‘You have to see our friend Melissa McCarthy.’”
McCarthy was a series favorite in the long-running Gilmore Girls, and she currently stars in the CBS hit Mike & Molly. Many don’t realize that when McCarthy performs at The Groundlings in L.A., people line up around the block to see her. The actress came in with a go-for-broke take on Megan, a free spirit who has a distinct take on the world, and she killed it. Mumolo admits: “Megan has the attitude I wish I had. She’s like Annie but without the insecurity, and she’s taken it to an extreme. That character is based on one I did at The Groundlings, and then we wrote her into the movie. When we cast Melissa, she just took it to a whole new level.”
McCarthy describes her character as “a bulldozer.” We first meet Megan at Lillian’s engagement party, where she introduces herself to Annie as Dougie’s (Lillian’s fiancé) sister. The actress reflects: “I love Megan. From the beginning, I wanted her to look physically like Guy Fieri on the Food Network with a big, boxy shirt. There’s nothing feminine about her except for her nails and pearls. She seems crazy, but she’s actually the happiest one; she’s totally well adjusted. She gets men, and her attitude is ‘I hit it whenever I want.’ I just love that we always kept her happy, in control and confident with herself. No matter what it is, good or bad, Megan’s attitude is ‘All right!’”
The part of Lillian’s cousin, the exasperated housewife Rita, would go to Reno 911!’s seductress Wendi McLendon-Covey. Wiig notes: “We wrote the part for Wendi when we first wrote the script several years ago. She’s someone that we’ve been in The Groundlings with for a long time, and we thought of this character as someone who is outspoken, fun loving, and doesn’t care what people think about her. She’s married and she’s always complaining about it, but deep down she’s happy at home. Wendi is such an amazing improviser that it was a gift every time she opened her mouth.”
Mumolo admits that she completely related to Rita as they created the character. “Nothing against my husband, who I love and adore, but when you’re married and you have kids, you can start to feel like a doormat. It’s like life steamrolls you, and you’re the one running. For some reason it seems to fall on the woman to do everything.” She remembers: “We would sit around for weeks trying to come up with how we can get certain characters to this point, and Wendi would just make it work. She would say one line in her improv and then we were basically, ‘Thank you, thank you so much.”
Feig and the producers were impressed with McLendon-Covey’s zingers describing marriage and with her ability to riff endlessly about having kids. McLendon-Covey tells a bit about her character: “Rita lives in a house full of men. She’s the one handmaiden to three ungrateful sons and a very horny husband, whose ardor has not waned in all their years together; it has increased. She just feels like a mattress that vacuums and does laundry.” When it came time for some of this bridesmaid’s more inelegant scenes (read: removing fake vomit from her hair), the actress was still game. Still, she admits, “That’s what acting school does not train you for, you know?”
Although Ellie Kemper did not come from The Groundlings as did cohorts Wiig, Rudolph, McCarthy and McLendon-Covey, she did spend time training in improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade. For the role of the wide-eyed ingénue Becca, the production searched for someone who could play a naïve newlywed preparing to have kids. Feig states: “I worked with Ellie on The Office the same year I worked with Wendi. There’s something that Ellie has that is just so funny. We wanted Becca to be this fresh-faced innocent who thinks everything’s great. She was a prepackaged Becca; she gets to live and breathe Becca in a very natural way.”
Kemper shares that she has known a few bow-loving/baby-talking women like Becca, and she has been in her fair share of bridal parties. She says: “What I love is that all these women are connected to Lillian, and they’re dear to her. But then, when you put them together, it’s uncomfortable and hilarious to see them sharing this one task. Their common goal is to serve the bride, and seeing how that plays out is fascinating as they all try to be the best bridesmaids they can be.”
Joining the ladies in Bridesmaids in supporting roles is a collection of comedy performers that include CHRIS O’DOWD (U.K. television’s The IT Crowd) as Annie’s Irish-born suitor, Officer Rhodes. Annie’s been making all the wrong decisions when it comes to jobs and men, and Rhodes is the first man in a long time to accept her as she is. He wants to have an actual grown-up relationship with her, and that initially scares Annie to death and makes her run for the hills. But as she gets to know him, she starts to see a side of Rhodes she adores.
O’Dowd appreciated that he was allowed to portray the police officer as a regular guy who just happened to be in love with a girl. He also liked the amount of improv that was encouraged on set. O’Dowd notes: “People can be very sacrosanct about their scripts, and they can want nothing to be changed, and be very protective. But here, it was ‘Whatever the best lines and best scenes are will be used.’ That’s the way it should be.”
Remembers Mendel of O’Dowd’s audition: “Chris came in and he did an American accent, and then I thought, ‘Let’s try his natural Irish one.’ All of a sudden, this whole other side of him came out, this whole new charm. It helped us to flesh out his character in the final writing process, and I think he felt more comfortable being able to react on the fly during the shoot, too.”
In a cameo role as the jerky object of Annie’s affection, Ted, is Mad Men’s JON HAMM. Says Apatow of the casting: “Jon plays Ted, somebody who Annie sleeps with who she would like to go out with. Basically, it’s just a sexual relationship, and it epitomizes how bad she feels about herself that she lets this continue to happen. But he’s so handsome, it’s hard not to.”
Additional talent includes U.K. television’s Little Britain MATT LUCAS as Annie’s odd roommate, Gil; REBEL WILSON as Gil’s odder sister, Brynn; MICHAEL HITCHCOCK as Annie’s jewelry store boss, Don; KALI HAWK as Don’s favorite employee, Kahlua; TIM HEIDECKER as Lillian’s fiancé, Dougie; TERRY CREWS as the boot camp instructor who chases Lillian and Annie away; and the late legendary actress JILL CLAYBURGH as Annie’s mother, Judy.
Follow Her Lead: Improv on the Set
With five actresses and a writer who have a background in improvisational training, it was a given that the Bridesmaids production would marry script with this comedy style of on-site discovery. Mumolo explains that this process began well before production. Recalling their early meetings with Apatow, she says: “We would improvise for hours, and Judd would film us. Then we would go over what we taped and then work that into the script. We followed his lead. Additionally, during the movie, we were rewriting it on its feet, feeding jokes and sculpting.”
“Annie and I come from a world of writing sketches, and our experience is with character and dialogue,” adds Wiig. “If we loved a scene that wasn’t working, Judd would say, ‘Try this idea’ or ‘Think of something new.’ Then we would rewrite it, read it and think, ‘He’s right.’ There are certain things you have to sacrifice to get the flow right, and Judd was good about helping us identify that when we were so close to the material.”
After casting was complete and production began, “Paul and Judd had the actors rehearse and improvise,” Wiig continues. “We could have a scene in the script that we didn’t touch because everyone was happy with it through all the rewrites. Then, when the cast read it, something didn’t feel right or an improvisation made us think, ‘It’s better now; I didn’t even think of this other side.’ It evolves through rehearsing and improvising, and then it just becomes more real and natural.”
Feig shares his rehearsal process with the actresses: “We’d start with the scripted scenes because we wanted to make sure the script was working. Then we did an improv version of a scene to explore its intention. As the actors did that, Judd or I would throw in a line we’d think of or ask them to consider a new direction. They would take it and run with it. What happens from that is we started cherry-picking: ‘This is a great line. That’s a great area to write a scene for or to remember and use later.’
“The rehearsal process gave us new written material that we then put in the script and let them do again verbatim on the day of shooting,” Feig continues. “It also gave us areas in which we knew we could improv on the set. The actresses loved being part of the process. They trust you and feel like they’re collaborating when they come back and the script has lines that they improv’d in rehearsal.” This method, Feig says, “allowed the benefits of having improv performers who take fresh, new ideas that they’re spewing out on the spot, and allowing our characters to talk in a real way. I’m hoping women will find it honest and open and slightly outrageous.”
Feig acknowledges: “We had a team of great writers behind us helping out. They transcribed and handed me jokes they thought of at the moment, then I’d feed ideas in. Our actresses knew the drill was to start again and try this line; then they’d try one of their own. It’s a different way of making movies, because normally you get everything perfect beforehand. Most great movies in the world have been made that way. This is just a different way, and it requires a lot of energy; it’s hard to sit back and just watch. You have to be engaged constantly and make sure you’re not dropping your guard.”
Mendel admits he was impressed by the amount and variety of improv the cast was able to accomplish. He says: “These are the strongest improvisational actors I’ve ever seen. It’s partly The Groundlings presence and partly simply the people that we’ve picked. This is an all-star team. Judd was very excited about producing a female-driven movie, and we wanted to pack the film with improv stars and let them do their thing.”
Something Borrowed: Locations and Design
Production designer Jefferson Sage’s work with Judd Apatow and director Paul Feig began during their Freaks and Geeks days. Recalls Sage: “I was lucky enough to be hired to jump in on that show when they were putting it together. Over the years, I’ve worked with Paul and Judd off and on as they had projects that came up. The first thing that appealed to me about Bridesmaids was that you had these two disparate worlds: There was Annie’s world in Milwaukee, and then there was Helen’s world in Chicago. It immediately drew this dichotomy between the rivalry that developed between them.”