Kristen Wiig, Chris O'Dowd, Paul Feig, Melissa McCarthy and Rose Byrne talk improv and inspiration | The Fan Carpet Ltd • The Fan Carpet: The RED Carpet for FANS • The Fan Carpet: Fansites Network • The Fan Carpet: Slate • The Fan Carpet: Theatre Spotlight • The Fan Carpet: Arena • The Fan Carpet: International

Kristen Wiig, Chris O’Dowd, Paul Feig, Melissa McCarthy and Rose Byrne talk improv and inspiration


Bridesmaids
22 June 2011

This summer, Universal Pictures and producer Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, The 40-Year-Old Virgin) invite you to experience Bridesmaids. Kristen Wiig leads the cast as Annie, a maid of honour whose life unravels as she leads her best friend, Lillian (Maya Rudolph), and a group of colourful bridesmaids (Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Ellie Kemper) on a wild ride down the road to matrimony.

Annie’s life is a mess.  But when she finds out her lifetime best friend is engaged, she simply must serve as Lillian’s maid of honour.  Though lovelorn and broke, Annie bluffs her way through the expensive and bizarre rituals.  With one chance to get it perfect, she’ll show Lillian and her bridesmaids just how far you’ll go for someone you love.

Georgina Wahed of The Fan Carpet was lucky enough to attend the press conference for Bridesmaids, the new comedy from writers Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo attended by Kristen Wiig, Chris O’Dowd, Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne and director Paul Feig. Here they talk about the power of improvisation and what inspires them.

 

 

How much did it feel like a real collaboration rather than a vehicle for a star?

Kristen Wiig: I think the collaboration started in the very beginning, we worked with Judd at the very beginning to write the script and then when Paul came along we worked with Paul. There was no telling someone what to do, it was all very collaborative, Paul was extremely generous.

Paul Feig: And then when the cast came along it was the exact same thing, we all wanted them to feel comfortable playing their characters and we encouraged improvising. Annie and I didn’t write every word in the script; we wanted everyone to be comfortable and we had so many funny improvisers so we wanted to use them.

 

Can you tell us about the process, do you start with a basic frame work and then do you improvise certain scenes? How much is the script an ongoing work in progress right up to the moment of filming, is that the case?

Chris O’Dowd: The script had to be a very strong blueprint for an emotional story as well as for the comedy, cause then you can go in and improvise. We never went into a scene like ‘let’s see what happens, here’s what we need out of the scene, here’s the scripted version that’s great anyway, no you guys go in and play with it and make it your own. That then gets you away from what most comedies have, especially romantic comedies where it’s very scripted and very written, so it doesn’t feel in the moment.

Even if they’re just tweaking the wording on a written line, people can still have a conversation and able to surprise each other.

 

How usual is that process would you say?

Kristen Wiig: I’ve never had that kind of freedom before, it’s unusual for an actor to work like that.

Paul Feig: It’s a form that Judd brought to movies, we used to play around with that on television. In a way it’s one of the best ways to make movie comedy, cause there’s a freshness and a surprise among the performers.

Now having done it, and not working like it before it just seems like ‘oh how comfortable’. When the script is that good and that fully formed you’re not running around to change it.

It just gives you the freedom to be playing the character in the film.

 

Chris, is that something you’ve experienced when working with comedy in this county?

Chris O’Dowd: No, not really, and it’s because Americans are so much more money! (laugh) I’m being flippant in a way but the amount of time they give you means you get to play a lot more. It’s incredibly because we don’t improvise at all but to be fair we do have a whole weeks rehearsal and shoot it all in one night so it’s like you’ve already got every idea out on the floor.
But what I really liked about this process in particular was that you would do the script which was really great, we didn’t improvise for the sake of it, cause they liked you were improvising. What was great in this was we would do the script then a little bit of improv, Kristen is just the best at improv so it’s kind of an amazing thing, and then we’d go back to the script and try to make it better with the bits of improv that you’ve got rather than it being an either or and all of the fluidity and naturalism that you’ve got by doing it that way really gives a reality to it.

 

With all of the creative talent in this project, how on Earth do you focus?

Paul Feig: Well when you work with real talented professionals it gives the illusion of chaos but it’s not. It’s like a dance; everyone knows what to do, they know the timing, when to back off and when to move forward and so it’s my job to stay out of the way and not internee with that natural rhythm because there’s nothing worse than a director coming in and saying ‘oh try this’ or ‘put your hand over here’ or ‘say this’ it throws it off. All I can do is kind of sit back and say ‘try this’ and steer the ship as it’s going along. But it is much easier than it seems.

Kristen Wiig: I think you have chaos and people with different goals, I think ultimately we all had the same goal.

 

This is probably a very hard question to answer, but how competitive can it get?

Paul Feig: It’s the outsider looking in, but what I can say is that I have worked with competitive comedy people and it’s generally someone trying to showboat over somebody else. But I find that with people who are brought up in improv is that you don’t have that, you are so reliant on the person you are with so if you are trying to shut them down it’s only hurting you, and smart comedy performers know that. To see that in trading ‘oh your burning someone in an interview today’ it’s more exciting to go ‘do you remember that bit you did, say that, I’m gonna set you up for it’. It’s just a give and take in service of the scenes.

 

We haven’t had a good Wedding comedy since Four Weddings and a Funeral, what made you want to get into the ring and what pitfalls did you want to avoid?

Kristen Wiig: Well when we were writing it we really didn’t think about any of the other movies, I think that can put you in your head a little bit and when you’re writing something and you’re trying to avoid this thing or is this kind of like that movie, we didn’t go out of our way, we didn’t watch any other movies. We wanted to keep it like this is what we want to write and hopefully someone would tell us.

It wasn’t written in reaction to anything.

Paul Feig: I think it works because most Wedding movies are about the Wedding, and there’s not much you can tell about a Wedding so you have to amp up the emotions of everyone around it, this is very much about a woman going through a terrible time in her life and getting the duty of Maid of Honour just throws it off.

What the Wedding does it bring together characters that wouldn’t normally be together and it just drives them forward to tell the story.

 

Kristen, who are your comedy heroines or actresses who have inspired you and also did any of your girlfriends give you a hard time when they learnt that you’d be John Hamm’s bed buddy?

Kristen Wiig: Their all mad for it and jealous of that. Gosh I watched a lot of old movies when I was younger so I was obsessed with Abbott and Costello and Deana Martin and I loved Lucinda Bold and Mal Mucon. Truthfully a lot of the women who have been on Saturday Night Live have inspired me a lot; Jan Hooks, Molly Shannon, Ana Gasteyer, all the people that I got to work with.

Honestly we laughed through the whole thing, Paul made me laugh when he was shouting out things for him to do to me. We couldn’t write everything out on paper, so it was really like now what can he do?

Paul Feig: That was like choreographing the worlds hardest fight scene, that’s how they based it to like let’s start over here, but don’t throw me over there. It was very funny.

 

 

To the female members of the cast, did you play your wedding when you were eight years old and whether they’ve been to any strange weddings?

Melissa McCarthy: I didn’t do the wedding thing, I grew up on a farm so it’s weird to look for animals you didn’t know. The only horrendous wedding that I’ve been to that I totally forgot about until Paul told the story earlier was when two dear friends had a wedding in Palm Springs, and it was kind of the centre of the sun and she had it in August, it was like 115, one o’ clock in the afternoon, desert heat and people were cracking open bottles of water mid ceremony, it was like ‘I don’t care if it works out, it’s so hot’ kids were going down and people were having anxiety attacks.

 

Chris, have you ever suffered the same romantic frustration that your character suffers in this movie?

Chris O’Dowd: Oh yes. A lot of women being unimpressed. It’s something that I grew up with and perfected. No every woman has always loved me. (laugh)

 

How are you dealing with being described as a sex symbol?

Chris O’Dowd: The character is a very sweet guy, so I thought great, the sex symbol thing is so pleasing.

 

Chris, now that Hollywood have discovered you and love you are you still going to do the next series of The IT Crowd?

Chris O’Dowd: Yes, if we can get it going, we are talking about doing it at the end of the year, early next to do a lat series.

 

Rose, when you read the script is it true you said ‘let me have a crack at being the bitch’?

Rose Byrne: Originally I read for Lillian, and then I said to my agent do you think they’d let me go for Helen, they were very kind to let me audition for both.

It’s much more interesting for the viewer if you like the villain and are intrigued by them you want to see more of them.

Paul Feig: That was kind of the goal for all of us, to make sure that character didn’t become like the arch because that’s where these movies fall apart with the cat fighting. I also liked that Annie was in such a bad state that she’d grab hold of things and think is Helen a bad guy or is Helen in just a bad place?

 

Melissa when you first appear in your lumberjack shirt and that little tragic pearls, did you come up with that idea?

Melissa McCarthy: I don’t know why, but when I read it I had that exact image of her.  Like everything about her, like when I showed up in those weird sandals for the fitting, I kept begging for cropped dockerys. The shirt was not a good idea visually.

Paul Feig: But comedically it was a goldmine.

 

Did any real life trauma of being involved in a wedding inspire, and are any over the top party favours like the puppies really out there?

Kristen Wiig: Thankfully there’s not much in the movie that happened to me in real life, there are a few touches of things that happened to my writing partner, but fortunately it had been pert easy for me.

The shower was actually really fun for us to write because we were like we have to have this really over the top shower what are we going to do? We just thought it was funny and it’s also kind of a really bad gift to give someone.

 

Were did the idea come from to start the movie with the security gate scene?

Kristen Wiig: After we decided that was how we were going to open the movie, that did come a little bit later, that was just another humiliating thing to happen.

 

Was that scene based on any sort of recollection you’ve had?

Kristen Wiig: No, not so much. I think for that scene in particular, a lot of women can relate to that, where it’s like a walk of shame the morning after.

 

Will there be a sequel?

Paul Feig: Well there’s been no official talk of it, it would be a crime not to reassemble an amazing team like this but we would only do it if we could make it as good as or better than the original. There’s nothing worse than these sequels that lets everybody down. So we’ll see.

 

 

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BRIDESMAIDS IS OUT NOW