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Co-writer Kristen Wiig and her co-star Rose Byrne, together with director Paul Feig, tell Andrew L. Urban how the screenplay for Bridesmaids was expanded with improvisation – including some of the most crucial scenes.

The memorable scene in a bridal gown shop in Bridesmaids that will no doubt become the most talked about (for all the wrong reasons) is one that was improvised during production, co-writer and co-star Kristen Wiig explains just before heading off to the Sydney red carpet premiere of the film.

Dressed smartly in black (except for her smart fawn high heels), she is sitting next to Aussie actress Rose Byrne, her co-star in the film, who is in black, top to sparkly toe.

The six girl friends are doing what bridesmaids and brides love to do, looking through the bridal gowns, trying them on … and in this case, feeling the oncoming symptoms of food poisoning. The worst symptoms when you don’t have a bathroom close by….or when the shopkeeper won’t let you use theirs. “It was [producer] Judd Apatow and [director] Paul Feig who suggested that my character should mess up again,” explains Wiig looking fully recovered. “So we started writing this new scene and improvised around it.”

"to make sure we have lots of choices"

That one scene took four days to shoot, says Feig, “because I like to shoot a lot of footage for the editing room, to make sure we have lots of choices. In all we shot about a million feet of film,” he says, adding: “It’s always a challenge to get everything you need when shooting comedy. The material changes in performance, so a scene may hang on just one look and it changes what you need for the rest of the scene.”

The story of how friendships are strained when new friends join the wedding plans has these bubbling young women in conflict. Helen, the new friend in question is played by Rose Byrne, who was hand picked by Apatow after her work in Get Him to The Greek which he also produced. 

Byrne was “thrilled to be working with Kristen; I’m a huge fan of hers.” Neither Wiig nor Byrne can understand all the media fuss and questions about women being funny; Byrne is aware of the many female comedians in Australia and Wiig has been working with other women in Saturday Night Live, as well as several other gigs.

“If there was a poster with six men on it promoting a comedy, there wouldn’t be a question like ‘hey, can they be funny?’” quips Wiig, referring to the film’s poster with the six girls in pink.

"it’s raunchy and sometimes crude"

The big noise about the film in the media has been that it’s raunchy and sometimes crude (as in the bridal gown shop); but Kristen says the screenplay, which she co-wrote with her frequent collaborator, Annie Mumolo, developed naturally. Nothing was predetermined or forced to conform to any agenda.

Feig’s golden rule – not just for making comedies, by the way - is summed up by a quote from George Bernard Shaw. “All men mean well … Even a villain thinks he’s doing the right thing. So Helen’s motivation in this film is that she thinks that Annie is not the best friend for the bride-to-be, Lillian (Maya Rudolph) at this time in her life. So she wants to gently push in where Annie is – and this sets up the conflicts.” And some smart comedy.

It was Apatow again who suggested Chris O’Dowd for the role of Officer Rhodes, a smaller but crucial character, one that was at one stage pencilled in for “a very famous actor”. But, he says, when Apatow brought in O’Dowd, “I was absolutely thrilled; I’m a big fan of his from The IT Crowd (tv series). He can play strong but you love him and his vulnerability gives him an extra burst of humour.”

First published in the Sun Herald.

Published June 19, 2011

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Kristen Wiig & Rose Byrne


Paul Feig

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