Paul Feig can’t quite believe it’s been 10 years since he directed Bridesmaids. “As you get older, time goes faster,” he says on this week’s episode of The Last Laugh podcast. “It’s like, I thought we just did that movie! But it’s nice that people are still talking about it.”
The director is Zooming in from Belfast, Northern Ireland, where he’s currently filming The School for Good and Evil, starring Charlize Theron, Kerry Washington, and Laurence Fishburne. It’s the type of massive young adult film adaptation for Netflix that Feig never would have gotten to make if he had remained in “movie jail” after his first two features flopped. Of course, all of that changed with his third movie, 2011’s Bridesmaids.
The film crushed all kinds of antiquated expectations, making nearly $300 million at the box office and scoring two Academy Award nominations—Best Original Screenplay for star Kristen Wiig and her co-writer Annie Mumolo and Best Supporting Actress for breakout performer Melissa McCarthy, who would go on to be Feig’s primary muse.
On the occasion of the film’s 10th anniversary, Feig takes us through every step of the long and complicated process of casting, shooting, editing, and releasing Bridesmaids into the world.
Below is an excerpt from our conversation and you can listen to the whole thing—including everything that went into casting ‘Bridesmaids’ and the one perfect season of ‘Freaks and Geeks’—right now by subscribing to The Last Laugh on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google, Stitcher, Amazon Music, or wherever you get your podcasts and be the first to hear new episodes when they are released every Tuesday.
The whole stretch on the plane is my favorite part of the movie. There's just so much funny stuff there. I was wondering, is there so much there partly because you decided not to do Vegas, which was originally part of the plan?
Yeah, you know, we had this whole Vegas sequence set and it was all based around the fact that Annie cashes out her check and she’s going to try to compete with Helen and she runs out of money. But then there’s a whole set piece that took place in a strip club where they were going to watch these male strippers. And then the big gag was that Kristen gets up on stage and this cowboy guy puts her on the ground and he goes over the top of her, but he’s sweaty and ball sweat drips into her mouth. So we had a ton of funny stuff, but The Hangover had just come out recently. I remember one day in the writers’ room went like, you know what? We’re never going to top The Hangover. Or even if we do top it, people are going to go, oh, it’s the female Hangover. And it’s going to bring all these comparisons. And I said, “Well, maybe they just shouldn’t get there. Maybe it should all fall apart on the plane.” And so Annie [Mumolo] was like, “I know how to write that!” So she went off and I remember I was on a location scout in a van driving around and I got the email with the scene and I remember just laughing so hard in the car. It was all there. It was a long sequence, but it is so funny and it all is so logical and it leads up to this big falling apart that there’s nothing you could lose. But I remember the colonial woman on the wing, that was right from her first pages and I was like, this is hilarious!
Probably the most famous story about the production of this movie is the addition of the bridal shop scene and how that wasn’t in the original script. You and Judd were pushing to have something like that in the movie—although maybe if the ball-dripping scene had been in there, you wouldn’t have needed it as much. How do you kind of think about that now? There was some faux-controversy around that, where it was like the men coming in to add this gross-out scene. Was there actually conflict there?
No, there was no conflict. I think there was just a little bit of nervousness. And look, it was completely justified nervousness because we’ve all seen scenes like this in movies where a big gross-out happens and I’m almost always kind of like, Oh my god, I feel so bad for the actors in the scene, you know? And I’ve seen that so many times when it's like, people are red-faced and sweaty and they put a big wide-angle lens in their face and they’re crossing their eyes and there’s shit sounds and farting. And so somebody could see the scene and go like, that’s how you guys are going to do this. So it was all about, no, we’re not going to do it like that. We’re going to go for it. But I’m still going to try to shoot it in a way where, as much as possible, nobody loses their dignity or they’re fighting to keep their dignity through it. So everybody went for it. When we got to that set, Kristen was just ready to go. And she’s coming up with a thing where she had this little Evian face spray and you just keep spraying her face and getting sweatier and sweatier. So everybody went for it and comedy people don't hold back. If the scene makes sense and you can justify it, they go for it.
What do you remember about seeing that scene for the first time with a crowd? Because it’s one of the all-time, in a theater, everybody-just-freaking-out scenes. When did you see it for the first time with an audience?
Well, we did a friends and family screening, which I’m not a fan of. So we had all our comedy friends, professional friends. Comedy crowds will get everything that a regular audience doesn’t think is funny and they will laugh at that and they won’t laugh at the stuff that a regular audience thinks is funny.
It’s not a very realistic representation of what it's going to be like.
It’s crazy. So you kind of walk out of there going, I don’t know what this means. So really, I couldn’t wait to get us in front of a real audience. And I didn't know. I mean, I knew it was funny, but at the same time, I didn’t know, people are gonna be like [makes disgusted noises]. But I remember sitting in that crowd and the place just levitated and you’re going like, Oh my god, that’s the kind of thing you dream of. I don't think I’ve ever heard a bigger laugh in a movie theater than when Maya [Rudolph] just sinks down and says, “It’s happening, it’s happening.” That was a moment.
I would say it’s up there with the naked fight scene in the original Borat movie as the hardest I’ve laughed in a movie theater. And I think that’s true for a lot of other people as well.
I mean, you dream of that as a comedy person. The funny thing with test screenings is sometimes you go in going, “Here it comes, this scene is going to be the one.” And then nothing. And you’re like, what the fuck? And then the one where you’re like, they’re not going to like this, it’s like, oh my god, they love this! That’s why we’re all addicted to test screenings—and Judd’s the same way—because we can sit around all day and say, “Well, we think it’s funny” and “these people are dumb” and “they don’t get it.” But if they don’t laugh, they don’t laugh. And that’s a bad movie. So I love finding out from an audience what is actually the thing that they think is the funniest.
Next week on ‘The Last Laugh’ podcast: Eric Andre and Lil Rel Howery on their hit Netflix prank movie Bad Trip.