This afternoon I sat down for an interview with writer/director/actor Onur Tukel and actors Randy Gambill and Jennifer Prediger of Richard’s Wedding. The very fun, very funny group is in town to promote the film, which screens tonight at 8:30pm and again on Sunday, April 22, at 5:45pm. Go see it, show your support and share some laughs. They’ll stick around after tonight’s screening for a Q&A
This is the first time that Richard’s Wedding is being shown to a large audience. How do you feel?
Onur Tukel: I’m excited to see how an audience reacts to it because, individually, people who are watching it just really love it. They think it’s really entertaining and that’s ultimately what we tried to do, to make something really funny with a lot of energy. So we’re excited to see what the crowd will do, but I hate screenings; I get really uncomfortable and nervous. What if a laugh fails or there’s—god forbid—a walk out. There are many moments where people could walk out of this movie.
I saw the movie, and I don’t think anyone is going to walk out.
OT: Well, I hope not. But in the first act there’s a chance for people to walk out, the second act there’s a chance for people to walk out… if people make it to the third act—
Jennifer Prediger: Oh no, stop…
Are you challenging people to walk out?
OT: No, no. But if everybody who watches the movie makes it to the end, it’s an investment because you think the characters are talking about non-sequiturs in the beginning, that they’re talking about things that don’t connect, but everything converges at the end. All of this seemingly innocuous conversation comes back together by the end.
Randy Gambill: So no one will be released until the end of the movie.
I don’t think you’ll have to lock the doors.
OT: I said in one interview earlier that Tape, Richard Linklater’s play, was kind of an impetus for this movie because people were talking about a character that doesn’t show up until the second half. So Richard of Richard’s Wedding doesn’t show up until the middle, and then Randy’s character, who is referenced in the first 15 or 20 minutes and who is crucial to the whole movie, doesn’t come out until the last 25 minutes of the movie.
JP: We talk about people, and then they show up.
So it’s like real life.
So where’d you get the idea for the film’s plot?
OT: I saw the movie The Puffy Chair years ago, which Mark Duplass directed, and there’s this silly, zany scene in the movie where they do this makeshift wedding in the backyard. There are no frills and it’s all kind of thrown together and improvisational. It’s all kind of silly and funny and really sweet, and that’s kind of where the seed of the idea came from. Then I moved to New York about a year and a half ago and I always kind of wanted to do a Robert Altman-esque film—I’m not comparing this to Robert Altman—but I always kind of wanted to do a movie with an ensemble group of people. Putting the cameras out and saying let’s just see what happens, thriving on the chaos of the moment and having a lot of smart, brilliant people around me.
So was a lot of the dialogue scripted, or was it improv?
OT: Well, what do you guys say? You guys answer that.
RG: It was all scripted.
JP: It was all scripted. Onur meticulously scripted it.
Really? It seemed so natural and off the cuff.
OT: Well, we didn’t stay verbatim with it the whole time. You had a lot of specific things to say because it was directed but …
JP: You were pretty verbatim. We went through a 125-page script and we shot it in like…
OT: Seven days.
RG: But we had a fair amount of rehearsal. Onur wanted us to sound really natural so we worked that dialogue a lot so it actually sounds natural but it’s all written.
OT: And then if something didn’t feel real, then we’d just change the dialogue on the fly. At the end of the day it was about context more than words, unless there was a specific joke I wanted you to say.
JP: Yeah, you didn’t whip anyone if they went off the map.
RG: I came late to the process and I didn’t know Onur, but I think what makes the movie work is it really is like a great party and he invited all the right people. He collected all these really talented actors through his travels, and it was just a really good group of people. Great chemistry.
OT: We wanted the movie to be fun. We wanted to have this great chemistry as if we had all been friends for a really long time. It’s important to surround yourself with people who give you confidence and you feel comfortable with, and your friends do this.
A lot of the films I’ve seen have a really small cast but Richard’s Wedding has a large ensemble. Was that a big challenge, getting everyone together?
OT: I think we only had one reading where everyone was actually together. We were always just kind of piecemeal, throwing readings together whenever we could and it worked but it was difficult.
RG: It’s the only film I’ve ever worked on where the cast outnumbered the crew.
OT: By like a three-to-one ratio.
RG: Yeah, that was really interesting.
OT: What was fun, too, is we knew we only had a very limited amount of time to shoot the movie. We just wanted to keep things going, and kept shooting even as we were waiting for light set up and changes. The fact we were shooting the whole time was exhilarating. I get really pumped up when the cameras are rolling. We were constantly acting the whole time.
JP: And to blow through five or eight pages in a day was a pretty remarkable thing. More than that! Twenty-five pages a day.
OT: After making this movie I just want to make another movie with the same cast, the same group of people. I think Jennifer is destined to be a movie star, and Randy as well. And Larry Levine and Dustin Defa and everybody. I got so lucky with the cast. It was very dynamic.
JP: The beauty of the movie is that we rolled with the punches, literally and figuratively.
RG: Maybe that’s why it has the improvisational feel, because it was written but it changed every ten minutes. So in a way it was improvisational.
OT: My approach to this was to be open to anything and everything. Everybody was so awesome. We just had a really good time and I wanted the movie to have that great energy.