‘The Wedding Planner’ at 20: Adam Shankman reveals how J.Lo and Matthew McConaughey had been solid within the rom-com hit

Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Lopez in Adam Shankman's 2001 rom-com 'The Wedding Planner' (Photo: Columbia/courtesy Everett Collection)
Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Lopez in Adam Shankman’s 2001 rom-com The Wedding Planner. (Photo: Columbia/courtesy Everett Collection)

Pop tradition historians, take be aware: We can definitively say that the J.Lo period commenced twenty years in the past immediately on Jan. 26, 2001. That’s the weekend that Jennifer Lopez’s second album, J.Lo, vaulted to the highest of the Billboard 200 chart, simply as her first massive studio rom-com, The Wedding Planner, grabbed the No. 1 spot on the box-office on its method to an almost-$100 million worldwide gross. After spending the ‘90s building up her big-screen resume, while also making inroads into the music industry, the Bronx-born performer conquered both mediums in the first month of the first year of the 21st century. (According to some calendars, anyway.)

Looking back now, Wedding Planner director, Adam Shankman, can clearly see that he was part of a larger plan. “It was a moment that set a certain trajectory of her life in motion,” Shankman tells Yahoo Entertainment. “To have the number one album in the country and the number one movie in the country in one moment definitely changed stuff for her. And Jennifer recognizes and acknowledges that.”

But The Wedding Planner didn’t simply launch Lopez’s profession into the stratosphere: It additionally set her co-star, Matthew McConaughey, up for his mid-aughts rom-com run that included How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and Failure to Launch; made the multiplex secure for subsequent star-powered wedding ceremony comedies like Made of Honor and 27 Dresses; and accomplished Shankman’s transformation from a celebrated choreographer into the director of hits like A Walk to Remember and Hairspray, in addition to the upcoming Hocus Pocus 2. (“There will be announcements about that within the next few weeks,” he teases of the long-awaited sequel to the 1994 Halloween favourite, which can reunite Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker.)

Not unhealthy for a film that — because the director himself permits — wasn’t particularly well-reviewed on the time. “One of the hard things about the genre in general is that you’re hamstrung by the notion of predictability,” Shankman explains of The Wedding Planner’s chilly important reception. “That’s the comfort with these movies and why people want to see them over and over again, but it’s also why critics don’t like them. They get a bad rap, but when people actually do it with love and care, it’s a wonderful thing.”

The stars of The Wedding Planner echoed Shankman’s emotions in a current reunion video that Lopez posted on her Instagram. “These kind of movies, The Wedding Planners of the world, are something for your soul.” Adds McConaughey: “We need a little lightness. We don’t get as much of it anymore. But Wedding Planner is buoyant for a reason. You’re dancing across the clouds. It feels a little bit like Saturday evening when you’re watching those movies. And you don’t want it to feel like Monday!”

For the report, there was nothing predictable about the way in which that Shankman landed Lopez and McConaughey as the celebrities of The Wedding Planner. Getting to that time concerned a bounce from an indie studio to a significant studio, a revolving door of attainable casting combos and a Hail Mary cross to rent a number one man mere weeks earlier than the movie began manufacturing. Shankman’s personal journey with the venture started within the late ‘90s, when he attached himself to Michael Ellis and Pamela Falk’s authentic screenplay after it was bought by Fine Line Features, the now-defunct artwork home arm of New Line Cinema that launched such acclaimed movies as The Player and Spanking the Monkey.

Based on the then-recent success of Good Will Hunting, Minnie Driver was the studio’s first option to play the titular wedding ceremony planner, Mary Fiore, who’s employed to orchestrate the nuptials of an upscale socialite solely to unwittingly fall in love with the groom, Steve Edison. “Fine Line was trying to get into more of a commercial market, and they really liked this script,” Shankman recollects now. “The plot was essentially the same, but it was going to be a very low-budget indie movie.”

When Fine Line couldn’t get the Minnie Driver model of The Wedding Planner off the bottom, the script moved up the Hollywood meals chain to Sony Pictures, and at that time established stars like Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr. had been reportedly circling the venture. “Those actors were people who were talked about, but no one was ever officially cast,” Shankman says now.

Judy Greer and Lopez in 'The Wedding Planner' (Photo: Columbia Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection)
Judy Greer and Lopez in The Wedding Planner. (Photo: Columbia Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection)

As these discussions continued, Lopez — who gave her breakthrough efficiency within the 1997 favourite, Selena, adopted by standout roles in Anaconda and Out of Sight — took the initiative, and made her curiosity in headlining her first studio rom-com recognized to Sony. Instead of being delighted to catch a rising star, Shankman wished to pump the brakes. “I was honestly resistant to the idea,” he admits. “I didn’t perceive her as a romantic comedy person; she seemed too tough to me, frankly. But my agency said, ‘You have to meet with her: She read the script and she really wants to do this.’”

Eventually, Shankman was persuaded to satisfy Lopez for lunch, and inside moments of sitting down together with her, his resistance proved futile. “I was completely hypnotized by her. At that time, she was very much that character: She had just come out of a marriage and was not interested in men. [Lopez divorced her first husband, Ojani Noa, in 1998.] She was ambitious, and understood everything that was girly and feminine about the movie, but at the same time recognized the engine inside of it. There were many factors about the real-life Jennifer that really spoke to what the character was.”

After that first assembly, Shankman signed off on Lopez’s casting, though finalizing the deal nonetheless dragged on for months — throughout which Lopez continued to lift her profile exterior of flicks, recording her first album, On the 6. “When we first met, she had not become a fashion icon or had a music career,” Shankman says. “We had dinner months later, and she played me her first single, ‘If You Had My Love.’ I thought, ‘I think this is going to work, her and the music thing!’ And then I went to the album launch and I saw the thousands and thousands of people trying to get into where the music signing was. I called everybody [at Sony] and said, ‘Guys, just make this deal, please.’ So they did.”

Casting Lopez did require Shankman to make a artistic selection that proved controversial: As the character’s final title suggests, Mary is from an Italian household, and her background performs a small, however vital position within the film. At the time and nonetheless immediately, The Wedding Planner has been criticized for not altering the character’s ethnicity to mirror Lopez’s personal identification. Shankman says that he and his star had that dialog early on and mutually agreed to remain the course. “It was a very quick conversation,” he says. “We were both like, ‘Why can’t you be Italian?’ There seemed to be no reason; people play different faiths all the time, you know? The thinking is different now. Today, I would say, ‘No, we’re changing it, and we’ll make you what you are.’”

There was one position that Shankman did alter from the script to swimsuit his most well-liked star. Originally, the position of Mary’s pal and co-worker, Penny, was written to be performed by an older British actress. But then Judy Greer walked into the audition room. “I was furious, because the character had been written very differently, so I took the casting director aside and said, ‘What is happening right now?’ She said, ‘I think she’s great, you should just see her.’ So Judy did her audition and as soon as she left the room, I went, ‘OK, just hire her.’” Greer’s position in The Wedding Planner helped popularize her because the go-to greatest pal in almost each rom-com revamped the subsequent decade.

While Sony labored to lock up Lopez for the position of Mary, Shankman reached out to his handpicked selection for Steve: The Mummy star, Brendan Fraser. “I had been working with Brendan a lot as a choreographer — we did everything from George of the Jungle to Mrs. Winterbourne together. So I talked to him, and he was in. But then he switched agencies while we were negotiating, and the new agency pulled him out of our movie and into Bedazzled. That was a really dark day for me, because we were a month-and-a-half away from starting rehearsal and we had sold the movie on Jennifer and Brendan.”

With solely weeks to go till capturing began, the studio informed Shankman that there was just one actor who’d be capable to come aboard the venture in time: Matthew McConaughey, who at that time was primarily recognized for dramas like A Time to Kill and Contact. The solely equal film on his resume was Ron Howard’s media satire, EdTV, which fell properly exterior the rom-com style.

McConaughey was a last-minute replacement for Brendan Fraser in the 2001 rom-com 'The Wedding Planner' (Photo: Columbia Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection)
McConaughey was a last-minute substitute for Brendan Fraser within the 2001 rom-com The Wedding Planner. (Photo: Columbia Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection)

“I said to everybody, ‘I can’t imagine Matthew would ever want to do a movie like this — he never has!’” Shankman remembers. “But I was told, ‘He is who is available. If you want to make the movie now, you have to get him.’” That proved simpler mentioned than executed. While Shankman says he’s saving the complete story for his to-be-written autobiography, he does reveal that monitoring the actor down proved to be a 48-hour journey that included “a lot of flying and van trips through many states, plus a lot of weird phone calls on a flip phone.”

Luckily that journey led to a fortunately ever after: As quickly as McConaughey and Lopez had been in the identical room, Shankman knew he had a film. “They got on like wildfire. I have never seen two people who, on the surface, are more different than Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey, but they were absolutely adorable together. They had very different processes, but they allowed each other the space and freedom to work those processes.” As Lopez herself informed McConaughey of their reunion chat: “I so enjoyed working with you. We had such a nice rapport and chemistry. It was such a magical time.”

As some have famous, Steven isn’t probably the most magical of rom-com heroes, given the truth that he doesn’t disclose his engagement to Mary after they first meet-cute, and customarily performs round together with her feelings all through the film. But that’s additionally exactly the factor that each Shankman and McConaughey appreciated probably the most concerning the position. “I love that Steve basically did a terrible thing, because he knew what he was doing. I liked that he was morally ambiguous, and had some moral baggage,” the director explains. “Remember, we were coming out of those Julia Roberts and early Sandra Bullock movies where the boys were props for the girls to a large extent. And this actually gave him something to work with and made him less of a prop.”

To assist McConaughey acclimate to the rom-com style, Shankman assigned him homework that included viewings of style classics like Bringing Up Baby and His Girl Friday. “He was like ‘They talk really fast,’” Shankman says, laughing. “He’d also never danced in a movie before, and always wanted to. That was crazy-sounding to me, but I was like, ‘Whatever makes him happy!’”

If McConaughey was initially trepidatious about dipping his toe in additional romantic waters, after The Wedding Planner he dived in wholeheartedly. Over the subsequent decade, he turned the face of studio rom-coms, and his acquainted profile was glimpsed leaning on the posters for such motion pictures as Fool’s Gold and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. But as he revealed in his current memoir, Greenlights, McConaughey hit a degree the place he simply couldn’t really feel the love for the style anymore, even rejecting one provide that got here with a $14.5 million paycheck. “My career path and the characters and films I was getting offered were not satisfying me anymore,” he wrote, explaining why he rededicated himself to pursuing more difficult roles in motion pictures like Dallas Buyers Club and The Beach Bum.

“It never occurred to me he would just keep making them,” Shankman says now of McConaughey’s post-Wedding Planner run. “He was clearly enjoying himself making the movie. What he kind of drifted into, it seems to me, was more of the sub-genre of romantic comedy, which is the battle of the sexes. I think that he found a comfortable place for himself there. He and I adore each other, and I would love to work with him again.”

Shankman can be wanting to reunite with Lopez twenty years after being a part of launching the J.Lo period. Like McConaughey, the actress headlined quite a lot of rom-coms going ahead, together with Maid in Manhattan, Monster-in-Law and, in fact, Gigli, the notorious 2003 fiasco the place “Bennifer” was born. But whilst she’s modified up her popular culture picture with motion pictures like Hustlers, she hasn’t left the style behind: Lopez’s newest rom-com, Marry Me, is scheduled for launch later this 12 months.

“Whatever you think of her, she has got to be admired for what she has contributed to the industry, and how she’s maintained her career and her life for this long,” Shankman says. “There’s a story I’ve told before: When we shot the opening scene, which was a four-minute Steadicam shot, every complete take ran the exact same amount of feet. I’ll never forget that: Jennifer’s internal clock was so precise that every take was exactly the same length. I can’t tell you how rare that is.”

The Wedding Planner is presently streaming on Hulu.

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