In the summer of 2007, many of us found ourselves sitting in chilled and darkened theaters, popcorn in hand, watching (what was to become) one of the worlds favorite comedians pop off the screen in Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up and steal the show with just a few short scenes.
The audience and Apatow were in perfect accord: Kristen Wiig’s turn as Jill, against Alan Tudyk’s Jack, was the hilarious, dynamic and deceptively subtle work of an actress who needed her own movie. With that goal in mind, Apatow charged Wiig with the task of creating a vehicle for herself. Wiig, already a favorite on Saturday Night Live, was working on the germ of an idea for a movie with her writing partner, Groundings co-hort, and friend, Annie Mumolo, when Apatow approached her with the opportunity. The women pitched their concept to the director/producer and in (shockingly) short order, Bridesmaids was born.
Well, perhaps we ought to rephrase. Mumalo pitched the idea without a real sense that pitching was in fact what she was doing, and in (shockingly) short-order Bridesmaids was conceived (read: received a greenlight from the studio). The film will be born (released to audiences) this coming Friday. Let us assure you, this is a birthing room (midnight showing) you will want to be in.
We had the opportunity to interview Mumolo at the Los Angeles press event for the film, who told us the story of her first meeting with Apatow:
“It’s so funny because I had no idea at the time that I was ‘pitching a movie.’ Kristen called me because she was in New York and she said ‘can you just go in and tell him what it is’ and I was like, ‘sure.’ So I went in and he was editing “Knocked Up” at the time and I was like ‘Oh he’s actually…he’s…this guy’s like for real.’ So I told him the story and the next day we thought maybe we wanted to change our minds. So we thought we would tell him the other one and he was like, ‘Oh no, I already sold the other one to Universal so…’ It was very fast. That part of the process, that initial thing was the quickest part. That was 2006 and now its 2011.”
The “other idea” that Mumolo refers to is currently on “the back-burner,” should the ladies want to pursue it in the future. (We have the distinct sense that they will be asked to pull forward several of their back-burner and shelved ideas in the coming weeks.) Before we proceed with our investigation into the inception and development of the first truly must-see comedy of the year, let us pause for a moment to reflect back on a scene from the film that won Wiig and Mumolo the opportunity to create Bridesmaids.
Kristen Wiig as the ultimate catty co-worker in Knocked Up.
The women spent years working on the script, as Mumolo described,“Getting into the heads,” of each of the characters. “We had both been in both positions,” the writer/actress continued, “so we would sit in the heads of those people, and come from the heart.”
Apatow brought his Freaks and Geeks co-creator Paul Feig on-board to helm the film. The magic of a Feig/Apatow partnership seemed a perfect fit for Mumolo/Wiig’s script, in that Freaks and Geeks has a a quality of sincerity amidst the humor that that ladies were hoping to bring to life with their film. As Mumolo explains it:
“One of the most important things was to make sure that the relationships were coming from a very real place with the way that women really communicate with each other, and the different dynamics that come into play when you have a (very different) group of women with one common freind. We wanted to play with the real exchanges between women and the real emotions that come into play in friendships.”
Of course, being an uproariously funny comedy means that said sense of reality is heightened in the circumstances and reactions of the characters. But amidst the deliciously preposterous actions and events in the film, there is always a kernel of relatability and sense of (as Stephen Colbert says) “truthiness.” Mumolo used her own life, and the lives of her friends, as a jumping off point for the stories and characters:
“Everything was sort of a version of things I had experienced…but blown out. Some of the things were things I maybe wished I would have done at a given time but didn’t do. But I think that some of the relationship stuff was very real to me.”
Many viewers experience a similar feeling when watching the film: Kristen Wiig, in a sense, stands in as the outward expression of what we often want to do or say, but don’t. One of the most notable scenes in the film is when Wiig’s character (Annie) has a full-scale meltdown on a plane as the result of a combination of flying nerves and a (highly entertaining) mix of barbiturates and alcohol. The scene was one of the moments in the film that was inspired by an event in Mumolo’s real life.
Take a look at the beginning of Wiig’s airplane bananarama in the clip below:
“I did have an incident where I had to be drugged to get on a plane and my sister told stories about it at my wedding because I was with her, and it was kind of insane on the plane. And –Vegas — I did have experiences in Vegas. We had a whole Los Vegas sequence in the middle up until almost two weeks before we started shooting when we took that out and put in the airplane scene.”
How The Hangover ruined the Vegas sequence: