With Winick at the helm, BRIDE WARS moved quickly into production. Hudson and Hathaway, who didn’t know each other prior to teaming up on the film, became fast friends – and fans of each other. “We’re both opinionated women,” says Hathaway. “So it was really fun picking each other’s brains about the characters. Kate’s persona is exactly the way I had envisioned it – fun, effervescent, warm-spirited and smart.” Adds Hudson: “Anne and I took our time getting to know each other, and I think we’ve created a pretty true friendship [on-screen]. Anne is authentic, not to mention wildly talented. It’s really been a joy to work with her.”
Providing something very different than joy in the lives and upcoming nuptials of Liv and Emma, is Marion St. Claire, the officious wedding planner who becomes the catalyst in the war between the brides, when her assistant mixes up their wedding dates.
Marion’s world is three-tiered wedding cakes, piles of bridal magazines, 87-day countdown wedding checklists, fabric swatches, designer gowns – and, of course, New York’s ultimate wedding destination, The Plaza hotel. Candice Bergen portrays Marion, whom the Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning actress describes as “extremely precise, almost cranky.” But, like her cast mates and director, Bergen sees the movie as being as much about the relationships as it is about battling brides. “It’s about the fragility and resilience of friendship,” she sums up.
The growing chasm between Liv and Emma puts their mutual friends in an awkward position. Since the two were youngsters, each had planned to be the other’s maid of honor. But thanks to the dueling weddings and the ensuing conflicts and high jinks, Emma and Liv are forced to hunt for someone else – anyone – to fill the position. After the dust settles, Emma reluctantly asks fellow schoolteacher Deb Delgado to be her maid of honor. Deb is a triple-threat: she’s unorganized, lazy and completely self-centered. “She is an outrageous character,” says Kristen Johnston (“3rd Rock from the Sun”), who portrays the maid of honor from hell. “She’s a complete egomaniac, with no limits, and I’ve never had more fun with a character.”
Caught in the middle of the battling brides are the film’s three principal male characters – the two grooms and the brother of one of the brides. Bryan Greenberg takes on the role of Liv’s brother Nate, a voice of reason amidst the brides’ increasing acrimony and craziness. Nate is torn between the sister he loves, and her friend Emma, whom he’s also known his entire life. “Nate is stuck in the middle,” says Greenberg, “which is not where he, or anyone in these circumstances, would want to be. Nate’s job is to try and keep Liv and Emma in check. In fact, all the guys in this story are anchors, holding down reality while the women go off the deep end.”
Like Nate, Liv’s fiance Daniel is a stabilizing force in the very unstable and escalating conflict. “Being the groom is really about pleasing other people, especially your bride,” notes Steve Howey, who portrays Daniel. “It’s the bride’s day and the best thing a guy can do is to step back and let it happen. You must let the bride be the bride. And as far as getting in the middle of the war between Liv and Emma, Daniel’s attitude is to support Liv – and just stand back and let the pieces fall where they may.”
The trio of men-at-(bridal)-war is rounded out by Emma’s fiance, Fletcher, played by Chris Pratt. While Daniel is stable, understanding and supportive of Liv, Fletcher is somewhat taken aback by the chaos – and by Emma’s newfound inner strength. “Fletcher and Emma were in that really comfortable zone where couples often find themselves after being together for a long time,” says Pratt. “When Emma begins to get the wedding ‘crazies,’ everything changes and he isn’t quite sure who she is anymore.”
The vortex of the bride wars is New York City, where the production captured some critical moments on location at the newly-refurbished The Plaza and its Palm Court, as well as at Central Park, Bloomingdale’s and on Fifth Avenue. Most of the action was captured in Boston, with that city’s Fairmount Copley Plaza Hotel standing in for its landmark sister hostelry in Manhattan.
Production designer Dan Leigh not only recreated key New York locales in Boston, but also designed the film’s weddings, striving to keep each event unique. Leigh explains: “The first wedding in the story is told in flashback, when Liv and Emma were children. This was the fantasy that firmly placed the dream in their minds and established the tone for what was to follow. We created a shimmering traditional event with white and silver and crystal. The second event had a seaport theme, and the last two weddings were Liv and Emma’s, both of which are high-end creations of the [story’s fictional] visionary wedding planner, Marion St. Claire.
“Movie weddings are tricky,” Leigh continues. “Everyone has a concept of a wedding, or an opinion of what works and what doesn’t. So it is important to try to be inventive. The flowers, the music, people asking, ‘Why that shade of lavender’ and ‘Can’t we have a brighter gold?’ Weddings seem to push everyone’s buttons.”
Costume designer Karen Patch, who designed Hudson’s clothes in “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” notes that prospective brides Liv and Emma are very different people when we first meet them, but become more alike by the end of the film. “Liv softens and Emma finds a stronger side to herself,” says Patch. “The costumes that these two characters inhabit reflect their personalities.”
There are no better examples of this than Liv’s and Emma’s wedding gowns, on which Patch collaborated with famed designer Vera Wang. Emma, a schoolteacher, is not as financially secure as attorney Liv, so she chooses to wear her mother’s gown. Although it was not a vintage garment, Patch says it could have belonged to another era. “It’s an exquisite taffeta dress with lots of layers, an off the shoulder period gown,” she explains. “Liv, on the other hand, was like the bride on top of the cake. Her gown was styled in a classic, sweetheart neckline with layers and layers of tulle skirt, a long train and lace bodice.”
Great lengths were taken to keep these creations from being photographed until the film’s marketing campaign kicked in. “We made huge white capes to cover the gowns anytime Kate and Anne were outside of their trailer or moving from dressing rooms to the set,” Patch recalls. “We didn’t want them revealed before their time.”
Whatever Liv and Emma are wearing – and whether they’re at “war” or at peace – their friendship will always be their top priority. And BRIDE WARS, despite its title, is at its heart a celebration of friendship. “The film says that your friends are going to be there for you forever, and I really loved that idea,” says Anne Hathaway. Echoes Kate Hudson: “That kind of friendship is so important, not just at milestones like weddings, but in any situation. Everyone needs that.”
Bride Wars (2009)
Directed by: Gary Winick
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Kate Hudson, Candice Bergen, Kristen Johnston, Bryan Greenberg, Steve Howey, Chris Pratt, Michael Arden, Kelly Coffield Park, June Diane Raphael, Shannon Ferber
Screenplay by: June Diane Raphael, Karen McCullah Lutz, Kirsten Smith
Production Design by: Dan Leigh
Cinematography by: Frederick Elmes
Film Editing by: Susan Littenberg
Costume Design by: Karen Petch
Set Decoration by: Ron von Blomberg
Art Direction by: James Donahue
Music by: Ed Shearmur
MPAA Rating: PG for suggestive content, language, rude behavior.
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: January 9, 2009