Despite the meticulous planning that people put into their seemingly well thought-out plan, they often come up with their best decisions spontaneously when they unexpectedly find themselves in chaotic situations. That’s certainly the case for the cast, crew and characters of Jennifer Lopez and Josh Duhamel’s upcoming action romantic comedy, Shogun Wedding, as nothing could have prepared them for the continuous surprises they all faced.
The film was written by Mark Hammer and directed by Jason Moore [Pitch Perfect]. Besides Lopez, who also served as a producer, and Duhamel, the movie also features an ensemble cast that includes Cheech Marin, Jennifer Coolidge, Sonia Braga, Selena Tan, Alberto Isaac, D’Arcy Carden, Callie Hernandez, Desmin Borges, Steve Coulter and Lenny Kravitz.
Shotgun Wedding follows Darcy Rivera (Lopez) and her fiancé, Tom Fowler (Duhamel), as they make their last-minute preparations for their destination wedding in the Philippines. However, Darcy secretly would have preferred to have a simple, intimate ceremony, but Tom talked her into the elaborate beach nuptials, as he wants everything to be perfect and follow his family’s tradition.
As their eclectic families and friends gather and interac on the tropical island, it quickly becomes obvious why Darcy wanted to elope. But just as the friction between the couple and their relatives threatens to end the marriage before it even begins, the wedding is crashed by larcenous pirates, who take everyone hostage – except the missing bride and groom. Now it’s up to Darcy and Tom to stop arguing long enough to save their loved ones…assuming they don’t manage to kill each other first.
Moore and Marin generously took the time last week to talk about helming and starring in Shotgun Wedding during individual exclusive interviews over Zoom. The comedy, which was produced in part by Lionsgate, will begin streaming globally on Prime Video on Friday, January 27.
Q: Jason, you directed the upcoming action romantic comedy, Shotgun Wedding, which was written by Mark Hammer. What was it about the script that convinced you to helm the film?
JM: The producers, Todd Lieberman, Alex Young and David Hoberman, were all people who I’ve known for a long time. I’ve never made anything with them, but have always wanted to work with them.
So they brought me the script and said, “We think you would understand the comedy in it.” So when I then read it, I was like, “I love this.”
The script, from its origination to its final product, is this unusual combination of action, romance and comedy. There have been a few great movies like that, but they’re kind of rare. But this one really has all of those things. I thought that would be such a great challenge to figure out. It also had action, and I wanted to learn more about directing action, so I was excited about that.
Then when Jennifer came aboard, to have somebody who can do all of those things – romance, comedy, action, dancing and singing, as well as emotion – is amazing. She does it all so well. Then it started to feel that if we got all of the right supporting cast, we can get this unusual tone right. That, to me, was the most fun part, and the thing that brought me to it in the first place.
Q: Cheech, you play Robert Rivera, the father of Jennifer Lopez’s character of Darcy Rivera, in Shotgun Wedding. What was it about the character, as well as the overall script, that convinced you to take on the role?
CM: There were a lot of factors that made me want, and agree, to make this movie. One of them was that I got a call from my agent, and he said, “I just called a call from J Lo and she wants you to be her daddy!” I said, “Okay, but she knows I’m married, right?!?” [Marin laughs.]
He said, “No, she wants you to play her father!” I said, “Oh, okay, I can do that!” I thought that would work because I’ve known her for a long time.
But it was right in the beginning of the COVID pandemic, so everyone was being locked down and couldn’t go anywhere or see anybody. But this offer came in to go to the Dominican Republic, which I’ve never been to, and make a movie with all these wonderful actors, including Jennifer Coolidge, Lenny Kravitz, D’Arcy Carden and Steve Coulter. Plus, they’re going to pay me? I said, “Oh, cool, I’m on my way!”
So three days after I got the offer, I was in the Dominican Republic. It was the best time I’ve ever had making a movie because all of us actor lived together in this giant, 60,000 square feet mansion on the beach. We also ate our meals, went to work and stayed up all night together. So it was a pretty cool and fun experience to make the movie.
Q: Jason, Jennifer Lopez and Josh Duhamel were friends before they were cast in the film. How did their real-life relationship influence the way you all worked together to build the dynamic between Darcy and Tom, as well the characters’ overall arcs?
JM: Jennifer was on board first, so we did a lot of work on her character together, and did some re-writes for her character for her. She always had a strong sense of the arc she wanted to play.
Jennifer also knew that she wanted to switch the traditional gender roles. Darcy’s the one who doesn’t necessarily feels like she needs to get married, and Tom’s the one who’s dying to get married in a big, lavish ceremony.
So all three of us did a lot of work over Zoom, talking through the script and trying to come up with ideas. We discussed that if you in this situation, traditionally, what would you do? Something funny would always come out of Josh, as he would interpret things as a man, as himself. So we did a lot of work with the two of them together to understand their relationship.
The relationship is kind of complex in the movie. They’re having trouble in the beginning of the movie. The wedding is causing them a lot of anxiety, which is true for a lot of couples. So we talked a lot about marriage in those conversations, and what it is to fall in love with each other. So it was a very trusting, honest and fun process with the two of them.
We didn’t have as much of that process with the other actors. But it was crucial that they had all their characters’ history, so we did a little bit of work and improv with each other as the families, so that they would get to know each other.
Q: Speaking of the improv, while Shotgun Wedding features serious subjects, including Darcy questioning if getting married is the right decision, the story is also drive by humor. How did you create that comedy throughout the production, especially through the improv?
JM: Yes, I was very aware that it is a comedy and needs to be a comedy at all times. Also, a lot of the comedy in this movie comes from not what people say, but how they react.
I also knew that there are nine people in the movie. So if they weren’t doing something funny, they probably weren’t going to make the cut. So I wanted people to bring ideas to the table. It wasn’t competitive, but I wanted people who were going to contribute stuff that I had to put in the movie.
So I really did my research about how people approach their process, what kind of improv they do and how in the moment they are. I think we chose very well because we ended up with a group of people who were always giving 100 percent.
They always had to know where the camera was, especially the families when they were in the pool, as they were all right next to each other all of the time.
We did a lot of scripted stuff, but I also allowed them to do a lot of improv. Certainly, Jennifer Coolidge (who won a Golden Globe the night before the interview for her performance on the second season of HBO’s black comedy-drama series, The White Lotus) is a comedy genius legend, and one of the most dear people you’ll ever meet. So bringing her into that kind of situation, with the off-center improv that she does, was really fun for the movie, too.
CM: Yes, we did a lot of improvising because all of the comedic actors are expert improvisers. Jennifer Coolidge had come up from The Groundlings, and D’Arcy Carden began her career performing at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. So it was great working with them in that way.
Q: Jason, like you mentioned earlier, the movie is driven in part by its action sequences. How did you create the stunts with the actors, especially Jennifer and Josh?
JM: I knew that the action was big, but I also knew that it was pointless in this movie if it also wasn’t funny or have comedic elements to it. So we went into all of our action rehearsals, which we had an extra week for, to think of different ideas.
On the zip line, Tom’s afraid of heights, and only one leg is in the harness. Darcy’s only holding onto the rope. That allowed it to look awkward, like real people.
So we worked a lot to make the characters look like they’re not superheroes or CIA agents. They were scared, and Jennifer and Josh were able to play the comedy as though they were scared.
So the action that we designed was created around the question of what would allow each situation to be funny. Jennifer and Josh were game for it, as she’s a brilliant dancer and he’s an athlete.
So they know their bodies very well, which was very luck for me. They knew how to hold onto the edge of things and scream in a funny way. We needed that for the movie, so that the action didn’t all of a sudden feel serious, and didn’t have any fun in it.
Q: Shotgun Wedding, which is set in the Philippines, was actually filmed in the Dominican Republic. Jason, how did you create the tropical island resort’s look with the comedy’s production designer, N.C. Page Buckner? What was your overall experience like shooting the film in the Caribbean country?
JM: The story takes place in the Philippines, so we were looking for a place we could safely shoot the movie. We shot this during the first winter of COVID, so we were looking for a place that could double for the Philippines closer to America, as we couldn’t travel all the way there.
We did end up changing a lot of the architecture when we arrived in the Dominican Republic. We choose colors and fabrics that reflect the Filipino culture.
We thought about how we could fly all of these people there during COVID, and not take them away from their families for too long. So when we initially went down to the Dominican Republic to do location scouting, I saw how beautiful and varied it is – they have mountains, beaches and a big giant water tank at one of their studios.
So it became a great option to film in during the time of COVID and get what we needed. It was also convenient to fly everyone there.
I guess the challenge for our production designer, N.C. Page Buckner, was to find lighting fixtures, fabrics and wallpaper that fit the story, and make it feel like it was really taking place on one of the eastern islands.
CM: It was so much fun to film on location in the Dominican Republic because it was a continual conversation, since we were together all the time, both on- and off-screen. That kind of informed our characters once we got in front of the camera, as we got to know each other; it added an extra spice to our relationships. We knew things about each other, so we were able to sell things with just a look all the time.
Playing the characters together was so much fun. You couldn’t have put together a more diverse cast of characters than in this movie. I was really anxious to work with everybody, and it was a lot of fun.
We were also always together on the weekends, too. We watched each other’s movies because there was a screening room in this complex. So they would watch Up In Smoke and other movies we were in. We would find them and bring them to the screening room. Steve would be the moderator and ask us intelligent questions, like we were on Inside the Actors Studio. So everyone had the greatest time.
Q: How did spending so much time with your co-stars throughout the production influence the way you created your characters’ relationships and dynamics?
CM: Spending so much time together definitely helped us build our characters’ relationships. We really got to know each other, more so than if we were actors who were just meeting each other for the first time right before we got in front of the camera.
Sometimes how you image creating the characters with your co-stars turns out to be something different when you start filming. Since we lived together, we started to get to know each other more and more every day, and that was translated into the film.
Q: Cheech, Shotgun Wedding was directed by Jason Moore. What was your working relationship with Jason like throughout the movie’s production?
CM: My working relationship with Jason was great! I’d ask him, “Is that what you wanted?,” and we’d discuss how he wanted scenes to be played.
About three quarters of the time that we were shooting, the families were in the pool, and there were three roving cameras always going off. So we, as actors, had to know where our camera was going to be, especially when it came time for us to say what we had to say. While we had to know where our camera was, we couldn’t look directly at it, which gave us a really improvisational filming style of filming.
That was an interesting technique that we worked on, especially with D’Arcy and Callie Hernandez, who we spent a lot of time with during the production. They had never done anything like that before – finding where their cameras were and where they were going to be on their journey in each scene. I put it to them this way: “If you want to be in this movie, you have to give them footage that’s going to be put into the movie!”
Here’s the trailer of the film.