Diane Keaton and Jeremy Irons Bring Charm to ‘Love, Weddings & Other Disasters’

While weddings can be a time of joy and celebration, they can also lead to chaos and stress, and sometimes feelings of awkwardness for single people. This is certainly the case in “Love, Weddings & Other Disasters,” a fun ensemble romantic comedy centered around the Boston wedding of mayoral candidate Robert Barton (Dennis Staroselsky) and environmentalist Liz Rafferty (Caroline Portu). While Robert and Liz appear to be the perfect couple, the colorful cast of characters around them haven’t always had the best luck when it comes to love.

“Love, Weddings & Other Disasters” is the first feature from veteran comedy director Dennis Dugan that he also wrote. Dugan, who has previously helmed classic Adam Sandler comedies like “Happy Gilmore” and “Big Daddy,” as well as the Chris Farley favorite “Beverly Hills Ninja,” was inspired by his wife. “I said, ‘I’m going to write a script, and she said, ‘Write a wedding script, I love wedding scripts,’” he recalled during a recent phone chat with Entertainment Voice. “Being a loyal husband, who can never say ‘no’ to my wife, I said, ‘I’ll go into my office and I’ll write a wedding script.’”

Dugan ran into a problem early on when he realized that every kind of wedding script had already been done. This led him to shift his focus from the wedding couple to the people around them, including those close to them, like the groom’s n’er-do-well brother, Jimmy (Andy Goldenberg), who does a wacky game show challenge to get of out a gambling debt and ends up chained to Svetlana (Melinda Hill), a Russian lawyer who turns out to a sex worker who’s in deep with the mob. There’s also the wedding planners, two very different type-A people, old pro Lawrence (Jeremy Irons), and eager up-and-comer Jessie (Maggie Grace). Jessie’s search for the perfect wedding band leads her to cute guitarist Mack (Diego Boneta), but she’s hesitant to enter into a new romance after she dumped her last boyfriend, literally, into a lake in an incident that became an embarrassing viral video. Meanwhile, Lawrence, a workaholic widower who drives all his underlings crazy with his anal retentiveness, finds himself pushed out of his comfort zone after being set-up on a blind date with visually impaired photographer Sara (Diane Keaton). The last romance involves Ritchie (Andrew Bachelor), a delightful Duck Boat tour guide who falls in love with his own personal Cinderella.

It took Dugan 14 years to get “Love, Weddings & Disasters” made, partly due to his being sidetracked by the eight Adam Sandler films he directed in a row, including “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” and both “Grown Ups” movies. There was also the issue of getting funding and the right actors attached. Finally, things came into place after he changed the older couple, Sara and Lawrence, from being around 50 to 70. He then sent the script to his longtime friend Diane Keaton. He recalled, “She read it, and she called back and said, ‘Yeah, I’ll do it.’ And then, Jeremy heard that it was her, and he signed up, and then we got the money and made the movie. It was that easy.”

“Wonderful,” said Dugan when asked about working with Keaton and Irons. “They are two great actors and really wonderful people. They’re really dedicated. Once they say ‘yes’ to a project, they’re really dedicated.”

Keaton and Irons’ mature love storyline is the sweetest part of the film, and the pair are absolutely charming together. Part of their charm comes from the initial awkwardness between the free-spirited Sara and the more uptight Lawrence. Dugan recalled a story that he never told before about rehearsing with the two veteran actors. “We got to the scene where they finally kiss. They read it and they stumbled around a little bit, and we read it again, and they stumbled around a little bit more. I said, ‘You guys seem a little uncomfortable with this. Do you want me to rewrite it tonight?’ And they both went, ‘No! No! Leave it. This uncomfortable feeling is real, and it’s right.’ And I loved that, because most of the time when you say, ‘Can I rewrite?’ They say, ‘Yeah, that would make it easier for me.’ They liked the way that I had done it and they liked the challenge of them being uncomfortable… They were right.”

Boston is a character in itself in the film, and Dugan started scouting out locations over a decade ago when he shot “Grown Ups” in the area. “I wrote it for Boston. I loved the idea of a Duck Boat being a character, and you can just aim your camera anywhere in Boston and you got a good shot.”

Dugan was on triple duty with “Love, Weddings & Other Disasters,” as he also plays Eddie Stone, the cheesy host of the game show Bobby and Svetlana (whose real name is Olga) appear on. Although Dugan has numerous acting credits under his belt, including several cameos in the Sandler films he helmed, he usually likes to avoid spending too much time in front of the camera in his own films, as directing by itself is already a full-time job. He made an exception here, as the original actor he cast, Jim Jefferies, had to pull out due to a scheduling conflict, and Dugan was confident that his director of photography would help him through it.

“Then, of course, he got sick two days before and was so sick that he couldn’t be there that day. I had lost my trusted partner, but, as it turned out, the prop lady was a former actress who was really gifted in the improv scene in Chicago. Also, my good pal who plays the pedicab guy in the movie, he stayed at the monitors and watched me, and Molly, the prop lady, gave me acting notes. Once I realized that I had a squad around me that would care for me, I just went in and pounded out that performance.”

As the film was shot on a budget, Dugan had to get creative with the soundtrack. He ended up co-writing original songs and the score with guitarist Keaton Simons, who performs them alongside singer Elle King in the film. The pair play street musicians whose tunes contribute to the movie’s feel goodness. Dugan first worked with King in 2006 when he cast her in a small role in “The Benchwarmers,” a comedy that co-starred her father, Rob Schneider.

“I knew that we weren’t going to have enough money for licensing songs,” said Dugan. “I also didn’t want to license songs. I wanted [King’s] character to push the narrative forward and/or comment about what’s going on… She just kicks ass with those songs.”

Finally, Dugan reflected on all his films and had a hard time picking a favorite. “I loved ‘Happy Gilmore’ because it was Sandler and myself getting together and just having a great time and being real underdogs. Nobody thought it would become a classic… I think Sandler’s a wonderful actor and [‘Big Daddy’] gave him a chance to really show his chops. ‘You Don’t Mess with the Zohan’ was really fun because it was so crazy, and we got to burst through the restrictions of reality and still have a movie that had a really good message for the world. And this one, of course, is my baby, so I’m really proud of it.

Love, Weddings & Other Disasters” releases Dec. 4 on VOD and in select cities.