Father of the Bride remains a timeless classic, but this year, the story is being reimagined once again for a new generation — with plenty of modern twists.
Written by Matt Lopez and directed by Gary "Gaz" Alazraki, the latest iteration represents the world we live in now, as told through the eyes of a Cuban American and Mexican family. The movie still centers on a father, Billy Herrera (Andy Garcia), coming to grips with his eldest daughter getting married, but in this version, it's his daughter, Sofia (Adria Arjona), who proposes to her fiancé (Diego Boneta). Add to that, the couple doesn't want to have a traditional Catholic wedding. Add to that, they want to pay for the whole thing themselves.
If that weren't enough, Billy's own marriage (to Gloria Estefan's Ingrid) is on the rocks.
CAA Amplify and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences partnered on a special conversation to celebrate the release of Father of the Bride by hosting a conversation with Alazraki, Lopez, and stars Garcia, Estefan, Arjona and Boneta. Moderated by Shawn Finnie, Executive Vice President of Member Relations and Awards at the Academy, the group of talented creatives broke down the making of Father of the Bride and discussed how their film put its own unique spin on both the 1950 and the 1991 versions.
Making the 'Father of the Bride' for our times
Producer Paul Perez and Lopez developed the script and presented it to Warner Bros., who loved the dynamic between two Latin families and their cultural differences (the bride is from a Cuban-American family and the groom is Mexican-American). Alazraki was then brought into the mix as the director to bring the story to life.
"You realize that we came to this country looking for better opportunities, but with that comes a certain tax of losing your traditions and culture and watching that fade into the U.S., into the American melting pot," Alazraki explains. "We spoke about that and everyone said, that's the way in."
Lopez also wanted to emphasize the role the mother of the bride and the bride herself have in the story.
"The previous films, as great as they are, aren't hugely concerned with their stories," he says. "Elizabeth Taylor in the MGM version from the '50s, she's all about picking the china and that's kind of it. I thought the Father of the Bride of our time could — while remaining true to that father-daughter relationship that is obviously at the core of the movie — get a look into the marriage of the parents of the bride, and where they are in their relationship."
This time, the bride is an "incredibly strong and independent woman" who isn't going to sit idly by while her father calls all the shots. "That was hugely important. That felt like a modern take that honored what's great about Father of the Bride and why people love that movie," Lopez adds. "But yet felt of our time."
Assembling the perfect cast
Garcia was the only actor Perez and Lopez ever envisioned for the role of Billy — something Garcia noted was an honor and a privilege. He also felt "a responsibility" to contribute his Cuban perspective, "because a lot of times cultures are represented in such stereotypical ways from people who don't have an insight really into it," Garcia says. "That was something that I felt [was] important for me."
Garcia also appreciated his and Estefan’s arc and how "the women in the piece are the driving force and are the catalyst for this man to change, and to be able to move on from the traditions he's grown up with that are very important to him."
Billy's stubbornness and the pressure his family puts on him also created "more humor and more fodder for a comedy." It also allowed painful and emotional moments to surface. "I was all in from the get go," Garcia said.
He then reached out to his longtime friend Estefan with a text that read: "I'm sending you a script."
"For me, it was a no-brainer," the GRAMMY-winning singer says about working with Garcia. The two previously co-starred together in the 2000 drama For Love or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story. But as a huge fan of the Steve Martin version, she was conscious that she had "big shoes to fill" in her first leading role.
After reading the script and laughing out loud, Estefan knew this was a great opportunity for her. "I carry a lot of baggage from my musical career. And it's a responsibility to me. I don't want to disappoint either my fans or my culture," Estefan adds. "I've always chosen things that elevate the culture and/or advance me as an actor. So, those things hadn't arrived. But when this came, it was like, Ohhh! I moved my whole schedule around so that I could do it."
Arjona and Boneta similarly knew each other before co-starring in the film together, crediting their real-life friendship for their chemistry onscreen. "Since day one, I knew that I trusted him and that I was in really good hands," Arjona says. "Which allowed me to really settle into Sofia, and then, discover those little differences between how Sofia was brought up and how Adan was brought up."
Arjona recalls that Alazraki asked her which qualities she looks for in a partner — her response? Someone that listens and supports her — which were then woven into the Adan role, aka "the new Prince Charming." Boneta, as Arjona says, already possessed many of those qualities, sweetly saying, "He’s probably one of the biggest gentlemen I've ever met."
Upon reading the script, Boneta "understood how important it was for Adan to be completely different to Billy, and to really contrast that." He says he knew that Adan would be "the modern guy who's supportive of his fiancée, who's willing to change and adapt to her life." He adds, "I loved that because it changes that stereotype.”
As for the Mexican side of the family, the team wanted there to be an even bigger contrast with Billy's traditional father of the bride compared to the more progressive father of the groom, Hernan Castillo, played by Pedro Damián.
"We said, 'What if he's this gentleman in his 50s and very, very rich. He's very successful, has this younger wife, he's the kind of guy that met his wife in Tulum. He goes to Tulum every single week and he dresses like an 18-year-old,'" Garcia explains. "I said, 'That's the guy. That's the complete opposite of Billy.'"
It wasn't simply about having one character as a Cuban and another as a Mexican. "We wanted to find that contrasting characterization," Garcia states. "It's not only about cultural differences, it's more about character differences."
A message of love and family
Among the cast and creators' greatest hopes for the film is that viewers can see themselves onscreen, or relate to the story's universal themes of family, love and overcoming generational differences. "I just want to say, 'Hang in there. It'll be fine. We all want to be together, and we can break bread at the end,'" the director says.
Calling it a universal film, Arjona adds that she’s "excited for people to see two cultures — two Latin American cultures — come together and to finally see the differences. But also, to show the world that we're just like everybody else."
Through comedy, the storyline touches on generational gaps and gender roles that many people in this day and age can relate to. With that in mind, Arjona notes that this movie "couldn’t have come at a better time." "I think this movie will allow people to sort of escape and have fun," Arjona says. "While also being taught a couple of lessons along the way."
Father of the Bride will be available to stream on HBO Max June 16.
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