Father of the Bride is a timeless classic. This year, the story is once again being reimagined 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 told through the eyes of a Cuban American and Mexican family.
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 Andy Garcia, Gloria Estefan, Adria Arjona and Diego 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 has its own unique spin on things compared to the 1950 and the 1991 versions.
While the Garcia and Estefan-led film still centers on a father (Billy) coming to grips with his eldest daughter getting married, the film also sees his rocky marriage on the verge of a divorce. Additionally, it’s his daughter, Sophie (Arjona), who proposes to her boyfriend Adan Castillo (Boneta). Add to that, the couple doesn’t want a traditional Catholic wedding, and they would like to pay for the wedding themselves.
The first steps to making the 'Father of the Bride' of our time
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 this story to life.
"You kind of 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 explained. "We spoke about that and everyone said, that's the way in."
Lopez knew he had a great immigrant story with the Cuban family at the forefront. However, he was always curious about the role the mother of the bride and the bride herself had in this tale.
"The previous films, as great as they are, aren't hugely concerned with their stories," Lopez explained. "Elizabeth Taylor in the MGM version from the '50s, she's all about picking the china. And that's kind of it. So we were really interested [in their perspectives], maybe because I have two daughters and they're very independent. 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."
The bride, in this version, is an "incredibly strong and independent woman" who isn't going to sit idly by while her father calls all the shots.
"So 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 continued. "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. After reading the script, the actor "immediately was taken by it."
He also felt "a responsibility" to contribute with 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 explained. "So that was something that I felt [was] important for me," he said.
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. "So I was all in from the get go," Garcia said.
From there, the Cuban star 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 relayed about working with Garcia. The two previously worked together in the 2000 drama For Love or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story. As a huge fan of the Steve Martin version, Estefan was conscious that she had "big shoes to fill" in her first leading role.
After reading the script and laughing out loud, she knew this was a great opportunity for her. Estefan said she’s received many scripts over the years, but "waited a long time" for a role that felt right.
"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 revealed. "And 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."
For Arjona and Boneta, they both felt very in tune with their characters and shared numerous similarities with them. The two actors knew each other before co-starring in the film together and already had a terrific friendship. "Since day one, I think I knew that I trusted him and that I was in really good hands," Arjona expressed. "Which allowed me to sort of just really settle into Sophie, and then, discover those little differences between how Sophie was sort of brought up and how Adan was brought up."
Arjona also recalled how Alazraki asked her personally which qualities she looks for in a partner? Her response: Someone that listens and supports her. Those qualities, coming from Arjona, were used as the standard of what a modern woman wants in a partner. The qualities were then woven into the Adan role – aka "the new Prince Charming."
Boneta, as Arjona expressed, already possessed many of Adan's qualities, sweetly saying, "He’s probably one of the biggest gentlemen I've ever met."
Alazraki reached out to Boneta for the role of Adan. Upon reading the script, Boneta “understood how important it was for Adan to be completely different to Billy, and to really contrast that."
Boneta said 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 added, "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 who's in his 50s or whatever 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 explained. "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. It’s not only about cultural differences, it's more about character differences," Garcia stated.
A message of love and family
Among the cast and creators' greatest hopes for the film is that viewers can see themselves portrayed and/or relate to the story's universal themes of family and love.
While some people are slowly becoming more progressive, Alazraki also wanted to show the "people who are second or third wave behind the progress," who are trying to understand these cultural changes.
"[I wanted to] speak to the middle of the country that is not polarized, they're just sort of trying to figure out where the new voices are," he explained. "And just speak to the families where all of that conflict is happening and just say, 'You know, it's a generational thing. It's happening everywhere. Hang in there. It'll be fine. We all want to be together, and we can break bread at the end.'"
Calling it a universal film, Arjona added that she’s "excited for people to see two cultures, two Latin American cultures, come together. And to finally see the differences. Also, 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 noted 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 said. "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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