‘Father of the Bride’ Screenwriter Feels a “Sense of Responsibility” With Latin Take on Classic Film
Lopez’s version of the classic film is a reimagining of the comedy with an all-Latin main character and a predominantly Latin group filmmakers. It follows a Cuban American family from Miami led by Andy Garcia‘s Billy and Gloria Estefan‘s Ingrid, whose daughter, Sofie (Adria Arjona), surprises them with the news that she has a fiance (Diego Boneta), and they have plans for a quick-turnaround wedding before starting their new life together in Mexico.
Sofie’s quickfire revelations prevent Billy and Ingrid being able to make their own announcement. They are getting divorced. The long-married couple decides not to announce the news until after the wedding of their daughter, but pretends to still be in love.
Lopez felt a sense of responsibility to the Latin community while writing the script and bringing this version of the classic story to life. Lopez wanted to show how a Cuban American family can marry a Mexican American one, but he also recognized the importance of showing that Latin cultures are different.
“It’s improving,” Lopez tells The Hollywood Reporter. “But a lot of film and television depictions of Latinos, it’s kind of like we’re a monolith or a uniculture, and I wanted to celebrate, on the one hand, the unity and the commonalities between Latinos, but also have a little fun with some of the differences.”
Lopez loved having fun with differences. Lopez wanted to make a film that would make people smile after two years of being emotionally exhausted. He wanted to remind them how it felt to have fun and to have fun at a wedding with their vibrant families.
In a conversation with THR, Lopez opens up about his inspirations for Father of the Bride, why he decided to veer from the original story with Billy and Ingrid’s looming divorce, how he got his all-star cast onboard, and the ways in which he nods to the 1950 and 1991 versions of the classic film.
You were spot-on with so many of the Latino references, at least for my family. Where did you get your inspiration?
Some of it was second nature. I’m Cuban. I was born in Tampa and have many cousins and extended family in Miami. It’s a place I know well. It’s a city I know well. The bigger challenge, and one I believe the film overcomes very well, based on the reactions of those who have seen it, is on the one side, to maintain that level of authenticity and specificity, but also enough universality that people from other cultures can still enjoy it and find humor in it.
It all started with Paul Perez who is a producer on this film. He was an executive at Warner Brothers and we discussed movies like Crazy Rich Asians , and My Big Fat Greek Wedding. There were little Easter eggs for people who were either Chinese or Greek. Even if you didn’t come from that culture [you enjoyed the films]., there were still Easter eggs for you. For example, if you were Senegalese your uncle might not eat papa-rellena, but does some other silly thing. It’s a very specific joke, but it’s also universal.
In previous iterations of Father of the Bride, the families are depicted as “perfect.” But in yours, Gloria Estefan’s Ingrid and Andy Garcia’s Billy are on the verge of getting a divorce. Why did you choose to divert from the story this way?
This project was completed quickly. It was a project that I had been working on before COVID. I met with it just before COVID and pitched it and got it during COVID. I also wrote it during COVID. From the very first meetings, I felt that Warner Brothers felt the exact same way. Yes, it would have brought something new because of the Latino, immigrant, and Cuban experiences. But I think just as the way that the Spencer Tracy version from the ’50s was kind of the Father of the Bride of its time, and Steve Martin was the Father of the Bride at its time, I was like, “What is it about our time?”
There is a moment at every marriage. It doesn’t have a Cuban theme, but it is at the reception. After the bride and groom have had a dance, the father of the bride has had his dance, and the bride and groom have danced together. The band invites everyone to the reception, and this is where you can see the beauty and romance in all its stages. From the couples who have been together for 30 years to the couple that hooked up at the rehearsal dinner the night before.
I started to think about the fact that, as great as Diane Keaton — an all-time comedian actor — she doesn’t have much to do in [the 1991 version of the] movie. I felt compelled to learn more about the mother-to-be and began to think about the relationship. [It’s] tells a love story about the parents of the bride that is unlike any previous versions. “Can the parents of the bride, whose marriage is basically falling apart when their daughter says, ‘Surprise, I’m getting married,’ by going through the motions of putting their daughter’s wedding together, can they sort of fall back in love?”
How did you get Gloria Estefan and Andy Garcia onboard?
I have to admit, I wrote it with them in mind. I knew that Andy wanted it from the beginning. They felt he was the perfect person for it. Plan B, who was the producer, and Warner Brothers wanted to cast it authentically in the sense that Cuban actors were Mexican actors, and Mexican actors as Cubans. It’s not a long list, is it? This is just for starters. Andy received it and, to our great fortune, he immediately replied to it. Andy is actually the one who brought Gloria aboard. He sent her an email saying, “I’m going to send you a Script,” and she responded immediately. They have been friends for a long time. It was so nice.
And then how did Adria Arjona and Diego Boneta come into the fold?
Gaz Arazraki gets a lot credit for this. He is the director of the film. It’s a Cuban American family marring a Mexican American family. That was something I wanted to show. It’s improving, but there are a lot of television and film depictions of Latinos that make it seem like we’re a monolithic or uniculture. I wanted to celebrate the unity and commonalities of Latinos but also have some fun with some of their differences. It worked perfectly in the sense that Paul, our production manager, is Cuban while Gaz, Gaz’s Mexican counterpart, is Mexican. He knew Adria. Adria is Puertoriquena so I don’t know how she knew Adria. However, Adria grew up in Mexico for part of her childhood. Diego is a Mexican star who has made a name for himself through his film and television work. It was the first time I saw it in an audience. Every time he appeared, there was a kind squeal from the women in the audience. He’s amazing at it. He is charming and so winning. They are both very similar. It’s a wonderful couple.
What took the most care to get this story right?
It was a few things. It was a feeling of “Look, there aren’t many opportunities for these films” or for an all Latino cast, predominantly Latino filmmakers and so forth. There is definitely a sense that there is responsibility. It’s something you think about for a second, then let go. You’ll end up in the ditch if you write like this, with your head on the shoulders of all the Latinos in the media. That was a quick lesson for me.
Then, I was writing it myself for my family. I love the Steve Martin version, but I also love the Spencer Tracy version. It’s amazing. It’s so good. The sister of the bride is a very large character. There is a tio. There is an abuela. It’s a more complete ensemble than previous Father Of The Bride , which were primarily about the bride and the father. It was difficult to find a way that would allow you to tell all the stories while still paying attention to the prize, which was the father and the bride. I have a lot of colored index card that I carry with me. They all represent different acts. Each character was like a different color card. It was my way to ensure that I was servicing all these stories.
How did you balance wanting to pay homage to the Steve Martin and Spencer Tracy versions while creating your own, unique version?
There were elements that felt so integral to the DNA of Father of the Bride , that you had it. The first version included a wedding planner. The Steve Martin version featured Martin Short’s legendary performance as a wedding planner. We had to have a wedding planner. Chloe Fineman is amazing in this role and is just a lot fun. That’s an element that was like “Let’s do it”. There was never any question. There were elements that, in some way, paid homage to the original, but subverted it a bit.
In the Spencer Tracy version, there is a scene in which he takes off his old suit to fit into an old tux. [With] Steve Martin took that scene and did the same thing. Gaz, the director, and me used to talk about “Let’s squeeze Gloria in the dress.” She’s such an amazing sport that she managed to squeeze into the dress. So there’s an element of the previous movies, but it’s a little different. The third category is the things you’re talking of that are completely new. I found it hilarious to imagine that the bride’s parents are at the brink and must hide it from their daughter. It allowed me to add a bit of humor to the movie. They pretend to be still in love to get this girl across the aisle.
Did you get any notes or pushback from the studio?
No. There are always notes. This is the first time that I have ever seen a script’s first draft get approved. We are making this movie. Gaz’s contribution, which I thought was very good, was that this movie is more of an ensemble. Gaz was very clear about the movie’s core — it’s about a father/daughter relationship. I could run off with Tio Walter or go over to Tio Walter for a bit. Gaz was also very good about Father-of-the Bride: The prize. That was a great compliment. It was all in the normal realms of producer and studio notes, but there was never any pushback. They were completely supportive of the film’s uniqueness and its embrace culture.
What would it take for you to consider this movie a success?
People [have come] up to me unsolicited to say, “I can’t wait for my kids to see this movie.” Or, “I can’t wait for my parents to see this movie.” Anytime you take on a title like Father the Bride, it’s a much-beloved title, you do think about that. It’s not clear if this will hold up. It’s a completely different media landscape. From the earliest stages, this was always going to HBO Max. Warner Brothers was all in on HBO max before we shot a single frame of film. It’s difficult for people to find movies these days. If people can watch it and have fun with it, that’s what I would consider success. We’ve all been through a difficult couple of years. Another nice thing was the number of people approaching me and saying “We need this movie right away.” We need to have a good time. We need to have fun. We need to have fun and remember what it was like to be at a wedding with your crazy relatives.” That is what I consider success.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
Father of the Bride is now streaming on HBO Max.
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