Interview: David Dobkin: "Crashing" His Way to Hollywood Success
by Scott Juba
Published: January 12, 2006
It’s not often that an R-rated movie tops $100 million at the domestic box-office. Director David Dobkin’s “Wedding Crashers” defied the odds and grossed over $200 million, proving there’s still a place for raunchy comedies in Hollywood.
“If you make something that’s really good, and it says something, and it’s of our time, we’re going to go find it [regardless of its rating],” Dobkin says. “We’re all the same audience. [Wedding Crashers] was a movie that was really funny, but it was also about one thing that is very relevant right now, which is what Vince says in the beginning of the movie that I’ve always loved, which is voicing our cynicism. Half of the marriages don’t work. And you’re like, ‘Well, he’s kind of right.’ And then you have the fairytale of love at first sight with Owen. Then we’re able to debunk our fears and go back into the fairytale and go, ‘Oh yes, but we do believe in love.’ That’s very timely now.”
“Wedding Crashers” is now available on DVD in an “uncorked” edition that features over eight minutes of footage not seen in theatres. Although many of these scenes are hilarious, Dobkin says he wasn’t hesitant about cutting them from the theatrical version. “We actually took most of those scenes out pretty early on in the edit,” he tells me. “It’s better to be ruthless up front than to sit there and pull your hair out throughout the entire process. After all these years, I tend not to be too precious about scenes in a scene-by-scene kind of way. Ultimately, anything that doesn’t push the story forward – which can mean learning something new about a character in a scene or something that happens that’s a new piece of information that we need to know – anything that doesn’t contain one or the other literally makes the story stop.”
Dobkin’s attention to detail went beyond the pacing of the film. He hired a wedding planner to add authenticity to each of the weddings featured in the movie. “There’s kind of this whimsical concept that these guys get away with so much at a wedding that one of the things I bet the farm on is that I could entertain people enough that they were going to forgive the lack of reality. These guys are actually toasting people at their own wedding. And I’m not a big wedding person. I’ve never been to a lot of weddings. I really wanted to make sure that everything else looked totally authentic so that the only thing I was bending was comedic and just had to do with the entertainment value of who these guys are at weddings and parties.”
During the shooting of the film, Dobkin and the cast stuck closely to script for some scenes and deviated from it in others. “The dinner table scene at the Cleary’s house is almost 95 percent scripted exactly the way it was written originally,” he says. “Vince [Vaughn] threw a couple of adlibs in during shooting – maybe three or four lines – but the rest of it was in the original screenplay. In other cases, we took the scenes and took a loose attack towards them. The confession scene with the priest was something that we had worked on, we had tried to script, we had written it out a bunch of times with the writers, and Vince had done some improvisations that I transcribed into script again. Then when we hit the day, we knew what he had to talk about…and from there we just rolled film and Vince did do a lot of improvisation. He knew the beats he had to hit in the scene as an actor, and as a director, I knew where we were going. You let him run. He’s a thoroughbred, and you open him up on the track. The track has been set, but you let him take his momentum and pace and perform.”
“Wedding Crashers” is the second film Dobkin has done with both Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn (he directed Wilson in “Shanghai Knights” and Vaughn in “Clay Pigeons”). “I only work with these guys,” Dobkin jokes. “I love these guys.”
And while Dobkin probably will team up with Wilson and Vaughn again in the future, Adam Sandler will star in Dobkin’s next directorial effort, which will hit theatres in the summer of 2007. Based on a true story, the comedy focuses on two straight firefighters who join into a same-sex union because of an insurance loophole that would prevent one of the men’s children from receiving his pension if he doesn’t have a spouse. “It’s a really smart, really intelligent comedy,” he says. “It’s a cool adventure to be taking with Adam, because it’s a role he hasn’t really played before, and it’s a subject matter that quite honestly is hard to get people into the theatre to see. It’ll be super challenging for Sandler’s audience on a certain level, and I think that’s really exciting. You’ve got to take risks.”
The subject matter of his upcoming film may be risky, but studio executives aren’t likely to shy away from greenlighting a David Dobkin film. Given the enormous success of “Shanghai Knights” and “Wedding Crashers,” it’s obvious that Dobkin knows the formula for movie-making success.