All good reunions should involve an abundance of laughter and tears, and there were certainly both recently when EW reunited the cast of the 1997 blockbuster My Best Friend’s Wedding in Los Angeles. Star Julia Roberts, 51, and her titular BFF Dermot Mulroney, 55 (close pals in real life), arrived together and immediately wanted to get down to business.
“Let’s go see Cameron,” Roberts exclaimed excitedly while dragging Mulroney by the arm. Then came the laughter. Roberts and Cameron Diaz, 46, have, arguably, two of the best laughs in Hollywood, and their joy echoed throughout the photo studio. It only got more giggly when costar Rupert Everett, 59 — who played George, Roberts’ character’s gay wingman — arrived. The group’s buzzy, infectious energy is part of what has cemented Wedding’s status as a rom-com classic.
“People come up to me and just say, “My Best Friend’s Wedding!” and I’m like, “Aww,” says Diaz. “It’s just this joyous feeling that you get off of them. I appreciate that so much.” Mulroney is even moved to tears when talking about the film. “I think about these guys every day,” he admits. “Because people come up to me and they bring up this movie every day for the last 22 years.”
My Best Friend’s Wedding tells the story of food critic (and large-cell-phone owner) Julianne Potter (Roberts), who discovers her bestie Michael (Mulroney) is marrying pastel-loving rich Chicago college student Kimmy (Cameron Diaz). The revelation sends her into a jealousy-fueled revenge plot to steal Michael back and ruin the wedding (Julianne and Michael had “one hot month” in college but have been platonic ever since).
Wedding, which can be downloaded on Amazon Prime or iTunes, stands apart from other films in the genre for its mixture of both sweet and sour, particularly in its choice to have America’s Sweetheart, Roberts, play the rather villainous Julianne.
“Romantic comedy is a really difficult genre,” says director P.J. Hogan, who was interviewed separately from the cast. “I think what kills romantic comedies is they often feel prepackaged or like frozen food that hasn’t quite thawed — they’re just not really fresh. But when I see the film, it’s still got a snap to it. When it’s funny, it’s really funny, and the actors all glow. And I think Julia was extraordinary in the lead role. I mean, who else could’ve pulled that off?”
EW brought together the Wedding party to talk about the film, catfights, and, oh yes, karaoke.
My Best Friend’s Wedding was shot on location in Chicago in the summer of 1996 under the direction of Hogan, who had a breakout sleeper hit with 1995’s Muriel’s Wedding, and with a script by Oscar winner Ronald Bass (Rain Man). It was a return to the genre that had made Roberts a star with 1990’s Pretty Woman and provided major roles for newcomer Diaz, who made her debut in 1994’s The Mask, and Everett.
JULIA ROBERTS: I just thought it was really clever and just funny. All the physical comedy I loved. Lots of falling down and falling through things, falling all over myself, falling over Dermot. The scene, for me, that made it feel so authentic and earnest is when I finally tell Dermot’s character, “Pick me. Let me make you happy.” Just that line: That’s just so succinct and sweet and meaningful.
DERMOT MULRONEY: I liked that he was the lead in the movie and Julia Roberts liked him. I liked those, like, obvious elements, but he had his own little story. He was a sportswriter and he was in love in ways that many people still argue with me about. I wouldn’t give this movie up for anything.
CAMERON DIAZ: Yeah. I mean, I was considering turning it down. No, I’m kidding. I got to work with these folks and Julia. It was, like, a huge break for me.
MULRONEY: I’ve worked in Chicago a lot since then, and that city loves this movie. It’s incredible.
DIAZ: My sister-in-law [Nicole Richie] is obsessed with this movie. We went to Chicago, like, a year and a half ago, and she took me to every single [location]. She’s like, “Remember when you were walking down the street right here and then…” It was so much fun. I was like, “Yes, I think I do.” She’s like, “I do, and it really means a lot to me, so I would like for you to pretend like you do.”
RUPERT EVERETT: When I got the part, it was literally two lines in the script. I thought it was kind of a career-icide move at first. P.J. Hogan made me test, like, three or four times for the film. I kept saying, “P.J., what can I do? There’s nothing I can do.”
ROBERTS: You sound like you didn’t want it.
EVERETT: And so I came in with quite a bad attitude, in a way. What was the point, I thought. But it was a complete changing point for me.
MULRONEY: And for our film culture, Rupert. It was a changing point for that, too.
EVERETT: But we all got on so well straightaway. And everybody clicked on screen straightaway, and you could feel that. And for me, it was magical. But the last time I saw it, it kind of made me cry just thinking of how magic that time was, that summer.
Julianne makes many different attempts at sabotage, but perhaps the most mortifying is a karaoke-bar triple date between her, Michael, and vocally challenged Kimmy.
P.J. HOGAN: We staged it as a real karaoke song, where the lyrics appear in front of you on all the monitors. So I shot it live. Cameron just botched her way through the song, and the worse she got, the better the scene was. But then Cameron was so game that the applause started to become real.
DIAZ: I was terrified to do that scene, for real. I allowed the true terror of singing in front of people to be alive in me. I wanted to run and hide, and Dermot kept me there. He said, “You can do it, you can do it.” In the scene I’m just staring at him the whole time because he’s looking at me like, “You’re okay. You’re not gonna die.” And I was like, “But I’m dying.”
EVERETT: It’s an amazing scene because it turns around from being ridiculous to suddenly being incredibly moving. [Michael and Kimmy] fall in love more and [Julianne] becomes more isolated in her plotting.
ROBERTS: I need to watch this movie again. I don’t remember feeling isolated in my plotting. [Looks at Everett] I had you.
EVERETT: I hadn’t arrived back then — you were on your own.
DIAZ: And Julianne also knew that I didn’t want to sing, and she made me sing.
ROBERTS I just was trying to be encouraging. All right?
Director Hogan injected a heavy dose of musicality into the film, a defining characteristic of Muriel’s Wedding, too. One of the most iconic moments is a scene in which George bursts into Burt Bacharach’s “I Say a Little Prayer” at a seafood restaurant in front of Julianne, Michael, Kimmy, and the wedding party.
HOGAN: I really wanted to give George a lot more….I’d always wanted to do a scene at a restaurant. I was talking with my wife and I just said, “What if he was to lead a big singalong — what would be a song that everybody knows?” We realized that everybody seems to know at least most of the lyrics to quite a few Bacharach songs.
EVERETT: P.J. only wrote that scene just before the movie started. [It wasn’t written] when I got the script originally. And then when the movie started, P.J. invented the scene.
DIAZ: And the best part of it was when they started handing out the bibs. And we were all like, “What?” We were like, “Is this happening?” They’re like, “Yeah.”
EVERETT: And then that night, I went back with you [looks at Roberts] on the Warner jet to New York, and then I thought I was living the dream.
One of the film’s quieter, more sweetly moving moments occurs shortly after the seafood restaurant. Julianne and Michael take a ferry ride around Chicago and share one last dance.
MULRONEY: We’re going under numerous bridges, so pretty much every bridge or maybe every other, somebody leans down and yells, “Julia!” during the filming. We’d either pause or just blaze through like you do. Then, like the eighth trip down the river somebody yells, “Hey, Dermot!” and I was like, “Yes!” I look up and it’s, like, a friend from college, which didn’t really count. I go, “Hi, John.”
After Wedding wrapped, it faced some harsh test screenings, which sent production back into reshoots. The film’s ending (originally Julianne found love with a wedding guest played by John Corbett) and a bathroom encounter between Julianne and Kimmy underwent major changes.
HOGAN: Once I knew that the studio would pay [to reshoot] the last scene, I thought, “There were a couple of other scenes I think sucked — we best do a better job.” The first bathroom scene just didn’t work at all. The way it originally played was Cameron’s character just forgave Julianne almost immediately. I remember on set, Cameron kept saying, “I don’t know why I’m forgiving her, I just want to punch her. She almost ruined my life.”
DIAZ: I think it just kind of revealed that it was needed. When the movie was put together, everybody kind of just went, “It wasn’t good for her character to not have [her moment], you know?”
ROBERTS: Yeah, we needed a little bit more of an adversary.
DIAZ: If Kimmy didn’t stand up for herself, it felt different for the end of the story. It wasn’t as gratifying.
ROBERTS Nor was the original ending that we filmed. It was not as gratifying.
HOGAN: The focus group didn’t want Julianne to have a happy ending. They still hadn’t forgiven her. They just weren’t ready for her to end up in the arms of another guy. I thought the answer was George, because the film really worked when Rupert was on camera. Rupert and Julia’s chemistry is so great.
EVERETT: When I read the [final scene] I couldn’t believe it. It’s beautiful. The whole end is so wonderful and tragic in a way. It’s very, very moving. And that’s another thing in the film: It’s a comedy, but it’s got things that are really, really touching and moving.
HOGAN: One of the studio executives called it “the $40 million reshoot.” I said, “But it didn’t cost $40 million.” He said, “No, that’s what you’ve added to your box office.”
My Best Friend’s Wedding opened on June 20, 1997, to $21 million and ended up with a domestic gross of $127 million. Mulroney and Diaz believe Michael and Kimmy are still living happily ever after.
MULRONEY: It supports the whole theory that it’s the right girl for him, right guy for her, you know?
EVERETT: I think George and Julianne are a little bit like Will and Grace.
ROBERTS: We’re not living together. But I live across the street.