FAULT Focus: Justin Zackham & Clay Pecorin, director and producer of The Big Wedding

big wedding press shot

Robert Di Niro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, Robin Williams and FAULT Issue 12 star Topher Grace to name but a few — this summer’s The Big Wedding features one of the best ensemble casts in recent memory. We discuss the family driven romantic comedy with Justin Zackham (writer of 2007’s The Bucket List starring Jack Nicholson) and Clay Pecorin, life-long best friends and business partners of the production company behind the film: from inception to casting to unorthodox wedding cake sourcing, they describe the creative process.

Justin Zackham – writer & director of The Big Wedding

FAULT: How did you get such a cast together?
Justin: “Diane said yes very quickly. Then a shot in the dark – De Niro. He said yes. We thought: ‘You’ve got to be kidding.’ After that it was just silly. Turns out, if you have Diane and Robert in your movie, other actors want to be in it.”

What was the timespan of the film’s creation?
Justin: “Four-and-a half-years.”
Clay: “After Bob said yes it got put together very quickly. We went into prep a week-and-a-half after. We couldn’t wait.”

Where did the idea for the film come from?
Justin: “There’s a French film called Mon frère se marie about divorced but amicable parents pretending to be married for the weekend of their son’s wedding. I thought that was a great entree to make a fun film about family.”

Your production company seeks conventional and alternative financing. What does this mean?
Clay: “For instance, we raised $50,000 in free cakes by going on a show called ‘The Cake Boss’, run by a very famous US chef. We basically made fools of ourselves in return for him making the wedding cakes.”

FAULT Issue 12 star Topher Grace alongside Big Wedding cast mate Ben Barnes

Are you side-by-side as director/producer?
Justin: “Clay and I’s joke as a partnership is he can’t read and I can’t count. I’ll write, Clay will say ‘Here’s where I think we can get the money.’ He doesn’t have a creative bone in his body! [But] the truth is we put this movie together; Millennium [Films] came in after we had some cast on board.
Clay: “Justin’s behind the camera; I’m having conversations with the union guys, the camera guys, trying to figure who has to be on set when. During prep I’m involved in everything from budget to location to negotiating the deals to rent the house to make-up and hair. During the shoot there are problems that exist that Justin doesn’t want or need to be aware of. We’re there to service the director. And if we didn’t accomplish that, because Justin’s my friend and business partner, I don’t give a shit.”
Justin: [Laughing] “I never knew of any problems throughout the shoot — the mark of a great producer.”

Was working with De Niro nerve-wracking?
Justin: “I had lunch with him first, in a restaurant he owns, in a building he owns… Intimidating, but he’s a lovely guy: softly spoken and shy. I took a bunch of directors out for lunch beforehand – Nancy Myers [Something’s Gotta Give], Judd Apatow [Girls], James Mangold [Walk The Line] — to ask, ‘What do you wish someone had told you before you did your first big movie?’ The answer: ‘Great actors want to be directed’. If you’re afraid, they know it. We had one rehearsal and Susan had questions about the script. We got into a half-hour discussion, while Bob and Diane were in the corner – I said: ‘Susan, we’re wasting an enormous amount of time. I’ll write ten versions of this for you tonight. Tomorrow we’ll start from scratch — but I want to do the rehearsal now.’ She was like, ‘Ok.’ There was definitely a moment of testing what kind of director I was. ‘Is he gonna be a pushover?'”

Robert De Niro – can (apparently) smell directors’ fear…

Were you wary of critics’ aversion to remakes/romantic comedies?
Justin: “Sure, but that doesn’t factor. The minute you make a movie for critics you may as well pack up. I hope critics like it. I know audiences like it. But you don’t look at it like that. You think: ‘What am I interested in spending the next few years of my life on?’ And not many film critics make movies, it turns out.”

The Big Wedding hits UK screens later this month

Words by Jamie Tabberer