THE WEEK OF
When the families of a soon-to-be-married couple come together a week before the big day, a series of mishaps threatens to turn the fairy-tale wedding into a nightmare, much to the dismay of the bride’s doting, working class father, who is determined to pay for everything and not take a penny from the groom’s deep-pocketed dad.
The new comedy from Happy Madison Productions, THE WEEK OF puts a big-hearted spin on the classic wedding movie, featuring a wide ranging crew of characters who contend with cantankerous relatives, five-foot bottles of booze, penis-shaped lipsticks, and a bat-infested City Hall. In his fourth film with Netflix, Sandler leads a cast that includes : Chris Rock (who recently released his Netflix stand-up special Tamborine) , Rachel Dratch (S NL , That’s My Boy ), and Steve Buscemi (T he Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire) . Longtime Sandler collaborator Robert Smigel (S NL , Jack and Jill) makes his feature directorial debut, working from a script he wrote with Sandler, who also produces. Adam Sandler and Allen Covert produced with Barry Bernardi, Tim Herlihy and Kevin Grady serving as Executive Producers.
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
Adam Sandler and Robert Smigel have worked together for 28 years, collaborating on almost as many projects, including Saturday Night Live (where they first met in 1990), You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, Jack and Jill , and the animated Hotel Transylvania films. They are close friends with a similar comedic sensibility who are each other’s go-to sounding board for sketching out new movie concepts. “We bounce ideas around a lot,” says Smigel, who is also known for creating and voicing Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. “Adam pitched two ideas to me in late 2016. We fleshed out both of them and settled on The Week Of , which at the core was Adam’s pitch of the middle-class father of the bride determined to pay for the wedding on his own without help from the richer dad.”
The story opens five days before a young couple, Sarah (Allison Strong) and Tyler (Roland Buck III), tie the knot. For the ceremony, the bride’s budget-constrained contractor dad, Kenny Lustig (Sandler), books the local Quality Lodge, a chain hotel that looks like it was last renovated during the Electric Slide era. Ceilings leak, guest rooms are dank, and the wryly eccentric manager (Nasser Faris) has no intention of fixing any of it. Dr. Kirby Cordice (Chris Rock), the groom’s high-roller heart surgeon father from L.A., offers to foot the bill and move the party to the ritzy Plaza Hotel in Manhattan, but Kenny won’t hear of it. As a result relatives from both sides begin to pour into the Lustigs’s modest Long Island home. When Kenny’s 87-year-old WWII veteran uncle Seymour goes into a coma after overindulging at the bachelor party, that turns out to be the least of his problems.
The idea of a movie that finds laughs in the chaos leading up to a wedding is what Sandler liked when he was first brainstorming the movie. “I t’s the actual fun of having families get to know each other and see if they like each other or not and then eventually clicking—sort of, ” Sandler says. Smigel said “This is primarily a movie about the dads, and so I thought a little about Planes, Trains & Automobiles and started imagining Adam’s character as a determinedly genial guy (a little like John Candy) who doesn’t want to let the cracks show as things fall apart over the course of the week.”
THE WEEK OF manages to tap into heartfelt emotions amid all the mayhem: Kenny is a dad trying to do right by his daughter as she prepares to leave the nest, and Kirby wants to make amends for being an absent father to his own kids. “I think lots of good comedies have
emotional character arcs, and in this case, it was fairly easy because the entire plot was rooted in the essential character flaws of Kenny and Kirby,” Smigel explains. “So we didn’t have to ‘find’ the emotional arcs and shoehorn them into the story like some movies do.”
Sandler and Smigel wrote the screenplay with certain performers in mind. For Kirby, they knew they wanted Chris Rock, another comedian friend from way back in the day. (All three worked together at SNL in the 1990s.) They only had one concern: In a cast of outrageous characters, Kirby was the “normal” one. “We were worried about confining him to a straight man role,” Smigel says. “It’s a different energy for Rock, more reactive…a little more like real-life Chris than you normally see. But we found places to give him funny lines. … Because his character doesn’t really connect with anyone else in the film, it worked to give him acerbic observational comments throughout the film. And we also discovered it’s fun to see Chris Rock get hurt once in a while.”
Another character conceived with a specific actor in mind was Kenny’s oddball brother Charles, who rolls into town with massive bottles of Absolut, Kahlua, and Chivas Regal fit for a giant’s wedding. (“Duty free!” Charles proclaims, beaming.) Steve Buscemi, who’s appeared in Sandler’s movies since 1995’s Billy Madison, plays him. “Buscemi’s part was written entirely for him, and I can’t imagine anyone else in that role,” Smigel explains. Sandler and Rock, meanwhile, knew they had to raise their game when Buscemi was on set. “He’s really into the acting part of it,” Rock says. “He’s tough acting, that Buscemi.” Adds Sandler: “He reminds you on occasion that he’s a better actor than you. When you’re shooting a scene and you look deep in his eyes and they call ‘Cut!’ and then he says, ‘I’m a better actor than you,’ that’s when you go, ‘This guy’s trying to say something.’”
Rounding out the cast is yet another familiar face from the Happy Madison moviescape,
Rachel Dratch. In her fifth pairing with Sandler, she plays Debbie Lustig, the bride’s benevolently clueless mom who interrupts Kirby in the middle of open-heart surgery to ask him about the risks of potentially salmonella-tainted peppermint bark and drizzled peanut brittle. “Rachel Dratch is a great wife for many reasons,” Sandler says. “Funny as hell, loveable, made me look like I’m six seven because I think Rachel is about, what, four feet?” Chiming in Rock adds, “Good lady. She is a funny, funny lady.”
“Rachel was always one of my favorite SNL performers because she’s just a natural clown who could never be too broad for me on that show,” Smigel says. “For this, she had to play a character who listens to the other people in the scene, which is often not a requirement on a live sketch show! And she pulls it off while still being the lovable goofball she always is.”
Over the years, Smigel has written, produced, or appeared in some of Sandler’s most successful movies. It was only here, with THE WEEK OF, that he finally agreed to add a new title to his long list of credits: director. “Adam has asked me to direct over the years, and I’ve always resisted,” he says. “I’m a writer first, and I liked writing and then coming to the set at my leisure and offering notes to Adam. I also never felt like my directing would help the movies much because, in most comedies, the best directors are the ones you don’t notice. You’re supporting the jokes and not calling attention to your cool camera shots. And there are plenty of people who do that very well. But for this one, Adam said he wanted it to feel a little different, a little more vérité, like an independent film, and that sounded like a fun challenge.”
So in place of a glossy romp filmed on brightly-lit studios, THE WEEK OF shot almost entirely on location in various parts of Long Island, New York. The Lustigs’ abode was a real house and it served as a cramped, but happy home base for the production. “It forced everyone to be close to each other at all times,” Smigel explains. “It was harder to hide in a dressing room or in the trailers. Everyone hung out in the backyard and our Italian neighbors made cannolis and cookies for us every day. The film was shot in sequence, so if some of the actors look like they’re getting fatter over the course of the week, that’s why.”
Once the cameras started rolling, a buoyant energy defined the set, as Sandler, Rock, and the rest of the cast fell into a comfortable groove. “W e had a great time!” Sandler says. “It’s a different looking movie—it looks different than stuff I’ve done in the past. Our buddy Robert Smigel, he’s a very funny genius of a man. We did some shooting differently than usual—long takes, three-minute scenes where we had to know our stuff.” (“We actually had to know our lines in this movie,” Rock quips.) While the movie was tightly scripted, there was always room for improvisation. One of Sandler and Rock’s favorite improvised scenes takes place in Kenny’s car, when Kirby just wants to get some rest after a red-eye flight and Kenny won’t turn on the air conditioning to make the ride more comfortable. “I loved that!” Rock says. “I try to keep Sandler on his toes.” Which he does—and then some, according to Sandler. “He
throws in random stuff all the time. He gives you about 60 options of jokes. He says it and we put it in there.”
As for Smigel, stepping up to the director’s chair for the first time on a feature film turned out to be less nerve-wracking than he anticipated. “It was one of the most fun experiences I’ve had in all these years of showbizzery,” he says. “I had expected that the responsibility of directing, rather than just getting to show up and correct the few things you want to fix, would make the whole experience more tense. But the cast was so talented, I rarely had to give an acting note to anyone.” Then there was the all-star crew. “I had a brilliant DP, Federico Cesca, who completely understood what we were going for and helped come up with shots that supported it. David Thompson, our “a” cameraman, was incredibly skilled, and I leaned on his knowledge as well, and of course, Adam’s. So I had all that, and (EP) Barry Bernadi provided a crew that was so professional, there were times when I actually felt like I didn’t even need to be there and the movie would be fine. But I hung around anyway cuz the food was so good.”
Well, that and maybe one other tiny reason. In a key sequence, Sandler, Dratch, and Buscemi are huddled on a staircase, discussing a typically nutty solution for the latest calamity. “I had one of those moments where I’m watching them do it perfectly, funnier than I’d imagined, and I suddenly felt like a contest winner, getting to watch three actors I’ve loved for years perform a scene I’d submitted as an entry,” Smigel says. “I can usually act like I know what I’m doing. But watching people that good snaps you back into remembering how lucky you are to get to do this kind of stuff.”
THE WEEK OF will premiere globally on Netflix on April 27, 2018.