Jay Lavender went to a wedding in Vicksburg, Mississippi, when he was a child. The July wedding left an impression.
“It was an August wedding” Lavender said. “We stayed in a hotel in Vicksburg. The pool was hotter than a hot bath. I remember thinking this water is really hot to my skin.”
It’s a memory that Lavender shares with me through laughter.
Lavender can now look back on this wedding memory with pride as he has now co-written a movie about weddings with Jeremy Garelick, a producer, writer, director best known for writing the movie “The Break-Up,” which he co-wrote with Lavender and Vince Vaughn.
“The Wedding Ringer” stars Kevin Hart and Josh Gad.
Lavender is quick to point out that Los Angeles is all make believe.
“As long as you remember that L.A. is make believe then you have a chance out there,” Lavender said. “Los Angeles has no bugs and no humidity. It is not like the South at all, which is very different. The Alabama and Mississippi corridor are places that time has forgotten.”
He explains the simplicity of the South.
“The South sees the world in black and white,” he added. “But the world is not black and white. It has many shades of gray in it.”
The Chicago native admits that women have a different experience with weddings than men do. Garelick and Lavender kept that in mind as the two of them wrote the screenplay.
How did a script about weddings come to the mind of the little boy that was scarred in a pool of hot water at a southern wedding that he attended as a child?
“I laughed when Jeremy pitched me the idea,” Lavender said. “I was 26 years old when he pitched it to me. I was at the age where I was experiencing a lot of weddings. It had a smart clever slant to it.”
He admits that he has not known in his real life a groom that needed to hire someone to pose as his best man.
“That is the movie buy in,” Lavender said. “You are asking the audience to buy into this idea that is in every movie. In ‘The Wedding Ringer,’ you are asking: what if there were a professional best man?”
It was Garelick who had the real-life best-man experience.
“Jeremy had a friend who needed a best man,” Lavender said. “This caused him to have this what if. I imagined a guy that wanted to pull a wedding so the bride-to-be could see them in the best light. I think that weddings have become a business with a lot of different pressures about how the wedding looks.
“We make fun of certain elements of the wedding with the goal to tell a story about friendship and that you should marry someone for the right reason.”
“The Wedding Ringer” appeals to women and men.
“It is told from a guy perspective,” Lavender said. “I think women enjoy seeing things from a guy’s perspective. The audience goes along with Doug because they don’t want her to marry for the wrong reasons.
“People marry for a business decision and for pro-creation. Doug was lonely and wanted someone to pay attention to him.”
Lavender began writing the movie when he was 26 years old.
It took 14 years, 10 paid drafts over the years and countless non-paid drafts for “The Wedding Ringer” to become a movie in the theaters. Lavender sees it as a surreal experience.
The story took its own direction for the two screenwriters.
“In order to root for our character and to understand why he would go to these lengths of marrying someone he shouldn’t marry, we had to leave him single at the end of the movie,” Lavender added. “It became the story of someone needing to find a true friend and discovering friendship and learning more about himself.”
Lavender likes for his writing to take the audience on a fun ride that leaves them learning something or adding value in their life. He does not want to create mindless entertainment.
“I like to jump genres,” Lavender said. “If something grabs me, then it consumes me at that time. My best work is ahead of me.”
Lavender is currently developing a pilot with Ryan Seacrest for ABC with comedian Gabriel Iglesias.
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