Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

THE ARTS | MOVIES

The naked and the wed

Improv ruled the set of `Confetti,' a sendup of the British wedding industry.

September 14, 2006|Susan King | Times Staff Writer

THERE are not many filmmakers who would strip down to their birthday suit to direct, but that's exactly what Debbie Isitt did for her new comedy, "Confetti," which opens Friday.

The reason she frequently worked in the nude was because two characters in the improvised mockumentary about three couples planning their dream weddings are naturists.

"We shared the humility," the British director said. "I got naked during the shoot for their bit to help them. That was hideously embarrassing for me. I'm not that kind of person. I still get undressed with the light off at home, so that was really hard. But when they asked if I would.... And it was absolutely freezing. It was October and November and we were pretending it was summer."

"Confetti" is an affectionate sendup of the wedding industry in England. It follows what happens when the country's leading glamour wedding magazine -- the aptly titled and completely fictional Confetti -- announces a competition in which three engaged couples are given six weeks to plan elaborate weddings for a chance to win a dream house.

Martin Freeman, of the British version of "The Office," and Jessica Stevenson play couple No. 1 -- hard-working, middle-class lovebirds who want their wedding to be fashioned after a Busby Berkeley musical of the 1930s.

Stephen Mangan and Meredith MacNeill play couple No. 2 -- obnoxious, competitive tennis players who want their Wimbledon-theme wedding to feature dancing ball boys.

Robert Webb and Olivia Colman are couple No. 3 -- the naturists who want to shed their clothes for their ceremony, much to the chagrin of the magazine's editor (Felicity Montagu).

Planning all three weddings with the couples is a flamboyant team, life partners Heron (Vincent Franklin) and Hough (Jason Watkins).

Isitt started playing with the idea of doing an improvisational movie when she directed her first feature, "Nasty Neighbours," which she adapted from her own play. She found herself frequently throwing out the script and letting the actors expand on what she had written.

She then experimented with a completely improvised short film, "Tribute," about a tribute act to a 1960s rock duo. "There is a big show in England called 'Stars in Their Eyes,' where you go on and impersonate your favorite idol," she said. "So I said, 'Let's try and get you on the show for real, passing you off as a real act.' I filmed the endeavor for three months and the material was so fantastic. Nobody knew they were real actors. It was just a joy to work like that."

It took her a while to find the right cast for "Confetti."

"Some actors just freeze when they have to say their own lines," she said. "I tried to cast to type as much as possible because with this kind of work when you are in character all day, every day, you end up drawing on yourself. There is a limit to how much you can invent. We found actors who are a bit like these characters so they can develop into fully fledged characters."

Isitt had only the actors playing the couples meet briefly before cameras began to roll.

"The whole point is that the activity of what you are engaging in the only important thing," she said. "This is all about getting something done. They had to get on and plan their weddings for real. I said, 'A wedding day is set, people will be coming, the ceremony has to be good and get on it with. You only have six weeks.' "

As the wedding planners, Watkins and Franklin believe they had the most fun of all the actors in the film.

"Me, Vince and the couples invented, shaped, planned and decided what those weddings would be," Watkins said. Working within a set budget for each wedding, they visited florists, dress designers and wedding cake makers in order to create the ceremonies with the six actors playing the would-be brides and grooms. Once the themes were selected, the film's production and costume designers began to work on the ceremonies.

Before filming started, Watkins and Franklin created an elaborate back story for their characters.

"We worked out who we were and who their families were," Watkins said. "We figured out that Vince's brother married my sister and that's how we met. He had a kind of background in event management and I had a background in fashion. It was very important for us to believe we were a couple. Because my character is a lot more camp than Vince's -- and we are both straight playing a gay couple -- we wanted to do it properly and accurate and loving."

Because the entire film was improvised, the actors never really knew what was going to happen around the corner -- especially in a scene in which Hough and Heron are demonstrating their ideas for dancing ball boys on a tennis court to the competitive couple. During the sequence, Mangan and Jesus de Miguel, a real-life tennis pro who plays their coach in the movie, get into a fight.

"I assumed, as most actors, that when I would step into the improvisation and say [as my character], 'Come on, lads, break it up,' they would back off," Franklin said.

But they didn't.

"They were really going for it. So I really did have to pin [Mangan] to the ground. My glasses really did get broken."

Watkins and Franklin also decided their characters should go the Full Monty themselves to participate in the naturists' wedding.

"It felt right," Watkins said.

Franklin believes that the wedding planners are the most solid couple in the movie.

"When we shot the film, in this country, gay people couldn't get married," he said. "So it was quite ironic that these two men, who lived weddings completely, couldn't get married themselves. But now the law has changed over here."

Since the film's release in England, Franklin is often approached on the street by women in their late 20s.

"I say [to myself], 'Great, a woman is coming on to me.' Then I realize all she wants is for me to give advice about her wedding."

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|