THE WEDDING PLANNER
The dance scenes in "The Wedding Planner" most exemplify
director/choreographer Shankman's tip of the hat to the great musical films.
Screenwriters Falk & Ellis are huge dance fans as well. "We both love
to dance and include such numbers in almost all our screenwriting. We think of
it as the ultimate symbol of romance, because it's the closest that two people
can come without kissing or actual sex. It's foreplay," says Ellis.
"Dancing is a great symbol of a connection without saying anything,"
explains Falk. "So in 'The Wedding Planner,' we tried very hard to make the
dance integral to what the characters were feeling emotionally at that point in
the story," she says.
One of the key scenes in the film is the dance number in the park where Mary and
Steve have an incredible first date. Screenwriters Falk & Ellis based this
scene on what they had observed at New York City's Bryant Park, which is just
behind the New York Public Library.
"In the summer, at night, they show old movies against the library
wall," says Falk. "I thought, wouldn't it be amazing if they showed
old musicals, and during the musical numbers everyone got up and danced
Shankman took that enchanting thought from the page to the stage, so to speak.
"I think I was hired to direct this movie based on my take of this
scene," states the director, who also choreographed the film.
"He did great," says Lopez of Shankman's dances and direction. "I
was so impressed with him. I knew how hard it was going to be to shoot this
scene; to get the emotion of what we were both feeling and get the steps right.
He just did it so incredibly well.
"I am a dancer and I was worried about it," continues Lopez.
"This was one of the hardest scenes I've ever shot. I've done action scenes
and all kinds of weird things in movies, but this was definitely very, very
tough to pull off."
The lovely grounds of the Los Angeles Veterans Administration served as the
generic San Francisco Park for the scene. Shankman and production designer Bob
Ziembicki pulled out all the stops to make this the most romantic park ever.
They dressed it with glowing lanterns, a lighted Ferris Wheel, and a colorful
carousel, just for starters.
Shankman chose the obscure film "Two Tickets to Broadway," starring
Tony Martin and Janet Leigh, to show on the park screen. "Most people would
have gone for Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers," says Shankman, "but I
wanted something a little unexpected here. Also, the film was shot in
Technicolor so I knew it was going to look really beautiful in the
For this fantasy dance scene, Shankman called upon 40 dancers with whom he'd
danced when he was a dancer and then choreographed in other films. With his
assistant choreographer, Anne Fletcher, Shankman choreographed and rehearsed the
scene with the dancers over several weekends prior to filming it.
The song that he used for the dance number from the film is called "The
Closer You Are," by Jule Styne. "It's the falling-in-love song in the
film, and it bursts into a waltz. To me, the waltz is one of the most romantic
partner dances, because two people are holding each other in their arms and
sweeping each other around and around. It feels perfect for the sentiment and
emotion of the scene, and it pushes Mary and Steve closer together," says
Matthew McConaughey agrees. "To me, the dance scenes in the film are really
the love-making scenes, so to speak. When Mary and Steve are dancing together
the world evaporates around them. They're in their own intimate world."
The next dance number was a tango. Falk, Ellis and Shankman all thought this was
the perfect dance f
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