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As sure as yodeling atop a horse will send it into a crazed gallop, the 2001 romantic comedy The Wedding Planner was always meant to end with the titular marital architect Mary (Jennifer Lopez) smooching Steve (Matthew McConaughey) — the engaged man who saved her life from a renegade dumpster only to fall for her charm while she facilitated his marriage to another woman — as they slow-danced in the San Francisco park that hosted their first date.
But screenwriter Michael Ellis initially outlined a trilogy (and a TV series) to continue their story, beginning with Mary and best friend Penny (Judy Greer) planning the couple’s nuptials.
“She’d become a bridezilla,” he tells EW of Mary’s intended evolution, which would “destroy” her friendship with Penny. “There’d be some grit to it…. they realize that in the first movie maybe they weren’t looking at each other realistically. There were some interesting romantic questions there.”
And forget about Mary’s confession about wanting a toned-down seaside wedding (complete with cool, salty breeze).
“When it came to her own wedding she’d be like, I want my big day,” Ellis explains. “When we were doing the research for the movie, all the wedding planners we interviewed were pretty cynical about the brides they were working for; When it comes to this is going to be my wedding, they just went crazy…. when Mary gets to have her own big day, [she doesn’t] want it to just be on a beach, she wants her day in the spotlight. The drama of it is she’s become exactly the kind of thing she hated, and she takes a step back and figures out what’s important to her.”
“We’d also batted around the idea that, during the planning of the wedding, Mary found out she’s pregnant…. Which would lead to the third movie: Mary planning her daughter’s wedding!” he continues, adding that the central couple would’ve separated before the third film’s timeline, but the act of planning their child’s wedding would bring them back together. “The idea of what she’d want for her daughter and what her daughter wants would come into play, and whatever her journey was in the second movie, in the third movie she’d learn a lesson and try to teach her daughter what she’s learned and probably try to talk her out of the grand spectacle of it all because it doesn’t mean anything. What’s important is the person you’re going to be with, and she’d try to teach her daughter that lesson.”
Though Ellis discussed his ideas with director-producer-choreographer Adam Shankman (who even filmed an unused, fantastical dance number in the park after Mary and Steve’s first almost-kiss), the films didn’t launch; Ellis confirmed, however, that ABC bought a single-camera dramedy pilot based on the film around 2006 that never took flight (Ellis supposes the swift cancellation of David E. Kelley’s similar Wedding Bells series at Fox had something to do with it).
“It was like a new incarnation of The Love Boat, where Mary facilitated a new [wedding] every episode,” Ellis adds, likening the series’ structure to that of Ugly Betty in that it would have extended the traditional half-hour comedy format into a soapy, hour-long affair.
And yet, ABC ultimately passed on the project (though the network did not provide EW with confirmation on Ellis’ claims about the planned TV show). But that hasn’t stopped Ellis from dreaming about what could’ve been.
“In that version, Mary and Steve didn’t make it, so she was on the market again,” he finishes. “[But] Steve came back at the end of season 1, like her version of [Sex and the City’s] Mr. Big” — ever lingering like the smell of sweet red plums and grilled cheese sandwiches.
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