Writer/Director Onur Tukel on his film RICHARD’S WEDDING
Richard’s Wedding has critics and audiences comparing Onur Tukel to the likes of Whit Stillman, Rick Linklater, John Cassavetes, and Woody Allen, and it’s easy to see why Tukel’s film has landed him among such good company. The quick-witted dialogue is paired with a realism that makes it feel as if you’re watching a group of friends in real life, albeit an extremely eccentric group.
The film follows best friends Tuna (Tukel) and Alex (Jennifer Prediger), as they join the rest of the group, and eventually make it to Central Park where the wedding is to take place. It’s as much about the journey itself though as it is the destination. Tukel slowly introduces audiences to the characters, from a curmudgeon named Russell (Darrill Rosen) who’s lost all faith in humanity, to Alex’s recovering drug-addict turned preacher, cousin Louis (Randy Gambill), and a wedding crasher named Taco (Dustin Guy Def), there is no shortage of entertaining characters.
“I’ve always been drawn to small gatherings, with lots of people talking. I like the energy and the different point-of-views, the laughter, the playful ridicule, the dumb jokes and two-bit philosophical conversations,” says Tukel. “I like to ask inappropriate questions. I like to be asked inappropriate questions. I like to pry. There’s so much potential when talking. Why not be post-modern about it? Seek out what’s never been asked or said.”
This idea is reflected through the characters in the film. They don’t hold much back, even at the expense of hurt feelings, but by the end it’s clear that even the harshest blows are bestowed with an underlying sense of love for one another. This is a group of friends who acknowledge each other’s flaws, often use them against one another, but ultimately accept and appreciate each other because of them.
“Richard’s Wedding gave me a chance to celebrate all those mad memories I made and continue to make with my friends. There’s a chaotic energy to it all,” says Tukel. “We felt/feel like we could say and do anything and no one would/will judge us. We could make fun of everyone and everything, and no one took it personally. I was inspired by these memories.”
Aside from these personal memories, Tukel says the content of the film was also inspired by specific works from filmmakers that he admires, including Mark Duplass’s film, The Puffy Chair and Richard Linklater’s Tape.
“I love almost everything about The Puffy Chair, but it was one short scene in particular that inspired me. It’s a simple scene; two brothers and their girlfriends are hanging out in a backyard, (and) one of the brothers (Duplass) performs a silly, drunken wedding ceremony and pronounces his brother and his girlfriend (that he just met that day) husband and wife,” says Tukel. ”It’s sweet and silly and touched me in ways that other wedding films never had. It occurred to me then that you could make a wedding movie based solely on funny words instead of pageantry.”
Despite the fact that the inspiration for Richard’s Wedding was pulled from these specific places, Tukel says much of the finished product was not a part of the original script at all.
“Things that were nothing on the page became very magical on screen,” says Tukel, “In the script, the wealthy web app designer Russell says, “Humanity is dead.” The set direction I’d written in the script was very simple, but in the film, it’s so dramatic when Russell says his line, and then Richard arrives and the friends all gather around and shower him with affection. At one of the bleakest moments, we’re reminded that friendship is important. Community is everything. Humanity is not dead.”
Mother Nature also plays a role in heightening the climax scene, when rain threatens to cut the wedding short. This is an element Tukel says was not originally part of the script, adding to the realistic portrayal the film is able to capture.
“While we were shooting the emotional climax of the movie, when everything is falling apart at the wedding, it started to rain,” says Tukel. ”This was never scripted, but it made perfect sense that it would start raining at that time. It reinforced the spiritual themes throughout the movie.”
This level of spontaneity in the filmmaking process is something Tukel admits he has had to learn through experience, citing his last full-length project before this one, The Pigs, where he says he planned everything out, blocking every moment, and even storyboarded each shot.
“None of it worked,” says Tukel. “Every minute on set was just an exercise in failure. I lost my nerve after that and I promised myself that if I ever made another movie, I was going to have fun. So going into Richard’s Wedding, I gave myself two rules: have fun and allow room for spontaneity, improvisation, and input from everyone.”
This less restrictive style seems to suite Tukel, and plays a role in allowing the audience to relate to Richard’s Wedding through the realistic nature of the dialogue and lifelike representation of the character’s in terms of their reactions.
“In general, I’m drawn to word and performances,” says Tukel. “There are so many great directors whose work I admire. Nicole Holofcener is brilliant. Adrienne Shelly’s Sudden Manhattan was one of my favorites in the nineties. Woody Allen. Hal Hartley. Whit Stillman. Richard Linklater. Noah Baumbach. Neil Labute. I admire all of these filmmakers…Also, Lynn Shelton, HUMPDAY is one of my favorite indie movies of all time and I think she’s brilliant. There are also a crop of bad-ass indie filmmakers that have really existed me…It’s an exciting time to be an indie filmmaker. There are so many people committed to making art as opposed to money. It’s refreshing.”
Don’t miss your chance to see Richard’s Wedding at the Bishop Arts Theatre Sunday, June 17 at 3 pm. - Jessica Tomberlin
Tonight at El Sibil, checkout the Music Video Showcase, including screenings from Sarah Jaffe’s “Let the Right One In” and Mindspiders’ “Wait for us,” to name a few; then stick around afterward for a performance by The Neeks & Night Game.
The Neeks’ own, Ashley Crome, says the band is excited to be a part of this event and to be performing for the inaugural Oak Cliff Film Festival.
“We’re fans of community and all walks of art, and we’re very happy to be able to contribute,” says Crome. “We have a couple of new dances that we’ll break out for the show.”
As far as films the band is looking forward to seeing, Crome says they are excited to see as many films as possible, but they are especially pumped to see Tim Heidecker in The Comedy. - Jessica Tomberlin