Clare Kilner

The Wedding Date

Interviewed by Stella Papamichael

“It's Pretty Woman in reverse! ”

British director Clare Kilner made her feature debut in 1999 with offbeat comedy Janice Beard: 45 wpm. Hollywood came knocking soon afterwards and she followed up with Mandy Moore vehicle How To Deal. Romantic comedy The Wedding Date brings her back to UK shores with Debra Messing (star of US sitcom Will & Grace) in tow as a good girl who falls for a male escort.

For better or worse, Richard Curtis has defined the British rom-com. Do you feel you have to match that vibe or break away from it?

You know I didn't think about it that much at all, although I knew there was going to be a lot of talk about Richard Curtis and the way he does romantic comedies. Whenever I get a script I can only think about telling that story the best way I can. I think romantic comedy is a bit of fun for people who work 9 to 5 and want a little escapism and something to cheer them up. That's why I go to see romantic comedies. Therefore I choose romantic countryside and pretty locations because that's my take on romantic comedies. Lots of British films are gritty and people often criticise Richard Curtis for making films that are unreal. But it's a romantic comedy he's making and that's the genre.

Romantic comedies are notoriously difficult to get right. How did you set about making this fresh?

That's a good question. I guess it's working with the actors and finding out what their motivation is for each character. Because every actor brings their own story and their own sensibility to the character, you always end up with something a little bit different and fresh. Every single person in the world has their own story and they're all different and all special in their own way. I liked this story because it had a good original concept to it. From my view it was Pretty Woman in reverse. I liked the idea of working with Debra Messing as well because she's such a great comedic actress and she's also got a background in drama, which most people don't know about.

How did she come on board the project?

She was on board before I was on board. This film was unusual for me because I'd just finished making this teen drama How To Deal in America, and I went for a meeting about this script and basically was offered it straight away. So I went to meet with Debra and we chatted and liked each other. But she had a slot that the film had to be made in. That meant I only had six weeks of prep so I flew to England from LA and started making the film.

Debra is known for her manic comic energy on Will & Grace, but you don't play that up in this film. Was that a conscious decision you made together?

Yes. I think any actor wants to flex different muscles and do different characters. She's fantastic as Grace but this character isn't Grace: it's Kat. Part of what Debra came up with for the character was that she's a very good girl who's trying so hard to be what her family and friends want her to be. What's good as a concept is that she's a good girl who hires a male escort to pretend to be her boyfriend. She's telling a lie and we liked the contrast, or contradiction within that character.

Was there anything in the script that you particularly identified with?

Well, I love family dysfunction and that is what attracted me initially. I'm also interested in people who lie. In my first film [Janie Beard: 45 wpm], Janice Beard was a girl who was a compulsive liar and it interests me because the face that people show to the public doesn't always reflect what's privately going on within them. You know, I wouldn't say that I'm a big liar but I've always been interested in the fact that you can feel like you're a certain person inside, but it's hard to communicate that outwardly to people.

Do you agree with what Dermot Mulroney's character says in the film: that some women choose to be "single and miserable"?

Oh God, that's a huge question! It's like you're single and miserable and then you meet the man of your dreams and suddenly you're happy because you're in a relationship. That can go backwards and forwards over the years until you meet someone you want to spend the rest of your life with. I don't know. You learn. Women now have lots of relationships before they meet the final 'one' and you learn a hell of a lot within each relationship. I mean, what do you think? I guess it's like anything in life. It is a harsh thing to say but sometimes you've got to make choices to be happy even if you've had a tough time. As you get a little bit older, you realise that more.

The Wedding Date is released in UK cinemas on Friday 22nd April 2005.