Laguna Beach resident and director Rob Hedden traded his seaside town for the tropical island of Hawaii for his latest film, "You May Not Kiss the Bride."
The independent film may have only had a $7-million budget but that didn't keep big names from participating in the film, such as Katharine McPhee of "Smash," Rob Schneider, "Brothers and Sisters" star Dave Annable, Mena Suvari of "American Beauty" fame, Kathy Bates, "Borat" star Ken Davitian and Hawaii native Tia Carrere.
It played at South Coast Cinema on Thursday, the first showing in Orange County. The film had its premiere in Honolulu this summer and has been released in nine other cities such as Chicago and Seattle.
Hedden described the film as part action movie, part romantic comedy. Annable, who plays a photographer who shoots comically costumed pets for a living, gets caught up with a Croatian mobster after an encounter at work. The mobster agrees to let bygones be bygones if the photographer marries his Croatian daughter, played by McPhee, so she can get American citizenship.
The couple is transported to their "honeymoon" in Tahiti, but the fun weekend's tone changes when the mobster's daughter is kidnapped and Annable's character is blamed. With the help of Schneider as a helicopter pilot with an indiscernible foreign accent, Annable hopes to locate his faux wife, for whom he begins to have real feelings.
Davitian, who was Sacha Baron Cohen's sidekick in "Borat," said it wasn't hard to say "yes" to the film.
"I was attracted to the role because I absolutely think Katherine McPhee is awesome. Then I heard we were supposed to shoot in some god forsaken place called Hawaii," Davitian said with a laugh.
Although he plays a mobster, he said the film really shows his soft side because he wants to protect his daughter.
"I wanted to do a film where I would be menacing and sweet at the same time," he said.
Hedden said the film was incredibly lucky to get its cast. At the time, McPhee's film credits included "House Bunny," and Annable was on hiatus from "Brothers and Sisters," a hit ABC drama.
The moment he met them, he said he knew they'd be the perfect leads and could tell they would have successful careers in show business.
Kathy Bates plays Annable's mother in the film. Originally a character that was never going to be seen on film, Hedden decided to cast the part.
"She was maybe the first name that came up. 'Wouldn't it be great if Kathy Bates did it?'" he said. "What a dream for me to be able to stand behind the camera to see someone like that act."
Hedden said they plan to show in 10 U.S. markets. The film is already achieving acclaim internationally in Latin America, Canada and is showing in 200 theaters in Russia, he noted.
Czech Republic has just bought the film. He's heard that Japan is interested and may even want a Hollywood-style premiere. Japanese media interviewed Hedden at the Honolulu premiere.
They're doing a modern and somewhat experimental release — the film is available on Video On Demand, iTunes and Amazon concurrent with its domestic release. Hedden said it's a way for independent films that don't have a lot of publicity to get more exposure.
Hedden is currently working a on a new project: a film based on local Augie Nieto's true story. Nieto, founder of Life Fitness and a Corona del Mar resident, has ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, and the film looks at how it changed the life of the fitness icon. Nieto is known for raising tens of millions of dollars to find a cure for the disease and Hedden believes the film could give ALS and Nieto's unique story the exposure it deserves.
"We met and I described how I see the movie in my head, at the end of it we were all really emotional because it's an amazing, powerful story," he said of his first meeting with Nieto. "I said you don't need to make it with me. It's so inspirational, and someone needs to make this movie. It moved me and it's going to move a lot of people."
Hedden is in the process of raising funds for the film and hopes to shoot this spring.
All the proceeds from Thursday's showing of "You May Not Kiss the Bride" benefit Augie's Quest, Nieto's foundation, as well as the Laguna Beach Film Society and Laguna Art Museum.
The film is at 7 p.m. at the South Coast Cinema, 162 S. Coast Hwy. Tickets are $10 at the door and include post-film director question and answer session. For a prescreening wine and appetizer reception at 6 p.m. at the Laguna Art Museum, it's $30.
Visit itunes.apple.com or click here for the film online.