Hollywood producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron are no strangers to controversy, with TV movie credits that include the Emmy-winning "Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story" and "The Reagans."
Now the duo may raise eyebrows even higher with "Wedding Wars," a witty and nonthreatening romantic comedy about yet another hot-button subject: gay marriage.
The TV movie, which premieres Monday, Dec. 11, on A&E Network, stars John Stamos as Shel, a gay wedding planner who agrees to organize his brother Ben's (Eric Dane, "Grey's Anatomy") nuptials until Ben's boss (James Brolin), the governor of Maine, comes out against gay marriage.
Since Ben is marrying the governor's daughter, Maggie (Bonnie Somerville), Shel is upset, but he really hits the ceiling when he discovers Ben had written the governor's speech denouncing gay marriage. Frustrated and angry, Shel declares himself on strike, an action that sends a ripple effect across the country until everyone who supports gay marriage also goes on strike, to the comical horror of Ted (Sean Maher), Shel's closeted boyfriend.
"In a strange way, this is probably the most controversial movie we've ever made, because you don't get hit over the head," Meron says. "It's subversive because it charms you into loving the idea of gay marriage."
Stamos, a longtime friend and business associate of Zadan and Meron, says he is pleased with the tone of "Wedding Wars," although he knows all too well that gay marriage is a polarizing topic for many Americans.
"I don't know if I would have tackled a subject that is this heavy without their deft hand," the actor says. "I was attracted to the material, which I thought was a great way to approach this hot-button issue, in a lighter, less preachy way. I'm not George Clooney. I'm not going to get involved (in politics) to that extent, or about religion like Mel Gibson. I do believe, though, that everyone deserves to love who they want to love and be treated equally in marriage.
"I never approached this guy mainly as a 'gay' character. I approached him as someone who was in love and who was fighting for what he believed in. The fact that he was fighting for a 'gay' issue and that he was in love with a man actually was not something I thought about that much. I approached him more as a child who was upset because his brother was getting something that he didn't get, so he acted out by going on strike."
No matter how a viewer feels about gay marriage, he or she may be surprised at how evenhanded the movie is in depicting several different points of view, Zadan says.
"We didn't want to create a stereotypical conservative governor whom you hate and think of as a villain," he says. "The way the role is written, and by casting Jim Brolin -- who is really lovable and charismatic and sympathetic -- you realize this man is not evil, he's just a guy who wants to win the election and be governor again. We wanted everyone to be on even footing in the movie.
"There is a topic that doesn't seem to be discussed much in this battle over gay marriage: What about the gay people who don't really want gay marriage and who never really have thought about it? Ted, Sean's character, actually says, 'One of the reasons that I like being gay is that I've never had to think about marriage.' That's an interesting character to throw into the mix."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times