For a film that features Jennifer Lopez dropping a grenade on pirates while zip-lining through a jungle, Shotgun Wedding is a surprisingly great showcase for a lot of what Josh Duhamel excels at. The Transformers star is no stranger to action sequences, and last year’s Bandit proved his gritty dramatic bona fides. Most importantly, he’s generated romantic chemistry with co-stars in everything from Life As We Know It to the soap opera All My Children, the actor’s first (and Emmy-winning) role.
While Duhamel emphasizes that the Jason Moore-directed, Mark Hammer-scripted action-rom-com is what its playful title promises—“a big, funny, goofy romp of a movie”—Shotgun Wedding also ably balances the high emotional stakes of a couple reassessing their relationship on their big day with outright silliness (trust us, Lenny Kravitz parasailing is already the funniest cinematic moment of 2023). The A.V. Club had to ask Duhamel about approaching those mixed genres, his thoughts on superheroes, and what it was like to have Jennifer Coolidge play his mother.
The A.V. Club: So, first and obviously foremost, the great Jennifer Coolidge plays your mother in this film. What was that like?
Josh Duhamel: First of all, I love that I’m getting a lot of questions about Jennifer and I’m so happy for her because she’s finally getting that recognition. I think that people have always loved her. She’s always been this lovable character. But I think they’re starting [to realize]—definitely, since she just won the Golden Globe—there’s such dimension to her work. And she’s getting to do things that are sort of outside of what she was pigeonholed to do for so long, you know? She’s really been able to expand on that and I just love to see it. I love her, she’s so fun and so sweet. Very sort of reserved and shy! She’s much more of an observer than she is an outgoing personality in real life. And it was so fun to watch how beautifully awkward she makes her performance. It’s like sometimes you can’t tell if she’s on or if she’s not, if she intended to do that or she didn’t. Everyone kind of leans in to see what she’s going to do next. And it’s a hard thing to do. It’s almost like … Andy Kaufman. You can’t tell the art from reality.
AVC: This movie seems to combine genres: romance, comedy, hostage thriller. How did you and Jennifer Lopez and the filmmakers discuss that?
JD: When I read this, I knew that it was going to be different because it was a big, broad comedy. And it does meld the action, and there’s some thriller aspects to it. But it is very broad. And I loved that Jason Moore really leaned into that. It was like, “We’re going to take the joke this far—and then a little bit further!” And he’s unapologetic about it. That sort of absurdity in the humor, the action, the beauty of the setting around us, the stakes, it just makes for what a lot of people go to movies for: It’s just a good time. And that’s really our intention behind making this, just to make a really big, fun movie.
AVC: As an actor do you approach each of those genres separately, depending on what each scene needs? Or are all the ingredients there all the time?
JD: I mean, you don’t ever want to go too far one way or the other because then you’re making different movies. So there is a balance to it. But some of them, you can definitely lean a little bit more into the physical comedy. And some of them are a little bit more serious and we’re talking about real things. But it always has to have that lightness, I felt like. And I think what Jason did a really good job of—he talked about, “You got to squeeze a little lemon on that sugar.” So if anything felt like it was getting too saccharine or sweet, he would pump the brakes with a joke or lighten it up with something else. And I think that he has a good meter on how to balance that.
AVC: When you say you can take a scenario to an extreme in one scene and not in another, how does that apply to action? You can’t necessarily improvise physical comedy, especially when it comes to stunt-related work, right?
JD: No, I mean, the action, especially in a stunt, has got to be very well rehearsed, very planned out. You have to know what the outcome is going to be. But everything right around that can be as improvised as possible. That, to me, is something I’ve learned over the years, to not get too locked in on a reaction, try to keep it as loose and free and like it’s the first time. You do take after take after take so you want to keep it new. “How would I react to the situation? I just killed a pirate. I just killed this dude.” I have to remember that I’m a normal dude, I’m not a military guy, I’m not a serial killer. I’m a dude who plays baseball who just killed a man. How do I react to that? And that, to me, was fun because it was like—“This guy was going to do very bad things to us! Yeah, we got him! We killed him. Wait a second, we killed him. Oh, shit. I’m going to go to jail.” You know, the rollercoaster of that is so much fun.
AVC: And Jennifer saying, “Are you dead? Are you dead?”
JD: [Laughs] “He’s very much not alive anymore.”
AVC: It speaks to this notion I’ve heard from actors that comedy is high stakes, right? To play comedy, you ironically have to take it very seriously, very committed.
JD: Right, exactly. And my favorite comedians are those who just absolutely commit. It’s something I’m continually trying to get better at, not finding the situation funny. It’s playing this shit real. What are the actual stakes right now? That is where, a lot of times, the humor lies … [Shotgun Wedding] doesn’t take itself too seriously. It is meant to be a big, funny, goofy romp of a movie.
AVC: Last question, and it’s of course about superheroes. You’ve voiced Two-Face in the animated Batman: The Long Halloween. Is there a superhero or even supervillain that you would love to play?
JD: I think my window for Batman is gone. That would have my number one choice. I could play a good villain! I wouldn’t be opposed to it. But it’s not my goal in my career. Two-Face would be a lot of fun, I got to do that. My son would absolutely love that because he is an absolute superhero junkie … They’ve done so much of it that it’s got to be something, you know, different and unique. What would you pick for me?
AVC: I’d be fascinated by the idea of transferring a character you’ve voiced into live action, so Two-Face would be a great fit.
JD: It’s been done a few times, though, right?
AVC: Well, I don’t know that the window has passed on Batman for you. They’ve restarted these characters so many times, you never know.
JD: What about Robin? Like … an aging Robin. [Laughs]