Not every romance ends happily ever after. Picture it. It's the day of the wedding. The groom looks dashing. The best man is fussing over his speech. Friends have gathered at the church. And, after checking herself out in the mirror, the bride-to-be bails on her big day. She has decided to leave her mysterious life behind. Easier said than done. On behalf of the ex-fiancé, the seven groomsmen set out to change her mind. However, these aren't your ordinary buddies but a cadre of highly-skilled elite mercenaries. And everyone's mutual employer, the enigmatic Dean, has one outstanding rule: Under no circumstances will anyone ever leave the profession alive. As Til Death Do Us Part's trailer teases, things quickly spiral out of control. But if they think this scrappy bride is going down without a fight, they are dead wrong.

Director Timothy Woodward Jr. [The Call] recently spoke to CBR about the movie's gender-bending premise, the bubble gum soundtrack, casting choices, and his depiction of violence.


CBR: Til Death Do Us Part is so much more than the trailer leads viewers to believe. How much fun was it to defy those expectations?

Timothy Woodward Jr.: It's an interesting movie to market, in a way. We didn't want to give away a lot of stuff. There's a B-story there. There's a lot of comedy. One of the big things that we were running up against when I made the movie was, "Is it a horror? Is it a comedy? Is it an action?" I was like, "Well, it's kind of all of those things." It's supposed to be fun. You are supposed to have a good time, go with the flow, and enjoy it. It was fun to make.

It is almost Runaway Bride meets John Wick with a twist. How do you sum up the premise?

That's the idea. I remember when I read the script, it was cool, but I couldn't grasp it. The way things were written was a little bit different in the beginning. I said, "What if I embrace a 1990s rom-com at the beginning of the movie?" I started doing this whimsical world of magic, and we brought it really dark, really fast. Then, I started seeing it in my head and imagining what was written. It became a lot cooler to do.

But trust me. There's always pushback along the way when you are trying to mix [genres]. People are like, "That's not going to work. People are going to watch the first five minutes. They are not going to understand it. They are watching this action movie." I am like, "That's what a trailer is for. A trailer can tell them they are watching an action movie."

And it's almost impossible to successfully mix those horror, comedy, and action elements together.

We had a certain color palette we came in with that was darker. We had neons, and we had some different lights. In every room, we had a structure we were going to do. Then, to keep the tone up, we had this element of comedy. We always wanted to keep it light. Then, when you were going to the B-story, we would change it up a little bit. There was a little bit of a challenge in making it. In editing, it was even more. I made a playlist for the cast of this 1950s ''bubble gum, bubble gum, oh bubble bubble gum.''

The movie was called The Groomsmen at first. It was The Groomsmen playlist. It had 21 songs on it. I had a setup for where everything was. So, keeping that pace and tone throughout was a challenge in post. I had a lot of people saying, "You need to change this up a little bit. I don't know if this song is going to work." I am happy to say 98 percent of it is exactly as I wanted. I did have, in the last scene, "What A Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong. We couldn't get that song, so I changed it to a more ironic song. There were one or two changes, but overall, I can say from start to finish, I kept my vision on the tone of the movie of what I wanted to feel. It was definitely a ride in the edit. "Oh, I am going a little too action. Oh, I'm going a little horror." Juxtaposition was a big thing in this, to go opposite to what you should be feeling.

Related: John Wick Chapter 4's Chad Stahelski and Scott Adkins Interview Each Other on CBR's Dynamic Duos Podcast

The soundtrack also contributes to the vibe. Often the music and score in horror is foreboding. In action, it's upbeat. Til Death Do Us Part serves up classic, feel-good songs.

That was the juxtaposition. When you think about the 1950s stuff, which I love… I did a movie called The Final Wish. I did Bobby Darin's "Dream Lover." But these songs are almost a little bit creepy because they are so happy. That was already an idea of, "How can we play this into it?" But also, keeping the movie fun and keeping the movie where we go so serious when we are out on the boat, but then keeping this whole situation where it was light. Hopefully, I achieved it.

Casting was so important in this film. Can you talk about landing your leading lady, Natalie Burn, and how that came about?

I got sent the script by a writer named Chad Law. I was actively looking for something to do with Natalie Burn at the time. She had another script that was completely different, but it was a wedding theme. Somebody else ended up making that film. I was like, "I thought I read this movie, and it was really cool." She actually sent it to me again and said, "Hey, take a look at this." I looked at it and went, "That would be cool." With the martial arts, she is a ballerina. She has a lot of martial arts background. It was one of those things where I said, "Let's team up and do this movie. Let's try to make it if you are down to do it. I think you'd be good if you can do all your own stunts. I think you could do this character justice." I think she did an amazing job.


What about casting the groomsmen?

One guy that came on right off the bat was Pancho [Moler]. Before we even got any of the other groomsmen. Believe it or not, his groomsmen weren't written into the script. I combined two characters. Pancho, I saw at a stand-up comedy show. Natalie knew Pancho well. I said, "You know, this guy would be amazing if we just let him play this role like he was seven feet tall, 250 pounds, and just a boss." He has such a big personality on stage, and he's such an amazing person. I got him right off the bat, and I thought we needed a counterpart.

That's where Ned Chupin came in. I met him through Natalie. He's this really big guy. He's got this accent. So, it's like, "This is really cool. Let's play back and forth with this whole Big Sexy and T-Bone thing." I thought about it because the little guy named T-Bone and this big guy named Big Sexy, who named himself, could give us a little bit of a breather between the other guys chasing and doing the other stuff.

Then, we ended up with Orlando Jones right after that. I have known Orlando's work since the 1990s and 2000s. He's actually from North Carolina and has South Carolina roots. I called a great friend of mine, who is like a second mom to me and is his manager. I said, "'Hey, I want him. Can you get him?" She's like, "He will be on a plane tomorrow."

Then came Cam Gigandet after that. When you look at his movies, Cam plays a bad guy really well. But I was like, "Can Cam have fun?" He just has this suave about him. [We] clicked right off the bat. I was like, "Let's try this stuff." I thought there might be a little bit of pushback, but he got it immediately. He just chewed the scenery up. He had such a good time with it. Cam had his headphones in, listening to the list, the Sinatra songs that I gave him to listen to. I said, "He is like a guy you would see mowing his grass, who would be like 'Hey, Sam. Hey, Bob,' in the 50s. And, then, he has a person tied up in his closet."

Ser'Darius Blain, who plays the groom, was amazing. We looked at a few people for that. We tried some options. It came down to, "Who can have a contrast with Cam, so they are not similar to the best man? They can feel like they have a towering presence, but be quiet." Ser'Darius did a great job at that. D.Y. Sao, his martial arts were amazing. He was another guy that from the beginning, we were like, ''We want you to do this.'' All of my guys… I was very happy with.

Orlando was a blast. He was always cracking jokes. We had a good time with him. We added a few extra things. There are a few things that didn't make the movie that I wish would have. There is a moment where he is taking a piss in the yard. He zips himself up with the zipper by accident. He comes storming in the door. To Cam, he's like, "Where is she?" That is actually why. It's not because the other people got killed. You see a scene before that where he hears a noise, a scream, and he zips himself up. It became a little too much. I added it, and it wasn't part of the script. When I looked at it in the edit, I pulled it back.


What did you want to say with some of the gory death scenes?

We had the creator of Final Destination, Jeffrey Reddick, who I have worked with a few times. You automatically want to do stuff with the deaths. One of the challenges is when you have seven or eight groomsmen, everyone has got to take a certain path in a fight or a challenge or a death. It's how you keep those different, how to keep those unique. We started along the lines of the traditional. I felt as the bride became more, ''fuck it,'' the deaths became more, ''fuck it.''

If you have seen the movie, you know. Pancho suffers a brutal one. I was playing Meatloaf's "I Would Do Anything for Love" while that was originally happening. Then, I pulled it out and was like, ''Damn, this is brutal with no music,'' so I put nothing in there. We had this big dude, and he picks her up in the air and tosses her like a ragdoll. I was like, "This is the guy who needs that to happen. This is how she needs to take this dude out." It was all set up because there was a part of the knife that led over to the other part of the knife. There were three or four deaths that weren't scripted like this. But when you get there on an indie film, and you figure, "How do I do this? How do I make it where it is elevated and more brutal and more personal, where it fits for the character?"

That was the challenge. I tried. If you watch it back, you will notice they are not being done for just the sake of that. [By] the time the bride gets to the last one, the blood is flying everywhere. She has had it. Each one has a little more connection to it.

Til Death Do Us Part is in theaters now.