If you’ve seen the latest Maroon 5 video “Sugar” you might notice it’s similarity to the 2005 romantic comedy The Wedding Crashers, starring Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn as two dashing rogues who sneak into nuptials in search of lovelorn bridesmaids. While Maroon 5’s goals are far more noble —to rock strangers’ weddings with an impromptu performance— the similarities are little coincidence as both were directed by Hollywood veteran David Dobkin. Dobkin, who got his start in music videos before going on to direct such features as last year’s The Judge and 2011’s The Change-Up, has known Maroon 5 singer and The Voice star Adam Levine since before he found fame. Find out the inside story on the new video and why the experience was the most fun the director has ever had as a filmmaker.
How did you come to direct the video for “Sugar”?
David Dobkin: I’ve known Adam for over a decade. I met him before the first Maroon 5 album came out. My wife’s parents are best friends with his grandparents and I spend Christmas with him every year. So we’ve known each other for a long time and always talked about doing something together but were never able to get our schedules lined up. And then I was in Rome for the premiere for my last movie (The Judge), he shot me an email saying “Hey man are you available in November to do a video” and I said “Yeah!”
We were bouncing around some ideas and I knew I wanted it to be about his connection with his audience. That was important. I wanted elements of real people and L.A., a hometown thing with driving and a lot of movement and some dancing. Then the idea came up of, what if they went to real weddings and showed up as the surprise wedding band? He loved that idea. And look, for 10 years everyone asks me to do something related to that movie. (laughter) I’ve never wanted to go back there, just because it’s something that worked so well. But we locked in on this idea and thought it would be great. And then it was like, holy shit, how do we pull this off?
So how did you pull it off? You were literally crashing weddings.
It was pretty intense. I was like, nobody can know, but then I realized, one person is going to have to know. I didn’t want the brides to know so we talked to the grooms. Until the week before, the groom didn’t even know who the band was. We said, this is a Grammy award winning top 10 band. We’re coming to your wedding and here’s how it’s going to work. I realized there had to be a reveal. That moment of recognition, that’s the juice. So I need them to be behind a curtain and the curtain drops and it reveals them. I had to design and build this thing that was like a pop-up tent and then you could press a button and the curtain drops. It sounds simple but it took us the better part of a month to figure it out. It was just a nightmare. Then I got to all the wedding planners around L.A. and had to go to all the venues to see how we could infiltrate them without anyone knowing. There was only going to be a 20 minute window for us to sneak in, pop up the tent, and get the band in without anyone noticing them. I had 6 cameras set up and dressed as if they were in the wedding. You really only have one shot at this. It ended up being 7 or 8 weddings, all in one day, some day, some night.
A week before, I went to see the band rehearse the song and Adam was like, “What if people don’t like us? What happens if we ruin the bride’s moment?” For the first time we thought, what if we’re ruining someone’s most special day? Adam had just gotten married and he had this instinctual idea that was really sweet. He said “You know what? After we do the song, me and James (Valentine, Maroon 5 guitarist) will perform an acoustic version of “She Will Be Loved” just for the bride and groom and clear the floor and it can be like their first dance.” And I was like, that’s awesome. It’s just sick romantic.
A bunch of the grooms were nervous and about to pull out so I went and met with them personally. At that point I did reveal who it was and we lucked out. They were all Maroon 5 fans, and also fans of Adam from The Voice, and as soon as I told them about “She Will Be Loved,” this relief washed over them, like, “There’s no way she could be mad at me after that.” It closed the deal. And then when the first wedding went off like gang busters, the place just exploded, Adam and Jesse (Carmichael, Maroon 5 keyboardist) looked to me like “Oh my God. That was awesome! Where’s the next one?” and we just got on this ride and every one of was great.
Anyone involved in production, whether it’s making a movie or a record, knows that Murphy’s Law is the truest of all laws.
That’s filmmaking! Everything’s going to go wrong. At the first wedding, we knew there was this small window of time we could slip in unnoticed. It was a Jewish wedding and the bride and groom are up on the chairs and I get this call over the radio “The band’s stuck in the elevator.” They somehow got out but then the elevator didn’t work so the band had to run up 9 floors. When Adam got to the top of the stairs he said he was out of breath and couldn’t sing and I said “Dude, you have to.” But he did and he was great.
Though you’re primarily known as a filmmaker now, would you be interested in doing more music videos?
This is the most fun I have ever had on anything, ever, as a filmmaker. Part of it was working with Adam and part of it was because it was a ballsy concept and it paid off. I always loved working on music videos actually. I did a lot of the videos back in the early part of my career but this is the first one I’ve done in over 15 years. I’m a musician and I love music and I would love to do more of them.