February 19, 2009
Behind the Scenes With a ‘Bridezilla’
The wedding video Cynthia Silver will show her child one day is far from typical.
Most of the footage focuses on her frantic preparations before the ceremony, not the actual nuptials. What also sets her video apart is that it aired to an audience of 11 million people on nationwide television with the subtitle: “Life Is a Bitch and Then You Marry One.”
Silver, now 38 and five months pregnant, was one of the first brides featured on the reality television show, “Bridezillas,” which is one of the WE (Women’s Entertainment) network’s top-rated shows. The struggling actress has since turned her experience of being cast as a reality TV villain into a one-woman show, “Bridezilla Strikes Back,” opening Feb. 19 at the Zephyr Theatre in Los Angeles.
Aside from its indictment of reality television’s warped, manipulated depiction of weddings, “Bridezilla Strikes Back,” co-written with Kenny Finkle, is neither bitter nor accusatory. The show strikes a humorous, self-deprecating tone, much like “Bridget Jones,” according to The New York Times.
Silver readily admits to having been naïve and overly ambitious in thinking reality television might be her path to getting discovered. But in a roundabout way, the fiasco has given her acting career a boost.
Silver, who was 30 years old and in the midst of planning a $100,000 Manhattan wedding at the time, was lured into the world of reality television by a crew of British filmmakers who said they were shooting a documentary titled, “Manhattan Brides.” With visions of Oprah swimming in her head, Silver eagerly signed the release form and invited the camera crew from September Films to follow her to every hair appointment, cake tasting, DJ scouting and dress fitting.
The cameras were rolling when, days before the wedding, Silver tried on her wedding gown and had a total meltdown.
“The dress pushed every single one of my buttons,” said Silver, who was depicted on “Bridezillas” as a neurotic actress who practically had her therapist on speed-dial. “It tapped into all my insecurities and self-image issues and I tried to avoid dealing with the dress until almost the last minute.”
The entire tear-filled scene, during which Silver tossed out the $3,000 dress, was caught on camera. Distraught, Silver lost control and sobbed hysterically on a New York street corner.
“Having the camera right there made things so much worse,” Silver said.
The producer was in her face the entire time asking her how she felt, what she was thinking and what she was planning to do about the catastrophe, she said.
“It intensifies the stress. And you can’t ask them to turn off the camera for a second to let you recompose. You signed up for it,” she said.
Silver thought she understood the rules of the game and went along with it willingly, most of the time. Only after the filming wrapped did Silver discover what she had really signed up for.
The eight-part first season, which first aired on ITV in the United Kingdom and New York’s Metro TV in 2003, was bought by FOX and chopped down into a one-hour segment that aired as “Bridezillas” in January 2004.
Silver was horrified and outraged by her segment.
Another featured bride, Bronx hairdresser Julia Swinton-Williamson, was so upset she filed a $136 million suit against September Films and FOX, claiming that she was misled about the nature of the show. The judge later threw out the suit.
Silver said she’s been able to work out any negative feelings she harbored against the producers through her one-woman play.
“Obviously, it was hurtful and embarrassing, but I learned a lot from the experience. I learned an incredible amount about my husband, who never once said, ‘I told you so’ even though he had reservations about us participating in the documentary,” she said.
Her husband, Matt Silver, is a production stage manager currently working on “Speed-the-Plow” in New York. He says “Bridezilla Strikes Back” has been cathartic for his wife.
“It’s not just a lashing out either. It’s a real monologue, a polished one-woman show,” he said.
“Bridezilla Strikes Back” sold out at the New York Fringe Fest in 2005, where it made its debut. A favorable review on Broadwayworld.com declared, “If this show gets its rightful life beyond the Fringe, she [Silver] may yet get that visit to Oprah.”
Silver’s husband would like to see his wife use the show as a vehicle for her original love — acting. And while he thinks the six-week run in Los Angeles is great, he thinks it might be time to let the matrimonial monster saga rest.
“I don’t want her life or her acting career to be consumed by ‘Bridezillas,’” he said.
While Silver has no regrets about appearing in “Bridezillas,” she is disappointed that she and her husband have little footage of their actual wedding day.
The couple thought two professional cameramen would be more than enough to capture their nuptials, so they didn’t hire their own videographers. And though the production company had verbally promised the couple raw footage of their wedding, September Films never followed through, Silver said.
So the only wedding video their child — due in June — will get to see is the same one millions of Americans have seen.
Silver, however, is not fazed.
“I have great faith that my child will have a great sense of humor,” she said.
For more information on “Bridezilla Strikes Back” visit www.bridezillastrikesback.com.