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‘Bridesmaids’ at 10: Revisiting that iconic airplane scene with Flight Attendant Steve (aka ‘Stove’)

  • May 16, 2021

Ten years ago Kristen Wiig boarded “a very strict plane” to Las Vegas, where she downed some scotch and sleeping pills and saw a colonial woman on the wing

Yes, we’re talking about the most memorable scene in “Bridesmaids,” the uproarious R-rated comedy that became an Oscar-nominated cultural phenomenon after it was released in theaters May 13, 2011, as well as a surprise box-office smash ($288.4 million worldwide on a $32.5 million budget). 

Directed by Paul Feig and co-written by Wiig and Annie Mumolo (“Barb Star Go to Vista Del Mar”), the film follows lifelong friends Annie (Wiig) and Lillian (Maya Rudolph) whose relationship hits some turbulence when Lillian gets engaged. Annie flails at maid-of-honor duties and clashes with Lillian’s snooty new pal, Helen (Rose Byrne), who’s organized a bachelorette party in Sin City.  

But the flight to Vegas descends into glorious chaos when Annie drunkenly saunters into the first-class cabin, repeatedly irking stoic flight attendant Steve (Mitch Silpa) and mispronouncing his name as “Stove.” Meanwhile, bridal party members Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey) and Becca (Ellie Kemper) commiserate over passionless marriages, while Megan (Melissa McCarthy) tries to get chummy with an undercover air marshal (Ben Falcone). And who could forget Annie’s overanxious seatmate (Mumolo)? (To be fair, getting sucked into an airplane toilet sounds horrifying.) 

Silpa is a veteran of the Groundlings, the Los Angeles-based improv theater and school, where he came up doing comedy with Wiig before her “Saturday Night Live” breakthrough. The actor, who now appears on CBS legal drama “All Rise,” recalls shooting the roughly 12-minute sequence over three days on the same airplane set used for the 1980 comedy “Airplane!” 

“I love that movie,” Silpa tells USA TODAY. “When they told me, ‘They shot “Airplane!” in this,’ I said to Kristen, ‘Oh, well, this movie’s going to become a classic.’ ” 

Question: Do people still call you Stove? 

Mitch Silpa: Yes and I love it. Friends call me Stove as a joke. One time I was in New York a couple years after the movie got released and a car drove by, and it was a bunch of men and they yelled “Stove!” It took me a second to even realize what they were saying, but I was like, “Oh, that’s so nice.” I hope all people named Steve are now called Stove. 

Q: Are there any other lines that people quote back to you most? 

Silpa: Every once in a while I get the “Are you an appliance?” exchange, but it’s mostly Kristen’s lines: “I am Mrs. Iglesias” and “Help me, I’m poor.” 

Q: So what were your first thoughts reading the airplane scene? 

Silpa: Knowing Kristen, I could only imagine what she was going to do, (playing) drunk and on whatever pills she was on. But I remember in the script reading the Stove/Steve thing and that made me laugh. It’s so stupid-funny, that someone would look at a nametag and mistake an e for an o. But that was the moment I fell in love with that scene. I was like, “I can’t wait to do that with Kristen.”

Suzanne Hanover, Universal Studios

Q: How much of what we see was improvised? 

Silpa: We did the first takes completely on script and then they just let us go with whatever we wanted, although structurally it was the same. I remember Melissa explaining to me when I got there, “It’s really fun. The second time, you just can say what you want.” There was one take I was like, “I can’t believe no one is calling ‘cut.’ ” I remember picking up Kristen at one point and putting her over my shoulder and bringing her back to her seat. It was insane, but it was that fun. 

I think what ended up in the film was mostly scripted, but the stuff Kristen would say coming out of a scene would always be different. Like when she said the (“This should be open because it’s civil rights”) line, that was something she never said before. Also, “Are you an appliance?” 

TOP: Melissa McCarthy earned a best supporting actress Oscar nomination for her no-holds-barred turn in “Bridesmaids.” BOTTOM: Flight attendants Steve (Mitch Silpa, left) and Claire (Dana Powell) try to control the chaos on board.
TOP: Melissa McCarthy earned a best supporting actress Oscar nomination for her no-holds-barred turn in “Bridesmaids.” BOTTOM: Flight attendants Steve (Mitch Silpa, left) and Claire (Dana Powell) try to control the chaos on board.
LEFT: Melissa McCarthy earned a best supporting actress Oscar nomination for her no-holds-barred turn in “Bridesmaids.” RIGHT: Flight attendants Steve (Mitch Silpa, left) and Claire (Dana Powell) try to control the chaos on board.
Universal Pictures

Q: Is there a line you came up with that didn’t make it into the final film? 

Silpa: I remember one take Kristen called me Stove and then she was like, “What’s your sister’s name? Oven?” I said to her, “My sister’s missing.” And then her character got dead sober and was like, “I’m so sorry.” And I said, “Well, it’s not your fault.” I remember thinking, “That’s definitely not going to make it in,” but to her credit, she didn’t break. 

Q: When “Bridesmaids” opened, there were still these dated discussions of whether women could be funny and if a female-driven R-rated comedy could be a box-office hit. What do you recall about that chatter leading up to its release? 

Silpa: The thought of it being a female-driven comedy didn’t really hit me until it was coming out. These are people I performed with and I just think they’re hilarious, whatever their gender is. But as it was coming out and there was starting to be more press, I remember hearing that discussion of, “Is this gonna do well? Are people gonna wanna see funny women?” It’s crazy that was even a discussion. And then it seemed stupid that there was so much pressure on the movie, like, “Was this a fluke?” 

Suzanne Hanover, Universal Studios

I remember when I saw the movie at the premiere thinking, “This is great!” It was not a surprise it was a big hit – I think I expected it to be a big hit. This was coming after the success of “The Hangover,” and a lot of people were calling it “the female Hangover” because they were going to Vegas. So it sort of had that thing going. But once again, stupid. 

Q: There are so many brilliant moments in the movie, but the airplane scene continues to be one of the most quoted and beloved. Why do you think that is? 

Silpa: I’m not sure! I mean, there’s something going on with all the characters throughout the whole airplane sequence: with Melissa and Ben and their (characters) meeting; with Wendi and Ellie and what they’re talking about; with Kristen and Annie and “the woman on the wing.” And then also the dynamic between Kristen and Rose, where she wants to get up to first class. There’s so much going on comedically that just builds, so I wonder if that’s it? But it’s great – I’m so happy to be part of that sequence.

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