Interview: The Heat & Bridesmaids Director Paul Feig

The director on his breakout star Melissa McCarthy and her onscreen buddy Sandra Bullock.



This week sees the release of the new film from Bridesmaids director Paul Feig.

The Heat has fast-rising comedy star Melissa McCarthy confirming her Oscar-nominated breakout turn in Bridesmaids was no fluke. McCarthy stars alongside comedy queen Sandra Bullock, making a very welcome return to the genre, and the pair are a delight as the mismatched detectives in the well-worn but always winning genre of the buddy cop movie.

Bullock stars as strait-laced and tightly-wound FBI Special Agent Sarah Ashburn, who may be a genius in the field, but is despised by her colleagues. She’s forced to team up with McCarthy’s tough-as-nails Detective Shannon Mullins for a huge drug bust, and the clash of personalities makes for a raucous but endearing comedy about friendship.

We had the great pleasure of meeting up with Freaks and Geeks creator Feig (probably the most dapper gentleman you’ll ever meet), and after gushing about the brilliance of Bridesmaids, had a chat about The Heat.

How were you introduced to Kate Dippold’s script?
It was sent to me. We had a brief encounter when I directed an episode of Parks & Recreation, but we didn’t really talk - I remembered she was funny. It got sent to me when I was looking for something to do after Bridesmaids - this was like a year past it. It showed up at my house and it was titled the Untitled Female Buddy Cop Comedy. It sounded like such a perfect follow-up to Bridesmaids, as I wanted to keep the tone of Bridesmaids going, and work with strong funny women, but I didn’t want to keep doing the same thing. I’ve always liked the idea of an action comedy, so it really was the best of all worlds. Kate’s script was so funny, I was on a plane laughing out loud.

Sandra and Melissa are both brilliant comedy actresses in their own right, but when did you realise they had chemistry?
It was quite lucky, as it’s not a situation where we would do an audition. In Bridesmaids we would audition groups of women together. These two were two giant stars, and we hired them and thought, are they going to be good together? It was the first time we did a rehearsal, way before shooting so we can adjust the writing. They met and hit it off, because they both had young kids. They really became fast friends. They very similar in that they’re very cool, very nice, and they enjoy life, but they’re also incredibly smart and no-nonsense. It’s really sweet. I’m very pleased by their friendship - it makes me very happy.



Audiences, critics and - judging by her Oscar nomination - the industry love Melissa. Why do you think people have fallen in love with her?
I think it’s because she’s a real person. Even when she’s playing characters, there’s a part of her that’s coming through. Even this hard-ass, there’s a sweetness about her. She’s a loving person, and when you get to know her that’s what you learn. She’s a beautiful woman, but she’s a real woman, and so there’s nothing intimidating about her - you want to be her friend. That quality just comes across on screen.

The Oscar nominations that Bridesmaids received must’ve been vindication - do you think there’s still snobbery when it comes to comedy?
There is, and I’m trying to fight that. What happens is, when comedy doesn’t get recognised that way, it drives funny people out of comedy. Everyone’s so desperate for accolades, all these funny people go ‘I have to do a drama’. I hate that, as I want funny people to keep being funny. You can be quality funny, and people should, but getting that vindication was a real moment. That movie was not made at all thinking it was going to get awards. Good - keep doing what you do well, and you’ll eventually get something!

Why do you think movies about genuine female friendship are hard to come by? Normally, the women-centric rom-com has a real sour side to it.
It’s just what people think is funny about women, and it’s misguided. It’s from men and women - I’ve gotten scripts from female writers and it’s all cat-fighting. Why do we go to this? That’s what was nice on Bridesmaids - Kristen was like, ‘I never want anything like that going on.’ And I agree with that. You have to have conflict - conflict is comedy - but there’s a way to do it that’s people not agreeing versus people taking it down to this level where people don’t even interact with each other. You’re always trying to heighten when you’re doing comedy, but there’s a way to heighten without stereotypes. That’s why men get driven away by movies starring women, because they’ve seen that so many times. I can’t deal with that, I don’t want to watch that, but none of us want to watch that. I’m trying to re-educate, going look - these women are funny and smart and just as appealing to you. They’re both strong professional women, and it’s not ‘You need a man,’ it’s ‘You need a friend.’

The Bridesmaids Blu-ray deleted scenes section is a whole movie in itself I would have paid to see. Can we expect that with The Heat?
Oh yeah, we’re all signed off on it. So much funny stuff. What I love about DVD extras, it used to be when you made anything you’d want this funny stuff to be seen, so you’d shove more stuff in than you should and ruin the flow of the movie. Now you can put them in the extras. And it’s a great way to see how talented the cast is. My favourite thing on the DVD is a ten-minute version of that scene where they’ve got scotch tape on their faces. They were so funny on the fly.

Spoken Reasons was a surprise - being an old git I’d never heard of him.
I cast him directly off the internet - my casting director Emma Jones is great at finding people you don’t know about. It’s a lesson to anyone who wants to be an actor - just do stuff. Here’s a guy starring with Sandra Bullock, and he was just doing stuff in his house on the internet.

As a childhood New Kids on the Block fan I was amazed when Joey McIntyre popped up.
Who knew he was so funny? He’s one of the funniest people I’ve worked with - a great improviser too.

Will you be working with Kate Dippold again?
She’s already writing a sequel to this. She has a comedy, an original idea about a mother and daughter that’s extremely funny. If I could work with one person for the rest of my career it would be with Kate writing everything.