Director Paul Feig is now exactly where he should be: the world is his oyster after helming the 2011 comedy hit, “Bridesmaids.” A film that went on to become the top grossing R-rated female comedy of all time, domestically surpassing “Sex and the City.” But it actually took a few years and probably a lot longer than it should have. After creating the beloved cult show “Freaks & Geeks” (which was canceled in 2000 after one season of 18 episodes), the writer/director was supposed to take on a young adult novel adaptation called “Stargirl,” but the project never materialized. Instead he directed the forgettable “Unaccompanied Minors” in 2006. And if that movie was unremarkable, the excellent TV CV that followed — he directed classic episodes of “Arrested Development,” “The Office,” 30 Rock,” “Mad Men,” “Bored to Death” and “Parks and Recreation” — perhaps hinted at what was to come.
And so “Bridesmaids” landed Feig exactly where he should be: as one of the most viable comedy writer/directors working today. And in the wake of that juggernaut of a pleasing comedy, project after project landed in Feig’s lap. In fact, the latest, titled “The Heat,” featuring Sandra Bullock and “Bridesmaids” breakout star Melissa McCarthy as an FBI agent and a Boston police officer who team up to take down a Russian mobster, has wrapped.
Due next spring, Feig recently spoke to Playlist contributor Jen Vineyard at the premiere of the second season of “Homeland,” where the director was celebrating finishing “The Heat” by going to his NYC restaurant, and told us a little about the project.
“On the screen, it’s kind of a street smart Boston cop and Sandra’s like a FBI agent, idolizes [“The Silence Of The Lambs” character] Clarice Starling [played by Jodie Foster in the film], more uptight, and they come together,” he explained of the dynamic between the two disparate characters.
“Melissa and Sandra just got along so well, they became like the best of friends, and the chemistry is so fun, because Sandra in real life is awesome,” Feig said. “She’s got nerdy qualities about her that I love, and that went into the character. And Melissa is tough as nails, and that really played into the characters. Sandra had so much fun, and she was such a fan of Melissa’s that when the script came along and she found out Melissa was into it, it came along really fast. It came to me eight weeks before we started shooting, so we dove in and did some rewrites on it.”
Feig revealed that the film has some great cameos that audiences should look out for, plus the Oscar count is surprisingly high. “Yeah, there are some fun surprises [in the cast],” he said. “Some really good people. Demian Bechir came in. We have three Academy Award nominees and one who has won, obviously, so it makes us seem very classy.”
And the film wrapped just in time for co-star Tony Hale to go off and do the new “Arrested Development” series for Netflix. “He’s so great in the movie, so funny,” Feig explained about Hale and his character. “He’s a guy who’s trying to pick up a prostitute that Melissa [McCarthy] busts. We had a role in the script for the John she busts, and we were like, “Who would be weird for this?” And my wife and I were like, at the same time, “Oh, wait! Tony Hale! He would be perfect!” Because you would not expect him to be picking up a prostitute like that. He’s such a good sport. He doesn’t get far. It’s just on the street. And if Melissa’s going to bust you, it’s not going to go well.”
Next up for Feig will be the American remake of the 2011 French hit “The Intouchables,” which he wrote and is scheduled to direct this fall. Feig says he knows who he wants to star opposite the lead Colin Firth, but tried to keep his cards close to the vest. “I finished a draft before we did this and there’s a rewrite I want to do, to make it even better,” he said. “It’s one of those nerve-wracking things, so I’m just powering through it. It’s an adaptation of that movie, and that movie is so good, so I’m trying not to stray too much, structurally, but it’s actually kind of fun to write, because I’m Americanizing it, and putting my voice in it, but trying not to mess it up. I’m really excited about this one. The French version is one of the most loveable films. It’s a crowd-pleaser. Colin and I know who I want for the other role, but I can’t say yet.”
Jen suggested Chris Rock, but while a good choice, clearly Feig has someone else in mind. “I hear he’s great in [“2 Days In New York”]. “We had lunch recently, and he’s such an amazing guy. I’ve got to check that out. I better not say who I want though, because now I might change my mind! Not to be cagey.”
“The Heat” also features Taran Killam, Bill Burr, Michael Rapaport, Michael McDonald, and Nathan Corddry and is due in theaters April 5, 2013. “The Intouchables,” a comedic look at the relationship between a wealthy paraplegic and the street tough he hires to help with myriad things, should shoot later this fall, stars Colin Firth and one TBD other co-star. — Interview by Jen Vineyard