- RatedM18 /GenreComedy
The name Paul Feig might draw some blanks, and maybe only to a handful of fans of the brilliant and short-lived 1999 TV series ‘Freaks and Geeks’ would know of him before he went on to direct some of television’s best shows, from ‘Arrested Development’ to ‘The Office’.
Then the runaway hit movie ‘Bridesmaids’ happened in 2011.
The raucously hilarious comedy about the misadventures of six women before a wedding turned the whole “women are not funny” debate on its head.
The movie raked in US$288 million (S$385 million) worldwide and garnered two Oscar nominations for its stars.
But most importantly, the movie pushed female comedic talent to the fore, and now we’re all big fans of Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph and Rebel Wilson.
With ‘Bridesmaids’ and then ‘The Heat’ in 2013, Feig is now the go-to guy when it comes to writing and directing female-centric comedies.
In 2013, the writer-director even penned a satirical article in Hollywood Reporter titled ‘Why Men Aren't Funny’, where he rebuked the idea by Christopher Hitchens that "Women Aren't Funny".
In an interview from Los Angeles, Feig said: “I want to break down the walls so people don’t just say, ‘That’s for men and that’s for women’. I want it to be about, ‘Oh, those people are funny.”
Ben Falcone, Melissa McCarthy and Paul Feig at the ceremony honouring McCarthy with a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
“I find the female sense of humour much funnier than male humour, because it's less aggressive and I find it supportive and fun,” the 50-year-old added.
MORE: ‘Spy’ movie review
“For years, the funniest women I know have been forced to play ‘the mean girlfriend’ or ‘the wife who doesn't understand’. That makes me very sad. Also, part of me likes to flip genres.”
Flipping genres is what Feig did with ‘Spy’.
In this espionage-thriller-comedy he wrote and directed, Feig threw away the rulebook and made something radically different: A movie where the hero (or heroine in this case) is the most unassuming and underestimated women in the room, and then she becomes a super-spy.
“When I was researching this film, I read several articles which said that it is scientifically proven, at least in the intelligence community, that women make better spies than men, because it is all about gaining the trust of somebody whom you are trying to get onto your side,” Feig said.
The heroine in ‘Spy’ is none other than Melissa McCarthy’s Susan Cooper, a deskbound CIA-analyst who volunteers to go out into the field to stop a nuclear arms deal.
Susan finally gets her dream job, but she is given the worst possible kind of undercover disguises.
It’s the third time Feig and McCarthy have worked together, and his choice to make her the centre of a movie filled with car chases and gunfights has also become one of his hallmarks.
“What Melissa brings to everything is humanity and believability. That is why we work so well together, because that's all either one of us cares about: making sure everything plays as honest and real, even when it's big and absurd,” Feig said of his star and frequent collaborator.
The pair is joining hands again for the fourth time in the much-anticipated all-female reboot of ‘Ghostbusters’.
Rose Bryne and Melissa McCarthy (right) in 'Spy' | Photo: 20th Century Fox
'Spy' also stars ‘Bridesmaids’ alumnus Rose Bryne, who plays villain Rayna Boyanov.
Feig observed: “Rose is one of the most talented comedic actresses out there and nobody knew for years that she was a comedic actress. She has a very posh English accent, is composed and classy, but she is swearing all the time and she is so funny. It is my favourite thing she has ever done.”
And what about the men? Jude Law and Jason Statham gamely act against type, playing supporting roles here to comedic effect.
The surprisingly funny Statham plays one of the CIA’s top spies who is mad that Susan is sent out to do his job. He follows her to make sure that she doesn’t mess up, but things don't go according to plan.
“Guys have dominated everything in movies forever," Feig said, "and there have to be some guys out there who aren’t great at everything and who make mistakes.”
‘Spy’ opens 21 May 2015