Interviews

Bring on the funny: Interview with Melissa McCarthy

By Zaki JufriMovies - 02 July 2014 9:00 AM | Updated 6:38 PM

Bring on the funny: Interview with Melissa McCarthy

When it comes to comedy, there is no actor that has consistently delivered with aplomb as Melissa McCarthy. 

Her brand of charmingly brash, in-your-face, physical comedy with a go-for-broke attitude has opened up her career path, making her one of Hollywood’s most bankable and in-demand stars. 

Make no mistake, while some of her most famous peers have dropped bombs, the nonpareil comedienne has been laughing all the way to the bank. 

Her five most recent movies – ‘Bridesmaids’ (2011), ‘This Is 40’ (2012), ‘The Heat’ (2013), ‘Identity Thief’ (2013) and ‘The Hangover 3’ (2013) – have earned more than $650 million (S$810 million) in the US – the sort of money that Jim Carrey once commanded.

The 43-year-old actress returns to the big screen with new comedy ‘Tammy’, which opens in Singapore 3 July. 

Co-written with her husband Ben Falcone, who makes his directorial debut, the movie tells the story of Tammy (McCarthy), a foul-mouth fast-food worker who loses her job, car and husband in one evening, and promptly takes off on a road trip with her hard-drinking grandmother Pearl, played by Susan Sarandon. 

Falcone has a small part as Tammy's unsympathetic boss; Mark Duplass from US TV series ‘The Mindy Project’ is Bobby, a charming guy she meets in a bar; and Kathy Bates is Lenore, Tammy's cousin, a no-nonsense businesswoman with a happy spouse Susanne (Sandra Oh). 

Susan Sarandon plays Pearl, Tammy's grandmother. Photo: Warner Bros.

The idea behind ‘Tammy’ sprang to the husband-and-wife team six years ago, pre-dating her breakout role in ‘Bridesmaids’ that gave McCarthy a Best Supporting Actress nomination, and her Emmy-winning role in the US sitcom ‘Mike & Molly’.

Falcone said: “We had been working on the movie for a while. Right after ‘Bridesmaids’, New Line Cinema was wondering if we had anything to offer. I think they had read a story where Melissa said that she have a script about a road trip. So we met with them and they bought the script sight unseen, because they wanted to work with Melissa. What an amazing vote of confidence from that team over there. So, anyway, we started rewriting the script, and working on it, and working on it, and then here we are now.” 

Will Ferrell, who is one of the movie’s co-producers, said this to entertainment magazine Variety about McCarthy: “There’s a sense of excitement and danger with her performances. She’s beautifully reckless and does things you’ve never seen a woman do.” 

Indeed, while most of her peers have to deal with a beauty- and weight-obsessed Hollywood, the full-figured actress defies conventions, which makes her success even more inspiring. She even uses her body to her advantage, giving us a brand of acting where her body is a character in itself. 

McCarthy tells us more.

Describe your experience writing, producing, and starring as the lead character in this film.

It was great. Overwhelming, frightening and wonderful, all in one. I loved being a part of every single little facet of it. It was like seeing how the magic trick works… boy, being involved at that level and seeing every little detail, like, "What colour is the car? What colour is the house? What colour is this? How fast should it go?" I loved every minute of it.

McCarthy (right) with husband and director Ben Falcone (left) on set. Photo: Warner Bros.

How do you feel about your character, Tammy? 

I love her. She absolutely cannot get out of her own way. She's her own worst enemy, which I think a lot of people are, and I just love that I always thought her heart is in the right place. Even when she's yelling, even when she's really being defensive, and almost seems angry, I always think, "Oh, but underneath, she's a little scared, or she's insecure."

And I love that balance to her. That, through the movie, slowly but surely, we see how she drops all that bravado. That she's just a nice girl who was a little lost, hasn't really put in the effort to have the life she wants. I just ended up really rooting for her. When we were writing the character and the movie, I just fell in love with Tammy and I just really want her to do well. And it's funny to watch her fall and do the wrong thing and then try to get back up. And you root for her, and then she does it again.

How was it having your husband as your director?

It was the right fit. He's great at it. He's patient, kind, and he's really smart. He has a great ability to keep a bird's eye view on things. 

For example, when we’re improvising and changing the tone a lot, somehow Ben is able to just keep it flowing and keep everybody comfortable.

””
McCarthy in a scene with Susan Sarandon. Photo: Warner Bros.

He's really collaborative, so there's no "This is the way I want it". He was always saying, "Well, what do you think?" And we’ve people that have made a million movies. He had no problem asking for feedback. Kathy (Bates) and Mark (Duplass) had directed movies and Susan (Sarandon) have made more movies than I can count.

Ben has such a healthy ego that he was like, "Why wouldn't I ask people what they think? They're amazing." So it was this really great collaborative feeling that just made for a really fun day on set. Every day was really great. 

What was it like to work so closely with Susan Sarandon?

I know. Oh, my God! How crazy is that? I couldn't believe it when we got her in the movie. She took a character that we already loved and she made it so much better. She is such a smart actress. She's really so incredibly skilled at what she did.

She just played her part with no judgment. She didn't see Pearl as this horrible woman that made all of these mistakes. She just thought, "Well, everybody's got a past."

‘Tammy’ opens in cinemas 3 July 2014


Interview courtesy of Warner Bros. Singapore

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