The director of one of the biggest hits of the year, “Bridesmaids”, filmmaker Paul Feig cut his teeth first as an actor (you may remember him as the Science Teacher on “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch”) before making the transition to TV (he created the cult classic “Freaks and Geeks”) and eventually, feature film directing with the John Hughes-esque family comedy “Unaccompanied Minors”. Clint Morris chats to Feig about past and present glories.
Having been so ill this year, “Bridesmaids” was exactly the medicine I needed; besides that, it’s one of my favourite films of late. And I am so glad I saw it with an audience, if even a small one.
Oh. Fantastic! I’m glad you’re better now? That’s the thing, I mean, occasionally they’ll… I mean, like I’ll to talk to some journalists and they’ll say they saw it. I say “You were sitting in the audience?” “Oh I sat by myself, you know.” [chuckle] It was really made to be a group experience. Even when we were testing for the film, which we did many times, it was with a big audience. We even built in kind of pauses for the applause and laughs that we know are there.
I saw it with only four or five others in a cinema but that was enough people to tell whether it was working or not. And look, some journalists will sit there watching three or four films a day and if you’ve got them laughing, that’s good. It’s a good thing. Means a lot.
Oh yes, I’ll take it – I’ll take that!
While I was waiting to be called into interview you I saw that Nikki [Finke] had something on your new film with Judd Apatow?
Yeah. [chuckle] It was sort of one of those things you go, “I’m not supposed to come out”. But I’m happy it did.
I mean, yeah. I mean, that’s it. I guess I wasn’t too secretive about it in various points in the last few months, but it’s a real passion project.
You know, again it’s just trying to tell… I love to tell stories that don’t normally get told. It’s just a ridiculous that this story [Bridesmaids] hasn’t been told because…
It is, yeah.
It is considered ground-breaking that six women are starring in a movie. It’s like, really? In 2011? Okay. But I’m just glad we got to do it.
Yeah. What’s this new… Because I didn’t really get to read much about it. I just read Jon Hamm and Melissa McCarthy are in it…
Yeah, they are the inspiration for it. Nobody’s officially on…
But that is my dream cast. And I can talk to both of them and the others but we’ll see.
I was actually just reading an article too, about all the most pirated movies of the past week. And I don’t think that yours was on there. I was like, “Great.” That means people are seeing it with an audience and not on a monitor.
Oh good. That’s one of this…
Yeah. I know. Yours wasn’t… And I think yours wasn’t listed. That was great.
Really? We’re not there, good! Oh and the new film… Yeah. But, it’s like an unconventional love story. In the vein of this and… Ben and I have done a very specific story-telling style, which is very real. But then we, out of the reality, we try to make it as funny as we can. It has to be grounded in a very real situation. So, I’m excited about that.
Yeah, yeah. And look, I love Jon Hamm.
Yeah. He’s I mean… To me he’s the new Cary Grant. Because he’s just so funny but so effortless. Him and Melissa is just a force of nature.
Yeah, yeah. I have seen her on Gilmore Girls. That was… I think that was the only time I’d seen her. I hadn’t seen her or anything else she’s done. So I was like…
Did you recognize when she first came on the screen?
Oh, I knew she was in it. So that’s probably… Yeah. But I don’t know… Yeah. Well, I’ll ask my wife though when she gets to…
Some people were like, “I didn’t know it was her until… ”
Yeah. It’s such a departure for her too, yeah.
And he created that look. I mean I was all over… I mean it’s… She, you know… It was in the script, that character was definitely written very well. But she came in with that take on this. And then… It’s funny when that movie was… It had not come out yet. There’s all these hand wringing kind of articles coming out of like, women are like, “Oh, how dare they. Here’s another clichéd, heavy character, blah blah blah.” Like, first of all, she came up with that look and I had whole-heartedly approved it. Thought it was so funny, but it was like… It was a little condescending like, “And all these men. Look what they did to this poor woman.” I was like, “This woman’s the funniest woman on the planet. I don’t tell her what to do.”
The Wilson Phillips thing. How did that come up? Was that in the script?
No. It wasn’t. [chuckle] We just knew that we wanted to have Helen bring somebody famous to the wedding. We just thought that would be funny. And we went through lists and lists of kinda debating who should it be. Should it be Stevie Wonder? Should it be… Like all these different things and I could not figure it out. And it was only by kind of, always going to people, like “Who do you want to see in the movie?” Or showing people lists and realizing women especially were starting to sing a lot of Wilson Phillips more and more. I gotta admit, I never even heard the song before. I think I had heard it in passing, but it never registered. But, once we kind of decided on that, when I listened to it, we were all like “Wow, this… ” It actually like, the lyrics described the movie exactly. It was all just kind of a happy accident that I wished I was cool enough to take full credit for it. “Oh yeah. We thought that thing.” but that would be bullshit. So I couldn’t do it. The music is important.
It is. Yeah. Do you have it in the back of your mind when you were shooting. Oh, this sounds…
Yeah, I do. I’m always looking for songs. That is my favorite thing in the world, that is you know, Freaks and Geeks is all about that. That I would write specifically two songs, find songs and write scenes around songs. I guess, yeah, always kinda looking for music all the way through and you hear some happy good one for this movie and you just gotta keep it in your back pocket. But, the biggest thing for us, the songs is definitely one of them, but then the soundtrack is where a lot of these movies fall apart. If you watched a lot of “woman’s movies” not that I consider this a woman’s movie, just a movie with women in it, but they are so scored, it’s unbelievable. And it’s a very condescending way to do music, because when you are putting music you’re telling the audience what to think. And so it is so overwrought. Not in terms of, they’re using it as a makeup for an energy or lack of energy that the audience has. You can’t manufacture that. All you can do is do the layer in all the shit that people go like “Why am I so annoyed right now?” What I love about ours is that we have very little scoring. And, when it comes in, it just kind of… You’re already feeling something and I was like “Okay, let’s just support what you’re feeling here.” As opposed to like “Here is what you guys fell now”. It might…
Yeah. Hit the buttons.
Yeah. And we have Mike Andrews who we work with since Freaks and Geeks. He’s just so good at that silky kind of “Here it comes, you don’t know it’s there.”
Yeah. You were talking about the end scene with the celebrity. ”The Hangover” did the same thing in the sequel.
Yeah. Oh did they. I haven’t seen the sequel yet.
They bought Mike Tyson out at end for the wedding.
Oh, right right.
And he’s doing some song…
Right. I think in the first one they had the Dan Band come out.
That’s right. They did too.
You know, in the end of a movie, you want something big to happen, that is kinda fun.
Just so happens that two filmmakers brought out the cameo… [laughter]
Oh, dammit. Yeah, we thought of that one.
They pushed that through in terms of sequels and all that kind of stuff. Are you getting pressured now to do “Bridesmaids II”?
No official pressure. It’s just kind of in the air at the moment. Which is great. It means you’re successful, so that’s nice. None of us are against it. We will reassemble this team of women who have so much more they can do together, it would be great. A call to arms has to be a great idea, it’s good or better than the first one, because I don’t want to descend… There’s nothing more depressing to me than…
You don’t want a sequel to…
You know, all that you said. [chuckle] But yeah, I’d just hate one like… There are very few Godfather Part IIs. And you really want that. You really want that like even better.
Even probably they hadn’t done it.
Yeah. There is nothing worse to me. That’s why people are always wanting us to do, you know, kinda bring back Freaks and Geeks, do reunion movies. Like I don’t know. Do you really want that thing that might brew into… Not that we would make it bad.
Right… it would be great to see everyone back together and see the characters again but somethings are of a time and place too, I think?
Oh yeah. It is also like, you know, I’d love to drink an entire bottle of gin, but I’m gonna feel awful or die at the end of it. So you shouldn’t always have what we want.
That’s right. With Rose Byrne, who is fantastic in the movie, would you work with her again? Do you think you would be working with her again?
She really blew me away… To the point where, I think, she’s one of the best improvisers I have ever worked with. She is really on par with Steve Carell, because they face… Improv the exact same way, which is they face it like an actor. They create a character that is so real to them that then they just are able to inhabit that character and react as the character reacts, and just happens to be a funny character. But it is not a lot of like, “What can I do to be funny?” They have just inhabited these weird characters that just is naturally funny. But then the character of Helen is so polar opposite from who Rose is that you are just like “Holy shit!” You just see her on the set and just like go into Helen and her eyes would take out this weird glaze and she’d kinda get this thing and you just go like “She’s just great. She could still be in the moment”. She’s spectacular! And she should be… She can be an appeal. She should be like cool and kicking ass and…
So what’s your next movie? Do you start the new Hamm/McCarthy movie when you get back?
Well, yeah. I’m just writing that one right now. There’s another one that may go in the Fall, funny we’re talking about sequels. It’s a sequel to a movie that people know but I can’t really talk about it yet. We’re just still trying to finalize it but that would be fun. It’s something that I kind of wanted to do with some actors I’ve always wanted to work with.
So, it’s not the same to anything you’ve done?
Yeah. Is that a bit… Is it scary? I mean…
It’s all scary. I’ts less a sequel and more like a reboot. This would be a reboot of a franchise. I’m being so mysterious, I apologize. I want to talk about it but it might not happen because we’re still trying to lock down those actors’ deals but I just want to keep working. There are other projects I have at Universal too, one is for me to direct, I have another pre-existing project and then I’ve got a lot original ideas I want to do. I’ve got a couple of smaller films that I’ve been desperate to do and now I wanted… I do wanted to do next, because I’d like to do another kind of studio film because it’s nice to actually… If you make people money, things tend to get a little easier. [chuckle] And its fun. I mean like again, now that we’ve actually got the stamp of like, we can kind of do our own style and not have to do other genre.
That’s right. And you can get the people you want to obviously, a lot easier like getting Jon Hamm.
Yeah, exactly. So that’s the thrill, I mean, that just gets your mind working so fast and like we’re trying to find and tell the stories I want to tell and hopefully Janelle just keep working together too because we’re a very good team, I think.
“Bridesmaids” is now showing