Melissa McCarthy talks stunts, out of body experiences and upcoming movie Ghostbusters
Melissa McCarthy was something of a jobbing sitcom actress in the States thanks to roles in Gilmore Girls, Samantha Who and inexplicably popular, Mike and Molly.
But it was her breakthrough in Bridesmaids four years ago which pushed her into the A-list and now movie titans are clambering over themselves to work with the bubbly Illinois raised star. Some even go so far as to serve.
“You work with huge huge names,” she explains in a suite at London’s Claridges. “Actors you’ve admired for decades. And when you meet them, they’re bending over backwards to please you. Like when I worked with Sandra Bullock in The Heat, she was constantly running to get me water and checking if I had everything I needed. It was like, ‘Yes, Sandra Bullock, I would like another water.’ Where in the world does that make sense?”
Practically stealing the action from co-stars Kristen Wiig and Chris O’Dowd, McCarthy’s stellar turn as an overzealous nymphomaniac in the bridal smash, which went onto make over €350million at the box office, transformed her career and landed her first Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actress.
Married to Bridesmaid co-star Ben Falcone, father of their two girls, Vivian, 8 and four tear-old Georgette, she’s since used her fresh star power to land leads opposite Bullock in The Heat, Tammy with Shirley McLaine and the upcoming Ghosbusters reboot which will see her reteam with Wiig alongside SNL’s Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones.
But in new film, Spy, she leads quite possibly her most star-studded charge including Jude Law, Jason Statham, Rose Byrne and Miranda Hart.
McCarthy is Susan Cooper, a mild-mannered analyst for the Secret Service who longs for her chance to operate in the field and become an international spy.
And when the identities of all her fellow agents are compromised, it’s up to her to take down a ruthless terrorist [Byrne] who’s harbouring a deadly nuclear weapon.
Rather than a spoof comedy, Bridesmaids helmer, Paul Feig has crafted a slick action adventure which sees McCarthy take on her most daring role yet – Jane Bond.
In a patterned cream blouse, with her hair hanging loose around her noticeably slimmer features, the 44 year-old talks stunts, out of body experiences and a upcoming guest spot on Call The Midwife.
So this is your James Bond moment. Did you ever think you’d have a James Bond moment in your career?
MCCARTHY: Well you don’t see James Bond running in heels and falling down a lot [laughs]. I fell down many, many times but yes, this was my moment. And a film, a role I never thought I would have the good fortune to be a part of.
But what I love about her. On paper, she’s the world’s most unlikely spy but becomes kind of a badass, which I never thought I would be doing.
Let’s be honest, it’s the kind of script you’d think, ‘hang on, this is somewhat unbelievable, you still buy it.’ She’s capable but not really confident but that grows. I love how it unfolds, how bit by bit she moves onto hanging out of helicopters with Jason Statham. It’s got everything this film.
I expected a spoof of spy films but this is proper legit. Susan is an actual spy.
MCCARTHY: It was a big risk because a spoof would have been the safer option, no question. But everyone went into it, trying to make sure no one thought it was spoof. No one had any interest in that. It’s not like it reads.
It was dangerous and fast and the spy story had to add up with comedy on top of it. All the speed and the tension stays and that was important to maintain the heart and beat of the film
One can only assume this was your most physically challenging film…ever.
MCCARTHY: Ever! [laughs] And I learned a lot from it too. What you sometimes read in a script, is not what you’d expect. With Spy, you read a part of a script that’s like an eighth of a page and reads, ‘hanging from a helicopter.’ I never knew that that equates to THREE days hanging from a helicopter.
Three full days of hanging on with blisters, harnesses, which aren’t comfy. Things get moved around. It’s wild. And with Jason Statham hanging off you. OK, there are worse things in life. Far worse things [laughs] OK, it was a dream.
And even riding a little scooter around, you’re not sight-seeing, you’re trying to do all these stunts, in heels and you now, it’s just something I never thought in my career, I would do.
And I’m a dingbat because I always want to do everything myself. ‘Forget the stunt woman,’ who was amazing. I got probably a little over confident. With the helicopter, we were sixty feet high and there’s a shot where it goes over Budapest, and I wanted to do that and there was just, ‘no go’ from the studio.
I think I got way ahead of myself. I think I can do everything now, this film has given me so much confidence, I want to do it all.
And my kids got such a kick out of it. They’d ask, ‘Mommy, why are your whole ribs black and blue?’ Because Mommy is kicking ass.
Speaking of your cast, you seemed to bond so well on screen. Was it the same on set?
MCCARTHY: It was this electric atmosphere that really stems from Paul [Feig] and his energy. He brings together people from all walks and under his glorious leadership, a family emerges.
And what an amazing group of actors. I mean, Jude Law. Dreamy. He’s so incredibly smart, and a geek. A theatre geek, which I love the combination of because lets be honest, he’s real pretty to look at too. Such a good actor.
Rose, she’s such a good actress, wickedly funny, and it’s our second movie together, she’s great, a force of nature.
Jason Statham is funny, I never knew that. He’s so game for everything, always preprared, always right there. And it doesn’t matter what you throw at him, he’ll do it. He’ll be in the moment in a scene, and Paul will say, ‘Jason, this isn’t working, try this instead,’ and it will be a whole new monologue that he will deliver with the straightest face. Into my face. Which made me break, a lot. And I don’t break but when he’s right there [puts hand in front of face] it’s intense.
And Miranda, she’s the funniest person I’ve ever met. And the smartest, she write her own show and has Call The Midwife which we were all obsessed with.
Did you talk about a guest spot?
MCCARTHY: It didn’t come up but I would love that. No really, I’m obsessed with that show.
Since the Oscar nomination, you’ve become this box office lead. Did it change everything for you?
MCCARTHY: Bridesmaids changed my whole life, one eighty, and I’m so grateful, especially at this stage of my career when you know, it’s supposed to be harder for a woman in her forties.
And doing stuff with my friends that we had been doing for years in a little theatre in Los Angeles for free, and I thought, ‘I couldn’t believe we got to do it, let alone have that response, was just bonkers.’
Everything has changed. I get the shot at doing things that are so fun and exciting. I’m just crossing my fingers that it keeps going because my life right now is so fun.
What was your reaction with the Oscar nomination?
MCCARTHY: Yea, crazy. I stood there and watched it and it didn’t register and my husband Ben just stood there watching me, in this catatonic half-state. I had totally disassociated myself with it. And it wasn’t until Octavia [Spencers]’s name got called, and I burst out crying, ‘saying Octavia just got nominated for an Oscar, and Ben says to me, ‘did you hear?’ And I literally had to work my way back from that.
And then we rewound it and I watched it again. It was a fully came out of body experience.
Is Bridesmaids 2 going to happen?
MCCARTHY: I’ve no idea. Kristin and Annie [Mumolo] wrote the funniest thing and I have no knowledge but I would assume to say, they just don’t, wouldn’t want to do anything that wasn’t equally as good. But I’ll show up, I’ll show up whenever I’m needed.
I’ve heard lots of stuff about the sequel and frankly, when Kristen and Annie write it and if they want me on board again, I will cancel everything to be there.
Talk to me about Ghostbusters which we will see you together with Kristin? And collaborating with Paul Feig once again, which will be your fourth time working together.
MCCARTHY: Well I couldn’t be happier about the cast, workin with them and Paul’s going to bring a lot of fun and people are going to love it. I’m a huge Ghostbusters fan, I’ve seen it like 10,000 times so I couldn’t be more looking forward to a reboot. Whether I’m in it or not.
Does tinkering around with a classic warrant concern?
MCCARTHY: You have those doubts, naturally but it’s a female cast and it’s modern so it will put a new spin on it. It’s going to scare and have action and lots of comedy. I’m really excited.
Let’s talk quickly about your fashion line?
MCCARTHY: It’s a label for all women, every size, who want to look great, and it’s clothes that I would wear myself. And I wouldn’t out anything out there thart I wouldn’t wear myself.
Have you had much input?
MCCARTHY: More than I thought I would. But then, my name is on the label, I didn’t want anything OK’d until I’d seen it and sampled it. I want to make people feel good about what they wear.
Quickly, Spy is your Bond moment, who’s your favourite Bond?
MCCARTHY: I really like Daniel Craig. I like them all, I’ve seen them all. He was the first one where that guy can take you. He can beat you up and you’re not moving. He’s got some street in him.
Could he take on Susan Cooper?
MCCARTHY: I’d like to think it would be a pretty level playing field. She’s got some street too [laughs]