With Paul Feig’s (Bridesmaids) The Heat arriving on Blu-ray and DVD today, I recently landed an exclusive phone interview with the busy director. As most of you know, the film stars Sandra Bullock as an FBI agent who teams up with a local Boston cop (Melissa McCarthy) in order to bring down a drug lord. As you can see in the trailers and clips, the film features some excellent chemistry between Bullock and McCarthy, and it’s great to see two women as the leads in a buddy cop comedy.
During the interview, Feig talked about the special features on the Blu-ray like the deleted scenes and how he got the Mystery Science Theater guys to do a commentary track, the box office success of the film, his thoughts on the running time for comedies, the status of Susan Cooper with Melissa McCarthy (they start filming in March), the pilot he’s directing called People in New Jersey, and a lot more. Hit the jump for the interview.
Collider: When I spoke to you at the junket, obviously I was hoping that the movie was gonna do well, because as I said, more women need to be the leads of films. But, you had to be a little surprised when it crossed over $200 million worldwide.
PAUL FEIG: Very pleased (laughs). You do these, and you hope that they do well. Obviously Bridesmaids was a big success, and it was very scary trying to follow that up, because the fear was – you’re never in the clear, you know? You proved to Hollywood that women can star in movies, but then with the second one, you gotta prove it’s not just a fluke. So, this one doing well proved that two makes a better case than one.
I know Hollywood does tracking and stuff like that. When did you first know that you had a hit?
FEIG: Well I have to say, we were feeling pretty good after we started our test screenings. Literally, after the first test screening we did of a too-long version that wasn’t really finessed, we scored really well. We scored as high as we had been towards the end of our Bridesmaids screenings, so, that coupled with the fact that we know people love Melissa [McCarthy] – although Identity Thief hadn’t come out yet, so you’re never sure of audience support, so you don’t know if they wanna see her in a lead role – but we also knew we had Sandra [Bullock]. The math felt pretty good, but that doesn’t mean we were ever overconfident because, I’ve had films where I’ve thought, “Who wouldn’t wanna see this?” and then no one shows up (laughs). But I have to say, after the test screenings, we were feeling like we might have pulled it off.
Talking about the upcoming Blu-ray, you’re obviously including deleted scenes, extended scenes, alternate scenes, etc. You’re including a lot of stuff. Was this you saying “I wanna include all this stuff?” Or was this Fox saying, “Let’s put in as much as we can”?
FEIG: No, I’m a huge fan of loading it up with stuff. For me, my cast is so funny, and the supporting players are so funny, and we came up with so much stuff on the set, that I look forward to the DVD, because it’s a good chance to showcase things and people that didn’t get to have more stuff in the film. For me it’s really fun to show everything the actors in the Mullins family could do, like showing Michael McDonald doing some extra things. And also just to show different scenes we came up with, and scenes that Katie [Dippold] wrote that we didn’t have time for in the movie. But I’m a big fan of loading up a lot of stuff into a DVD, to the point where I’m wondering if we have enough space left for commentary tracks. They told me I only had enough room for five, and so I said, “We’re gonna do five commentary tracks” (laughs). I think it’s fun. If you’re not into DVD extras, then you don’t have to deal with them. But if you are, I always hate when I buy a DVD and there’s like one commentary track and the trailer. I’m like “C’mon! Give us something if we’re gonna buy it.” Especially these days, with digital downloads. There needs to be a motivation to actually own something. You gotta give people more stuff. I’m really excited about the stuff we have on here, to the point where the original Mystery Science Theater guys did a track just making fun of the movie, which was for me a huge deal, being a lifelong fan of theirs.
That’s very cool.
FEIG: It’s Josh Weinstein and Trace Beaulieu and Joel Hodgson doing it. They just came in for one day. They didn’t even write it. They just came in and did it as a favor with us for an hour or an hour and a half (laughs).
You’re working with really talented improvisers who can really make people laugh. I would imagine that you had some scenes where you had to say, “This clip is great and this clip is great. Which one is going in the movie?”
FEIG: Yeah. What decides everything is, what’s in service of the story and what keeps the story moving? Does it hurt things that are coming up or things that have come beforehand? So, you have things that you know you like. We had a bunch of scenes of Ashburn and Mullins talking about their past, and realized that we liked them all and thought they were pretty funny, but by the time we got to the third one we liked the most, which was with Mullins in Ashburn’s apartment talking about the yearbook, we realized that those first two scenes earlier were just hurting that. By the time you got to that, you realized you had heard versions of that information before. So you really have to pick which one is funniest, and which one advances the story most at that moment. That scene just felt like a better time for them to have a bonding moment, after they’ve had a few adventures. So, you really just break it down to the storyteller. Then again, that’s why DVDs are so great, because in the old days, before DVDs, you would agonize, because you were like, “I love this scene, and if I don’t put it in, no one’s ever gonna see it.” So the DVD is actually very beneficial to filmmakers and to audiences more specifically, because it should hopefully keep you from getting the over-long versions of movies, where you’re like “Okay, enough.” Instead, we can go, “Okay, they’ll see it on the DVD,” you know? It’s still there.
Some comedy directors like releasing 90-minute movies, and some like Judd Apatow maybe prefer to release a 3-hour movie. I’m exaggerating, but you know what I mean.
The Heat is a little under 2 hours. And out of curiosity, where do you like to be in terms of length? You’ve proven that you like a 2-hour movie with this, but I’m just curious to see if you lean more towards the side of keeping it as short as possible. Do you know what I mean?
FEIG: No, totally! I totally know what you mean. In a perfect world, I’d love to make 90-minute movies, but for me, a movie needs to be as long or short as it can sustain itself. That’s why I’m so dependent on the test-screening process, because that will tell you if an audience is with you or not. You’ll always get snarky comments like, “That was too long,” or, “It dragged at this part,” or whatever. But, just going off of these large samplings of people every couple weeks like we’re doing, as we’re in post-production on the movie, tells you. Because, you can tell when people lag and when they tend to get bored, so, I’ll only let it go as far as it seems people are willing to take it. And, so that we can get the story across in a good way. The other issue for me sometimes with a 90-minute comedy is that, it requires such a paced up, joke-telling system that it’s not my style of comedy. Where I think you can get in trouble in comedies – unless you’re masterful at it – is when you go, “Here it goes, here’s an event. Bam! Big joke and out.”
Because, you’re putting so much onus on those jokes, and you’re opening up the door for people to go, “Oh, there was a joke, and it wasn’t as funny as I wanted it to be.” While, what I do is more behavioral type comedy. You need to have a real ebb and flow, so that it’s more the comedy of people talking and interacting, and getting a zinger off at each other. But also, the comedy’s coming through their interactions and their understanding of each other. You always wanna go out with a joke, but at the same time, you want to be able to let the scene find its own rhythm, and let people relate to that moment and enjoy what those characters are doing. That said, for me, the perfect length for a movie is an hour and 45 minutes. I’m always trying to get to that. This film’s a little longer than that. Bridesmaids was a little over 2 hours, which made me feel like we could have at least brought it a little under 2 hours, but again, that movie plays right. And people love it, and every time I say that I could have cut out this or that, they’re like “No! That’s my favorite scene!” So, the story and the movie will dictate how long it needs to be.
Bridesmaids was super successful, and The Heat was super successful. How does that change in terms of you sitting down with studios and taking meetings? Because, I would imagine that, when you’re on a role, people want to work with you.
FEIG: No, it’s very nice. It’s what you always wanna get to. But, what it does is it ups the pressure, because, it’s easy to think, “Okay, everything we do now, people wanna do.” No. If the next movie comes out and doesn’t do well, it’s gonna hurt me. Those meetings are gonna be harder to get, or the projects will start to drive a little bit. The nice thing about having two hits in a row is, you won’t completely go in the dumper if your next film doesn’t do what everybody expects. But at the same time, you want it to do better, you want it to do well. Like kids. You want your kids to do better than you (laughs). As far as I’m concerned, I wish The Heat had done better than Bridesmaids just because, it would put us on an upward trajectory. But you know, I’m thrilled with how it did. I think for me, because of this movie, and because I’m having such a good time with Fox doing it, that I signed a first look deal with them, so it’s been great. I’ve got several new projects in development. I’m very very happy to be partnered with them and making more movies as we move forward.
That’s something I wanted to ask you about. The last time I spoke to you, I believe you said you were working on that spy comedy Susan Cooper with Melissa [McCarthy] possibly starring. What’s the status on that project?
FEIG: We’re gonna start shooting it in March. We’re just locking down Melissa’s deal right now and I’ve got other factors lined up that we’re gonna announce soon. But it’s a go. I’m doing a pilot for HBO right now, and as soon as I’m done with that, at the end of the month, we’re gonna head off to Europe and start scouting locations. So, Susan Cooper is a go.
First of all, that’s awesome to hear, and it’s awesome that you got Melissa again, because clearly, audiences love her.
FEIG: Yeah. It’s funny. People love her, and she and I love working together. Fortunately the ideas I respond to are the ideas she responds to also. I wasn’t even sure she’d want to do this project, because she’s so busy with her other things, but she read it and just loved it. So, it’s really exciting. This is a real dream project for me, because I’m such a big spy movie fan (laughs). To get to do the project with a really funny woman is also a real thrill.
For people who aren’t familiar with the project, do you have a one-liner, or can you tell people about it?
FEIG: Yeah. It’s basically about a woman who’d gone through CIA training, being the sort of person in the CIA basement who talks a modern-day James Bond through his missions. And, when something happens to him, she is forced to go out into the field and do it herself. So, it’s basically her rediscovering her skill.
I also definitely wanted to mention that pilot you were doing. It’s called People in New Jersey, is that correct?
FEIG: Yeah, correct.
Talk a little bit about what got you involved in that, because I’d imagine that a lot of pilots want you to be directing. So, how did you land on that one?
FEIG: Yeah. I’ve avoided doing, I mean, I think TV’s a better place than movies right now, but at the same time, I’m developing my own projects at the moment, and so, I was steering away from doing other people’s projects. But, the script came in –and it was actually like five scripts, and I’m only shooting the first one as a pilot – but, it was just so well-written and so funny, in such a tone that I like. I’m a big fan of Bruce Eric Kaplan. Not only is he a great producer with Girls, Seinfield, and Six Feet Under, but he’s also one of my favorite cartoonists from The New Yorker (laughs). It just felt fun, and it felt like something that would be fun to do. I’m also thrilled about working with this cast. To be working with Topher Grace and Sarah Silverman and Patti LuPone is like a dream come true.
When you get involved in a pilot like that and you’re working with someone else, how involved are you in the casting process, because you’re only doing the pilot, but does that mean you’re still there helping them pick? I’m just curious about the collaboration.
FEIG: When directors direct pilots, it is a collaboration. You are setting the tone along with the showrunners, and I’m there for all of the casting, and pushing people I want. That’s why you do it. I’ve done years of television directing where, fortunately I’ve been on great shows, where you’re really coming in and facilitating things they already have. You add to it if they let you, but generally, you’re just carrying it out. But with a pilot, it’s like making a movie. Even though you are ultimately in service of the showrunner, you’re coming in, and you’re in full collaboration with them. They hire you because they want your input, and they want your tone, that they are used to from other projects of yours. So, it’s like doing a little movie, basically. You’re in there for every single decision.
The other day, you linked to that Freaks and Geeks video game thing that was on YouTube.
FEIG: Yeah, it was so great.
I was gonna ask, when did you first see that? Talk about that, because I thought it was really cute.
FEIG: I thought it was great. I was searching something on the internet, and I stumbled across it. And, I just kind of went to it. I love stuff like that. I think it’s really fun, and it’s an honor that someone would spend their time making something like that about something you worked on or had a hand in. I thought it was fun. When I find something like that, I wanna let everybody know about it, because I like those guys. The Fine Brothers are really interesting and talented, so it was quite an honor that they would actually use their talents towards something I had worked on.
Congratulations on everything, and good luck with everything else.
FEIG: Thank you, Steve. I appreciate it.
The Heat is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.