25 November 2013

As 'The Heat' Arrives On DVD, Director Paul Feig Talks Funny Women In Hollywood

Interview With Paul Feig Bridesmaids The Heat Director

Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy in The Heat

When Grazia Daily was invited to dinner in New York with Hollywood director Paul Feig how could we possibly refuse? The man who brought us the brilliant and hilarious Bridesmaids and The Heat – starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy and released today on DVD - is also a Grazia subscriber, and has a ‘Master Plan’ to boost the number of female-led comedies produced. We’re proud to say we made him chuckle more than a few times over the salmon tartare too, as he revealed to us his plot to help funny women take back their rightful place in film.

How are you trying to increase the number of women starring in films?

My company is developing and producing a lot of movies for women, at various levels - breaking new female stars as well as the big stars - in female-based comedies that appeal to both men and women, not just chick-flicks.

Men shouldn’t look at a movie poster filled with women, and go: ‘I can’t see that, that’s a chick-flick’. Hopefully, men will go: ‘Oh, I know those people. Those ladies are funny, I’m going to see that movie.’

How and why did you become so interested in making films starring funny women?

I was always a very sensitive kid, and I got bullied a lot, by guys, so many of my friends growing up were girls or other, sensitive, geeky guys.

From when I was young, I learnt that female friendships are fun and goofy and non-judgmental. Of course, we would gossip and talk about people who weren’t around but female friendship didn’t have that aggressive name-calling and punching that male ‘friendship’ does - I never responded to that.

As 'The Heat' Arrives On DVD, Director Paul Feig Talks Funny Women In Hollywood

Paul Feig with Sandra Bullock [Getty]

Why is there such a dearth of films and comedies headed up by women in Hollywood?

It wasn’t always the case. If you look at the movies from the 1930s or the 1940s, female characters – played by Katherine Hepburn, and Rosalind Russell and Barbara Stanwick - were so strong and smart in those movies.

There was then this shift in thinking, from the 1970s onwards, when Hollywood realized that 15 year-old boys drove the box office. So the films started to mirror what a 15 year-old boy’s view of a woman is, which is that they ruin a good time and get in the way of the guys getting the job done or having fun.

So there is a feeling by Hollywood now that movies starring women just don’t draw an audience. And women have sort of got used to just going with their boyfriend or husband to see the films that are available. It is not that they don’t enjoy them, but there is a lack of really great female characters for them to associate with. It is getting better - there are definitely some more interesting roles, but not to the level that it should be.

People often blame the blockbuster for making Hollywood very male-star-centric too – do you agree?

The blockbuster really began with Jaws and got cemented as a genre with Star Wars in the 1970s. Before that, movies were really made for adults, with a few kids’ movies. And then, suddenly, people realized that the audiences that were really going to show up were the ones with a disposable income - teenagers.

In Star Wars, Princess Leah, Carrie Fisher’s character was a strong female character. But then it just started to get more and more male-driven, with the Stallone movies and the Schwarzenegger movies, which all started to take movies in a very different direction.

Interview With Paul Feig Bridesmaids The Heat Director

Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy in The Heat

Do you think men and women have different comedy styles?

I have never been drawn to male-centric comedy as much because it is more aggressive – there is lots of name-calling, and insults and put-downs. There is a real sense of competition when funny guys get together, no matter how funny it is. What I like about being in a group of funny women is that it is more inclusive – everyone shares the jokes.

My favourite times on Bridesmaids were when I’d be hanging out with Maya [Rudolph] and Kristen [Wiig] and they would be singing, doing silly voices and imitations. Everyone was having such a good time, no one was being hurt or put down, no one was trying to be cool.

It was the same on The Heat – Sandra [Bullock] and Melissa [McCarthy] became such fast friends, and they are still friends – they were out trick or treating in our neighbourhood together recently for Halloween. I do think that women who do comedy are a different breed - they are so supportive of each other.

Interview With Paul Feig Bridesmaids The Heat Director

Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy in The Heat

Do you think that women are deprogrammed and discouraged by society to being funny at a young age, because it’s not something that is deemed valuable as a female trait?

I think some guys are scared about the idea of their girlfriend being apparently funnier than they are. I personally think that sounds like the greatest thing in the world, but I have read some research done on it, and there are a lot of people who think women should not take the spotlight, should not outshine men, which is why women who are truly funny are rebels, in a way.

Who are the women you would love to work with in the future?

I would love to work with Amy Poehler, Cecily Strong and Emma Stone. Jennifer Lawrence is like an old-time movie star, like Jean Arthurs. She’s so funny and strong, and cool - and 23 – it’s obscene, so she is definitely on my list. And then there are other people I know, like Jessica Chafin and Jaime Denbo [who play Gina and Beth in The Heat], who we are already developing movies for. They are just across-the-board funny – I can put them in anything and they will come up with a character and just destroy. I’m also about to make another movie with Melissa [McCarthy]. It’s a female superspy movie – we are heading off to Budapest to scout locations to begin shooting in the spring.

 Interview With Paul Feig Bridesmaids The Heat Director

The Heat is available on DigitalHD, Blu-ray and DVD on November 25 from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

By Jane Mulkerrins


Comments

All posts must obey the house rules, if you object to any comments please let us know and we'll take the appropriate action.