Melissa McCarthy: Comedy’s Hottest Star

"The Heat" $205.7m

Comedy star outperforming male counterparts at the box office

Melissa McCarthy is the hottest name in comedy right now — even hotter than the boys.

With Fox’s “The Heat” scoring an impressive $39 million Stateside debut this weekend, the comedic actress proved she can not only compete in a mostly male-driven genre, she’s capable of dominating it.

“The Heat,” co-starring Sandra Bullock, easily won the weekend’s face-to-face standoff with Sony’s male duo actioner, “White House Down,” which disappointed with $24.9 million. But the comparisons for McCarthy to other comedies and their male stars go much deeper than this weekend’s direct B.O. showdown alone.

Looking at the first few breakout hits for such male stars including Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Jason Bateman, Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill, and it’s clear McCarthy is doing it better. The first two films in which she starred — “Bridesmaids,” for which she received an Academy Award nomination, and “The Identity Thief” — became hugely successful Stateside, grossing $169 million and $135 million, respectively.

By comparison, Ferrell’s first major film, “A Night at the Roxbury” (1998), earned just $30 million domestically. Ferrell didn’t see his first $100 million grosser until “Elf,” which was released five years later. Rogen’s breakout hit, “Knocked Up,” topped out at less than $150 million in 2007, followed a few months later by “Superbad,” which earned $121 million domestically.

Earlier this summer, Rogen co-directed and starred in Sony’s “This Is the End,” which features a “Who’s Who?” list of hot comedy stars nowadays (excluding McCarthy). While that film opened well with $21 million and has cumed nearly $75 million to date, it still falls behind all three of McCarthy’s top earners at their respective points of release.

Paul Feig, who directed “Bridesmaids” and “The Heat,” expressed frustration at CinemaCon in April over the small number of female-driven projects because of their lack of success internationally.

“I’m desperate to change that,” he said. “I would love to figure it out.”

McCarthy’s role in “Identity Thief” originally was written for a man, but re-written for McCarthy specifically given her recent box office dominance.

As for the ladies, McCarthy is in a class of her own.

In terms of box office performance, no other recent female star (in a comedy) has been able to catch McCarthy’s mainstream appeal, including Tina Fey, Emma Stone and Kristin Wiig, who co-wrote and starred in “Bridesmaids.”

McCarthy, who got her start in television with a recurring role on the hit show “Gilmore Girls,” currently stars in CBS’ “Mike and Molly.” The actress also had cameo roles in recent films including “This Is 40” and “The Hangover Part III,” for which Warner Bros. used her scenes to market the film in its trailers and TV spots.

Just last week, McCarthy wrapped principle production on New Line’s road-trip comedy, “Tammy,” which she co-wrote with her husband Ben Falcone, who also directed the film. Pic is set for release July 2, 2014.

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  1. Mike says:

    Thank you Variety for changing the dismissive headline. This paper still needs to realize just how patronizing the tone of this article is towards McCarthy and her towering achievements and talent. She won the Emmy and was nominated for an Oscar in the same year. That’s never happened to Wil lFerrel. When women’s accomplishments mean less than men in your coverage that’s a good way to lose readers. Of course her films are successful. They give the audience what they want. If only Studios and the media understood audiences will pay money for talent and not hype the film business would be in better shape. How nice to NOT GO TO A SEQUEL starring more MEN with women in secondary roles. Comedies and dramas aren’t dead. Studio execs are too stupid to make them with truly talented actors like McCarthy.

  2. Judie Rosen says:

    She is fabulously talented & I willl not miss anything she graces the screen with. Laughed until we cried at SNL & saw it again this week. Good for her!

  3. Terry says:

    This movie looks like a derivative piece of you mnkw what. It also carries with it a black character who BUGS his eyes out like a black minstrel performer. It is the same junk we have seen before. And that clown Bullock keeps hitting them balls behind the pitcher. I’ll never watch The Heat.

  4. Gillian says:

    Good for her!!!!!

  5. Lita Lopez says:

    Yes! Thank you for changing your headline Mr. Stewart. One small step for a reporter, one giant leap for Hollywood.

  6. Cala says:

    The headline is horrible. It’s not a surprise. She’s one of the funniest and most talented performers around. This article was written by a male who won’t acknowledge the misogyny of Hollywood and all that it implies. Audiences are relieved not to watch an anorexic stick with fake boobs onscreen. Instead they see someone who genuinely makes them laugh and happens to be a woman.

  7. Agreed, Melissa is Hilarious. Variety is my home page.

  8. Lita Lopez says:

    Even the headline is patronizing with its “Surprising It Girl”. What’s so surprising? That Ms. McCarthy is popular because she’s funny & talented? Or, that she is obliterating the tiny box Hollywood likes to cage their “It” girls within? Would it be so “surprising” if she were the typical 23 year old waif? It’s time to wake up and realize audiences embrace quality no matter what genre or form it takes, what size it wears or what’s between its legs.

  9. The language in this article is telling. “Hotter than the boys,” as though this were high school color wars. “Capable of dominating it,” suggestion capability was ever the issue. And “no other recent female star (in a comedy) has been able to catch McCarthy’s mainstream appeal,” as though more than a few have been given the chance. The industry continues to pat women on the head like an adorable side project, despite clear evidence that the audience wants more stories by and about women, and a much broader range of women represented on screen.

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