Melissa McCarthy, Paul Feig Thrill SXSW With ‘Spy’

Four years after he arrived to SXSW with “Bridesmaids,” his breakthrough comedy, Paul Feig returned to Austin on Sunday night with “Spy,” a satirical thriller starring Melissa McCarthy as a CIA agent.

Judging by SXSW’s enthusiastic reception, where the crowds laughed even harder than at “Trainwreck,” (which premiered at the Paramount Theatre right before) the screwball caper could be a big hit for Fox when it opens June 5. The tentpole not only features McCarthy in a showy starring role, but also includes meaty supporting parts for Jason Statham, Jude Law and Rose Byrne (as various spies who may or may not be switching teams throughout the film).

“I’ve always wanted to direct a spy movie but I realized no one is ever going to let me direct a Bond movie,” Feig told the audience at the post-screening Q&A. “And I loved working with these funny women, so I thought I’d write something with a woman lead.”

McCarthy, who introduced the film but had to promptly leave Texas to finish another project, talked to Variety last summer in Budapest while shooting “Spy.” She said Feig showed her the script as a friend — the plot centers on a hapless CIA analyst who gets thrown into the line of duty by accident — and she loved the project so much, she asked if he’d consider her for the lead.

But Feig revealed he thought of Statham to play the male lead spy while writing the script. “You have to tip your hat to Paul, he can get you to do anything,” Statham said. “The end result turned out great.”

“Thank you for not killing me,” Feig joked to Statham.

The film also offers another showcase for Byrne, who has turned into a summer comedic staple, between her supporting parts in “Bridesmaids” and “Neighbors.” “It was so fun to insult Melissa all day long,” said Byrne, who plays a villain in the film and designed her own “Dynasty”-like hair.

As he always does in his films, Feig said that he improvised with his cast and employed cross-shooting to get their surprised reaction shots. “Comedy is funny when it feels like it’s in the moment,” Feig said. He’s already hoping to make “Spy 2.” “I think everyone can definitely come back.”

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