In this week’s Variety cover story, Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone talk about diving into comedy production with their own company, On the Day. The first project on the list: “Tammy,” which opens Fourth of July weekend, about a Midwestern heroine who takes a road trip with her alcoholic and promiscuous grandmother (Susan Sarandon). McCarthy stars, co-wrote the script, produces the film and even considered co-directing until her TV schedule with CBS’ “Mike and Molly” got in the way. Instead, the director job went to her husband (and frequent comedy collaborator) Falcone, who additionally co-wrote the script with her (on napkins), executive produces and pops up as a grumpy fast food manager in early scenes.
Over a 2.5-hour dinner in Budapest in May, the McCarthy-Falcones gave Variety an exclusive look at their upcoming projects.
(1) “The Memory of Running.” Falcone revealed for the first time that he and McCarthy have acquired rights to the Ron McLarty novel about a war veteran on a cross-country bike pilgrimage. Falcone has finished a first draft, and either he or McCarthy could direct (and appear in) the film.
(2) “Michelle Darnell.” This project from Universal was announced last year, but the plot was a secret until now. It’s based on a character McCarthy first created in the Los Angeles Groundlings, where she perfected her comedic timing and met Falcone in the late ’90s. Darnell is a self-help inspiration speaker (a la Suze Orman or Oprah) who goes to jail for insider trading, and struggles to reinvent herself as America’s new sweetheart when she’s released. “I just could never get her out of my head,” McCarthy says. “She’s got short, red spiky hair and wears a lot of turtlenecks, and from there, a script is born. We made her the 47th wealthiest woman in the world. She’s not particularly nice about it.” McCarthy and Falcone are currently revising the script they co-wrote with their Groundlings buddy Steve Mallory. Falcone will direct again. The production is scheduled to begin in March, after McCarthy wraps the fifth season of “Mike & Molly.”
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(3) “Spy.” McCarthy was in Budapest filming this Paul Feig action comedy from Twentieth Century Fox, where she plays a female super agent reminiscent of “Alias” (she dons five different wigs throughout the film). McCarthy did most of her stunts, including a scene where she hangs from a helicopter with Jason Statham. “I’ve thrown my neck out and my back out,” McCarthy says. “My hands are swollen. I have big bruises everywhere.” She’s also took a few tumbles while running through the streets of Budapest in heels. “Damn you, Feig!” McCarthy jokes of her frequent director collaborator, who she worked with on “Bridesmaids” and “The Heat.” She explains that the two are on the same comedy wavelength: “He’s one of the funniest human beings I’ve ever met in my life,” McCarthy says. And Feig wanted Falcone to appear in a cameo (like he did in “Bridesmaids” and “The Heat”), since he believes the actor is his good luck charm. Falcone plays an American tourist, asking for directions to a Popeyes. “She’s about to get into a major spy fight,” Falcone says. “I’m just an idiot.” The film opens on May 22, 2015.
(4) “Just Do It.” In yet another comedy with Feig attached, McCarthy will play a wife who tries to repair her marriage with her husband through 100 days of continuous sex. “It’s hugely graphic — like a medical film,” McCarthy jokes. “It’s so not that. It becomes endearing, even though it’s about sex. It’s more about a couple trying to get their relationship back to where it was.””
(5) “Cousin Irv.” “There are a few things we’re working on just on the producing side,” Falcone says, including this film based on the book “Cousin Irv from Mars” by Bruce Eric Kaplan, who is writing the script.
Also coming up … “St. Vincent.” They aren’t producing this one, but McCarthy slips into serious character actress mode as a single divorced mom in this Weinstein Co. fall drama that could be this year’s “Silver Linings Playbook” (it also features the best performance from Bill Murray since “Lost in the Translation”). Director Theodore Melfi said that Harvey Weinstein wasn’t sure if McCarthy was up for the dramatic material. McCarthy didn’t back down from the challenge. “Melissa said, ‘Let’s show Harvey!’ ” Melfi recalls. “We put her on tape, which is unheard of for someone of her stature. Harvey got the tape on a Friday. On a Monday, he called me. He said, ‘You’re 100% right. I can’t think of anyone else now.’ ”
Mefi compares McCarthy to another comedic icon who did more than just make people laugh. “Personally, I think in 20 years,” he says, “we’re going to be talking about Melissa McCarthy like we talk about Mary Tyler Moore.”