James Bond, eat your heart out. After Monday’s New York premiere of “Spy” at the AMC Loews Lincoln Square, Melissa McCarthy hit the stage at the Plaza Hotel after-party with glitter-ball bedecked Ukrainian drag performer Verka Serduchka. (Serduchka cameos in the film in a scene that is best left unspoiled.) Before launching into the performance, Serduchka thanked the crowd and gave his blessings to the movie, wishing them “great box office.”
McCarthy’s first major role was playing the sweet-natured, demure cook Sookie St. James on the WB drama “Gilmore Girls,” and director Paul Feig‘s breakthrough was creating the beloved and quickly cancelled TV series “Freaks and Geeks.” Nearly 16 years later, the pair have teamed up for their third collaboration, the explosive action-comedy film “Spy.”
Though “Spy” is a long way from the small-scale character-based dramas they made their name on, McCarthy told Variety that she relished the challenge of making the film, which required her to work with a martial arts trainer to prepare for her role as secret agent Susan Cooper.
“I hope to keep mixing it up and do all sorts of things. But I loved all the action. I really did,” she said, noting that when it came to the fight scenes, “you have to learn it kind of like a dance, you want to make sure you don’t get hurt and you don’t want to hurt the other person, there’s a lot of variables. It keeps it exciting, but you have to really focus. “
McCarthy and Feig first worked together on the 2011 comedy “Bridesmaids,” and then reteamed for “The Heat.” “I think we both love the collaborative process,” she said when asked why they click together well artistically. “I think neither one of us have any ego about what we do. There’s nothing precious. If something is not working, we throw it out and go for a different idea.”
Feig told Variety that he had never seen “Gilmore Girls,” and the first time he met her was when she auditioned for “Bridesmaids,” and her take was “180 degrees” away from any of the other actresses he had met. He was so stunned by her then that that he says it took him a few minutes to realize “this is the funniest thing I’ve ever seen,” and since then he keeps working with her in hopes of holding onto to the initial excitement.
“The funny thing about making a movie is, it seems like a big, glamorous thing, but when you’re making a movie, it’s you and the cameras and the person, and we’re just trying to make each other laugh,” he said. “But the power of film is you take that and you throw it up on screen, it seems more epic than it was in the making of.”
Though “The Heat” had some action sequences, “Spy” is by far the biggest endeavor Feig has taken on, and a sharp departure from the talky comedies he is known for.
“I love movies being spectacles and being events. Even though I like doing the smaller comedies, I found I was getting tired of strictly-dialogue based movies,” he says. “I wanted to do movies that had the action, that had things for everybody. I don’t want guys to have any excuse to not come and see how funny these women are.”
In addition to a desire to change things up, Feig, a man who knows about geekdom, said “Spy” is an homage to the the James Bond series, particularly the early Ian Fleming novels that inspired the 007 films. “I’m a huge fan of the original books. I love the tone of those, and once they started doing the Daniel Craig ones, particularly ‘Casino Royale,’ that’s really where they nailed the tone,” he said. “I saw those and thought, ‘How can we do a funny one that has the gravity of a (Jason Bourne film) and a Bond, but find the laughs organically?'”
Feig and McCarthy will start filming the reboot of the “Ghostbusters” series in a few weeks, with Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones. When the all-female cast was announced last fall, most of the reaction was supportive, but there was a virulent backlash in some corners of the internet, with a certain type of impassioned Ghostbusters fan quick to accuse Feig of ruining the franchise by capitulating to political correctness.
“Well, there’s a number of sides to it. There’s one section of the people that get angry where it’s just pure misogyny, but then there’s a big part that are so protective of the brand and franchise and they get more upset that I’m doing a reboot versus a sequel, but I didn’t know how to do it as anything other than starting it over again,” he said. “Look, people are passionate about something, I get that, I have stuff I’m passionate about and I try not to judge. All I say is, don’t judge until you see it. Then if you don’t like it, let me know. But before that give me a shot.”
Pic’s co-stars Jude Law, Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale also hit the after-party which featured a performance from singer Ivy Levan, who did the Spy theme song “Who Can You Trust.”
Fox opens “Spy” on June 5.