Melissa McCarthy talks Tammy

Breakout Bridesmaids star on her latest comedy hit

Interview

Surreal, uncomfortable, hilarious: Melissa McCarthy’s performance in Bridesmaids made her a star. It also made her a target. Tom Huddleston talks to a Hollywood one-off

Melissa McCarthy is one of the funniest women in the world right now, and it feels like she could tear the face off anyone who says otherwise. From her gross-out turn in Bridesmaids through a punchy lead role in buddy cop comedy The Heat, to starring in this month’s road movie Tammy (which she co-wrote with director and husband Ben Falcone), McCarthy has proved herself the reigning screen queen of unladylike behaviour. But off camera, this improv comic-turned-megastar couldn’t be more different. Speaking from Los Angeles, McCarthy barely utters a bad word during our interview, instead assuming the politely enthusiastic tone of a suburban football mum.

You’ve said and done some pretty extreme things in your movies, but you seem so sweet and nice in real life. Is there a special dark place in your head where all this bile gets produced?
There must be some demon, some terrible bitter person inside me. Sometimes I feel weirdly guilty about it. Where is it coming from? Will I one day cross over and actually become that lady? It’s a concern.

You’ve had abuse about your weight both on social media and in supposedly respectable publications: New York Observer film critic Rex Reed referred to you as a ‘female hippo’. How do you feel about that stuff?
I really don’t pay that much attention to it, in all honesty. I refuse to give energy to the negative. I’ve got a great fella and two great little girls at home. Anyway, it’s just about people needing attention I think. Throwing a jab gets a lot more publicity than any kind word would do. It makes me sad, because they just
want to be noticed.

Are you at all concerned that filmmakers’ and audiences’ preconceptions of you might limit the roles you’re offered?
Sometimes, sure. I’m aware of that and I try for some variety. It’s fun to mix it up. With Tammy, we weren’t just trying to make a silly comedy, though I do love those! But it’s funny one minute and kind of heartbreaking and uncomfortable the next.

With Bridesmaids, The Heat and Tammy, it seems like you choose projects that focus on women and the relationships between them. Is that intentional?
It’s not something I planned on, it’s just what I know. There are a lot of funny women in my life. I never understand those movies where there’s eight funny guys and two women who don’t have any opinion or humour. Funny guys like funny girls, so make the women funny too: the movie can only get better.

There must be guys out there who are threatened by what you represent. How do you deal with that?
A guy at an airport one time kept insisting that I was in some movie that I never appeared in. He was so hostile and irritated. I denied it, but he was like, ‘Yes you were!’ Finally someone else in the line broke in and said, ‘Do you mean Bridesmaids?’ And this guy backs down a little, and says, ‘You were actually pretty funny in that. I don’t find women funny, but you were okay in that.’ So I asked him, ‘Don’t you have any funny women in your life? No? Well, that probably says more about you than it does about women. You must be kind of a pain to be around.’
Tammy is out in cinemas across Abu Dhabi this summer.

Female funnies

In celebration of women in comedy, we reveal our top flicks for your movie nights at home this summer

Bridesmaids

A downright hilarious 2011 cinematic hit starring Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne and McCarthy. The film charts the outrageous rivalry between a maid of honour and a bridesmaid, both determined to prove themselves a better friend to the bride, via food poisoning, an emergency landing and a run-in with the law.

Mean Girls

Anything that has Tina Fey’s name on the script is sure to be comedy gold – or at least that’s what this 2004 (yes, we feel old too) outing starring Lindsay Lohan and Rachel McAdams taught us. Lohan is Cady Heron, a home-schooled teen who finds herself at the mercy of Regina George (McAdams) and her band of ‘plastics’ when she joins high-school for the first time.

Sister Act

This classic 1992 flick sees a convent full of nuns, led by Whoopi Goldberg (a lounge singer in witness protection), turn its faltering choir into a rocking and rolling gospel powerhouse. Expect an uplifting soundtrack to complement Goldberg’s sharp one-liners.

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