In the comedy film “The Heat,” FBI special agent Sarah Ashburn also known as “The Fed” (played by Oscar winner Sandra Bullock) and Boston cop Sarah Mullins also known as “The Fuzz” (played by Oscar nominee Melissa McCarthy) couldn’t be more incompatible. But when they join forces to bring down a ruthless drug lord, they become the last thing anyone expected: buddies.
“The Heat” was directed by Paul Feig, who previously worked with McCarthy on the 2011 smash comedy hit “Bridesmaids.” “The Heat” is also expected to be a big hit. Here is what Bullock, McCarthy, Feig and “The Heat” screenwriter Katie Dippold said when they sat down together for a press conference in New York City.
Sandra, you’ve been quoted as saying that “The Heat’ is the greatest love story you’ve ever done. Can you elaborate on that statement? Should George Clooney, who plays your love interest in “Gravity,” be upset?
Bullock: [She says jokingly] I think George has enough in life. He doesn’t need my approval. Yes, I think [“The Heat”] ended up being a very, very sweet love story. Every movie is a love story. This one just happened to be amongst friends and told in a different, fun way. And I appreciated that. [She says to McCarthy] I get lost in your eyes.
Sandra, do you see “The Heat” as an unofficial sequel to “Miss Congeniality”?
Bullock: No. Hell no! The only similarity is there’s a gun.
But your “Miss Congeniality” character is in the FBI ….
Bullock: Yeah, but they’re very different people. I have absolutely no facial hair in this film [“The Heat”] that shows on screen.
Melissa, since Rosie O’Donnell played a cop in “East of Eden,” did you think about her when doing this role in “The Heat”?
McCarthy: No, I did not. Not once.
Bullock: I think she’s swell!
Feig: I tried to steer her in a Rosie direction.
Bullock: I am my own person!
Dippold: Actually, every other line in the movie is a quote from Rosie O’Donnell.
Katie, how do you find the right balance between comedy, action and drama? And to anyone on the panel, what are the basic elements that turn a comedy into a classic?
Bullock: When did they get intellectual?
Dippold: That was a conversation that we all had a lot — if there was a range for it being a parody and it being a straight action movie. We would talk a lot about where we wanted it to sit. That was a big discussion.
Feig: Yeah, I was inspired by movies like “48 Hrs.” and “Beverly Hills Cop,” where the danger is real, the story is real, but then it’s how the funny characters react within that world. It’s important to me to have an amount of violence, just because you want to care about these characters. If the bad guys are just silly and toothless, then there are no stakes involved.
And then in making a comedy classic, you hire these two ladies [he points to Bullock and McCarthy], and you have this lady write it [he points to Dippold], and I get out of the way.
Sandra and Mellissa, can you talk about your friendship and how it cemented off screen as you got to know each other?
McCarthy: We just hit it off right away, from the first time we talked. We have similar humors. And I think it’s a bit of a bonding thing that we have children around the same age. We think alike and have weird, similar hobbies. It just made the whole thing funny because we got along so well that I felt OK to say horrible things to her, if that makes any sense.
Bullock: It made me feel right at home.
What scene in “The Heat” was the hardest to get through because you were laughing so much? And will we see any of these blooper reels on the DVD/Blu-ray extras?
Feig: I can tell you there’s a lot of extras because we have a lot of funny material. Personally, my favorite is when they were getting drunk, they Scotch-taped their faces up. That came because I had a great idea that they’d do shots. I said, “Here’s a checkerboard table. You’ll play checkers with shots.” And they looked at me like, “Great idea, dumbass!”
So I go outside of camera, and there they are at the checkers table with their faces taped up. And she’s got forks on her fingers. And they go into 15 minutes of insanity. It’s the funniest thing I ever saw in my life. That is on the DVD, so you can enjoy that in all its splendor.
Bullock: It could be slightly embarrassing for us, right?
Feig: No, it’s not. It’s good, my friend. That was all improvised.
How much of “The Heat” was improvised?
Bullock: Melissa and I would like to say that lady over here, Katie [Dippold], wrote an amazing script that from the minute we received it, it had the worst time in the world that made us laugh. It was an untitled female buddy cop movie.
Dippold: [She says jokingly] I fought for that [lack of title] to stay.
Bullock: But Katie’s style is such that you go, “Is it off-the-cuff or is it written?” And that made it so easy to (a) sign on and (b) do within a matter of two weeks and say, “Let’s do it. We have a very small window.”
And so once you have that, it allows you to veer off and do fun things. You have to stay within the parameters of the character. You can’t just chew up scenery because you think it’s funny.
We think we’re funny all the time. The DVD extras will show you. She wrote an amazing script, and her style is so free-form. I’m just shocked that out of that tiny little blonde thing right there come hilarious and offensive things. I love it!
Feig: And also, Katie was on the set with us the entire time. She will write jokes on Post-It notes. These Post-It notes are being handed in to me. “That’s funny. That’s funny. That’s funny.” She was such a driving force.
Dippold: On the flip side, as a terrified writer on set that wants to the movie to be as good as possible, any time these ladies would improvise something, which was often and always hilarious, it was delightful. It was the most refreshing thing. And there are some things in the movie that you can’t just write. It just has to be off-the-cuff. So that was great.
Feig: A nice mix.
Melissa, you unleash an incredible torrent of obscenities in the film. [Says jokingly] Are Irish people just good at that stuff?
McCarthy: It is genetic, so I will first blame my people, but also … if I said three F-bombs or I spice it up a little bit with a variety of obscenities, the only thing Paul [Feig] would yell was, “Throw a couple of more in! ”
At one point I just said, “I don’t think I have any more in me!” And [Feig said], “Sure you can!” So I think our total is up to 190?
Feig: I believe we’re at 190 for the F-word and 90 for the Sh-word. You’re welcome.
McCarthy: I’ll be apologizing to my mom.
Feig: I know. I can’t wait to get that Peabody Award.
“The Heat” soundtrack features a lot of 1970s and 1980s funk. Are you fans of that music?
Bullock and McCarthy: Oh, yes!
Bullock: We love us some. It just starts the day right. I think from the opening of that soundtrack, no matter what you’re doing in your day, it’s just going to get better.
Feig: I’m just sad we didn’t get any James Brown in there because he’s my hero.
Bullock: You can’t really dance properly to James Brown. If you dance to James Brown, you look like an idiot. There’s a lot of jerking.
Sandra and Melissa, can you sum up your experience working together on “The Heat”? Will you work together on more movies?
Bullock: You know, people ask, “How does the chemistry happen?” It’s like being in a bar when you’re drunk. You see the person, and you don’t know why, it just works. And it’s like everything goes in slow-motion and just … no.
McCarthy: The key is really just to stay drunk the whole time.
Bullock: We really enjoy each other. Sober? Not so much.
Feig: Our alcohol budget was very high.
Bullock: Just to have that rhythm in comedy, we don’t even have to look at each other. It’s like a ping-pong match. I don’t know why it works. I think it’s because our styles are different, but we complement each other. And we sort of watch out for each other.
And you’re like, “She needs to that moment.” So you sort of step back and let her hit it, and then you try and come in and make up and do something. It just was never combative. It just worked. It’s just luck. If we could do more, it would be nice. It’s hard to find a partner.
Dippold: My favorite thing to see on set was any moment in the movie where you guys are fighting like sisters, like when you guys started running after the door and that leg was sticking up, I was laughing so hard. It just felt like you were sisters. I just love that stuff.
With “Bridesmaids” and “The Heat,” do you think we have entered a new era in comedy for women?
Feig: We are, but not fast enough. We are the only studio film this summer that has two women in the lead. So I think we are sadly and horribly behind, and we should be going much further than this.
McCarthy: I just think funny is funny. And I think it’s the general consensus is that it doesn’t matter who’s leading. Over the next five years, I think we’re going to see more movies that women are the leads of, and hopefully that crazy idea that women can’t be funny is going to be squashed.
Feig: Yeah, because we’re friends with so many funny women. We should be making more female comedy stars because the world wants it.
Dippold: Also, something I’ve been thinking about a lot, I agree with Melissa that funny is funny. Like in “Bridesmaids” with Kristen Wiig, that opening scene when she puts on her makeup and pretends she woke up like that, I’ve totally done that before. And I just thought it was so refreshing. And that was funny to anyone, but it just brings a different experience to the table. There are more things to play with and have fun with.
Bullock: I love that you just admitted to that.
Dippold: It’s something I’m going to regret after this.
Sandra, what was it like to work with Demián Bichir? And what do you think of Mexican filmmakers like Alfonso Cuarón, whom you worked with on “Gravity”?
Bullock: Well, I love a talented storyteller and a talent actor. I don’t care where they come from. Demián has so much dignity and patience, especially with me. I’d say, “Say something in Spanish back, and just tell me what it is.” And I’d say, “Got it!”
And I’d run across and say, “Forgot it!” And I’d run back and say, “What was it again?” He’d be so calm and say, “You got it.” And he’d send me back.
And I’d be like “Ah! Forgot it!” So he spent half of this film babysitting and trying to teach a child Spanish. So I’m so grateful for his elegance and his kindness and his patience.
And Alfonso Cuarón is a storyteller like no other storyteller. He tackles things that people tell him are impossible to tackle. And then he does it. He reminds me of [Akira] Kurosawa.
At the end, you go, “I had no idea that that’s what we were telling.” And you just trust. And again, it doesn’t matter that they’re from Mexico and they speak Spanish. I don’t care. Their storytelling and how they handle themselves in the workplace, both of those people that you mentioned, are extraordinary.
Melissa, what was it like working with your actor husband, Ben Falcone, in “The Heat”?
McCarthy: Wonderful. We met performing together. And it worked out because I married him. Any time I get a chance to work with him, it’s a delight for me. He’s really funny. So selfishly, I thought, “Come to work.”
Was it planned that he would have that role in “The Heat”?
McCarthy: I don’t think so.
Feig: We just had in the script that she keeps encountering her paramours that she keeps pushing away. I knew Ben before I knew Melissa, because he was in a movie that I did that didn’t do well — not because of Ben!
McCarthy: It’s because you didn’t have ladies in the lead!
Feig: Exactly! I blew it! So when I cast Melissa [in “Bridesmaids”], someone said, “You know, Ben is her husband.” And I was like, “Oh my God!” So I was like, “He’s got to play Air Marshal John I that one. Any chance I can have of Ben on the screen, I will take.” Give me that Falcone any day. And now he’s a successful director. He’s going to take all my jobs, that f*cker!
Sandra, what do you think about a Latino (Demián Bichir) being the boss of your character in “The Heat”?
Bullock: Haven’t Latinos always been the boss? My brother-in-law is half-Latino, and he swears that he’s the boss. OK! Latinos, Asians, African-Americans, women — we’re all trying to find our place in this world of cinema and television and theater. And the great thing with comedy is that most of the time, you could be orange. It doesn’t matter, as long you’re funny.
And that’s why it’s so exciting as a woman — again, no matter what nationality or religion you are, it doesn’t matter. If you can hit the moments, you’re in, which is nice because you always feel like an outsider. So when you’re let into a group, it’s always pretty exciting. So for Demián, we needed [him to be] the boss. He was patient, like I said earlier, so he fit the bill. Without him, I think we probably would’ve fallen apart.
Feig: You’re right. Comedy is a meritocracy. If you are funny, you are there. If you are not, you are out.
Would you want to do a sequel to “The Heat”? And if so, what would you like to do with your character that you didn’t get to do in “The Heat”?
McCarthy: If this whole group is together, if it’s a play in a backyard, I’ll do it.
Bullock: I think it should be a live sequel. Like we go country to country and just perform the live-theater version of it.
Feig: Like tomorrow. We’ll take over a house.
Bullock: House to house.
Feig: A live performance. Yeah, why not?
McCarthy: With steak knives.
Bullock: The less clothing we have on, the more money we get.
Feig: The more clothing I have on, the better.
Sandra, what was it like working with Marlon Wayans? Did you flirt with him in real life?
Bullock: Let me just say about Marlon that whatever room Marlon walks into, I don’t care if the woman is 12 or 85, he’s an equal-opportunity flirter. He will flirt with every single female in the room. And as he walks, everyone is like [she says in a swooning voice], “Oh my God!” After he came out of his wardrobe fitting, the girls were like, “Oh my God!”
Marlon is beautiful, absolutely a beautiful specimen of man! And if he only flirted with me, it would’ve been nice. He flirted with everybody, and we were so grateful that he was there when he showed up. God bless him.
Sandra and Melissa, do you see yourselves as role models for law-enforcement officers?
McCarthy: I hope not! “The Heat” is actually just a training video. I have a lot of police in my family. And no. I think we both tried very hard with the handling of the weapons and just be good at our jobs and be train wrecks in our personal lives as the characters.
Bullock: As long as we handled the weapons properly … We paid a lot of attention to the professionals. We wanted to have our own styles, different guns, different methods.
People hold guns in different ways. We really wanted to be clear about that so that the minute you saw us, you didn’t go, “They have no idea what they’re doing,”
Feig: A big shout-out to the Boston FBI and the Boston PD, who were keeping us honest the whole time. We were always like, “Please, tell us if this would happen or not.” They were very, very cool — and they were in the movie!
What was your most fun or funniest moment on the set of “The Heat”?
Feig: Peanut in the nose?
Bullock: Sandy decided in the middle of the scene to slam her head down on the bar and lodge a peanut up her nose — for comedy, guys, for comedy.
Bullock: It was a salted peanut.
McCarthy: So the danger factor went way up. And she put it so far up, and then I had a swizzle stick. And at one moment in the scene, I thought, “What’s happening? I have something shoved up Sandy Bullock’s nose. OK, just don’t hurt her.”
And then I thought, “Oh, she didn’t really do it. That’s too weird and gross.” I was up a good ways, and there was nothing. And just as I let her head back down, I saw something. It still make some nervous to talk about it because it’s so insane. She can put it up this far. Listen, she’s got tricks.
And then it got serious because I thought, “God, I’ve got to get that thing out of there!” I don’t know why I thought it was one me, medically, to do that. Then I really got in there. And I got it.
Bullock: She has a steady hand, the hands of a surgeon.
McCarthy: I’m an instant peanut remover.
Bullock: It was a bonding moment.
Feig: In our outtakes, there is a very funny thing, I asked them to do it again. Of course, I need to have it done twice.
Bullock: I shoved that nut up my nose six, seven times!
Feig: As she’s putting it in there, Melissa leans over and says, “Do you want me to put your Oscar right here?”
Bullock: Yeah, that was funny.
What was it like working in Boston and some of the locals there?
McCarthy: That was the first time I’d been to Boston, and I absolutely loved it. I’m from Chicago, and it kind of had that same really warm friendly feeling. No one’s afraid to talk to you, which I love because I’m really chatty. I just love that city.
Bullock: Boston is amazing. I’ve been there, shot [movies] there twice. So many people go to Boston and shoot it for New York. To shoot Boston for Boston and embrace all the great character actors that they have, Paul would find people, like, “I don’t know where you found this person. Are they real? Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!” You just felt like you were there.
He created an atmosphere where you stepped in and knew where you were. It just made your job so much easier. The crew was all from Boston, and they were unbelievable what they pulled off. We had 45 days to film a three-month movie. And that crew worked 18, 19 hours a day [with] no sleep, and they managed to pull it off. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have had a film.
Feig: We absolutely love Boston.
What about mastering a Boston accent?
Feig: The whole [Mullins] family are Bostonians, even though they’re famous. They’re wonderful. That came out wonderful improv — Nat Corddry dong that, and then her [he points to Bullock having the heads-up to not understand.
Bullock: I didn’t understand a lot in this movie. My character just does not understand a lot of things. They helped me out with so much when those people started hurling insults.
I was like, “I don’t understand. What does that mean?” Even though I knew exactly what they meant on a personal level. The “close shave” line? I get it. They were amazing, that whole family.
McCarthy: There’s some version of that narc statement that’s, I swear, is like, 22 minutes.
Melissa, during the movie you do lots of physical comedy. Do you get banged up during shooting?
McCarthy: Yes, horribly. I’m a complete idiot. Every time I’m like, “Oh I’ll do it, let me do it! Let me go over the fence!”
There’s a stunt woman who will fall and stuff, but I don’t know why, I really enjoy it and the process of it, until the next day where I’m like “Get me a chiropractor!” I love to see how physical I can be. I find it really fun. I’m sure I’ll pay for it when I’m 100.
That fence scene must’ve taken a lot out of you.
McCarthy: That one really hurt. Most of the swearing is hard to distinguish, but that particular one was real. All the stuff in front of the police cars, it’s really, really hard plastic, so every time I’d fall, I’d bang my knee. So there was no actually acting going on!
Feig: And the funny part of that was it was only day two of the shoot, so I really tried to injure you going in. It worked out well.
Paul, how did you end up casting Joey McIntyre from New Kids of the Block as one of the Mullins family?
Feig: He did a video for Funny or Die with some of the other actors in the scene. I was like, “This guy is really funny. Is that Joey McIntyre? He was hilarious!” He’s literally one of the funniest actors I’ve ever worked with. I’m kind of in awe of Joey.
For more info: “The Heat” website
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