The Heat director Paul Feig: 'Comedy is comedy'

The Heat The Heat follows in the tradition of films like Lethal Weapon and Beverly Hills Cop

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Director Paul Feig, the director behind the hit comedy Bridesmaids returns with a new female-centred film The Heat, starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy as mismatched cops.

Bridesmaids, written by its star Kristen Wiig and co-starring women, proved to be one of the surprise hits of 2011 with both sexes, garnering rave reviews and making more than $288m at the box office.

Yet research carried out this year by an American university showed that speaking roles for women in films are at their lowest levels for five years.

Paul Feig Feig directed the smash hit Bridesmaids

Feig, given the sobriquet "Hollywood's accidental feminist" by The Guardian , says his ultimate aim is to level the playing field for men and women, particularly when it comes to the male-dominated field of comedy.

"That's definitely my goal," he explains. "There are so many funny women out there, so many funny women that I want to work with.

"I would just like to break down the wall where it's not even looked at as a male comedy or a female comedy - a comedy is a comedy.

"The biggest thing the studios are afraid of is the reaction of men, going to a theatre and seeing a trailer or a poster and seeing women and thinking, "Oh, it's a chick flick'."

Where Bridesmaids centred on the misfortunes of a group of women in the run-up to a wedding, The Heat focuses on a mismatched FBI agent and Boston detective as they try to bring down a powerful drug boss.

The film is in the mould of cop buddy-movies of the 80s like the Lethal Weapon and 48 Hours films.

"I'm always looking for great projects for women and coming out of Bridesmaids I really wanted to follow the train that we had started with that but we didn't want to go with the same genre," says Feig.

"This just seemed like the perfect escalation of that to get us out of any lady romance mode and just have two funny women show their wares".

He admits to being a fan of the comedy-action genre, adding it was "a genre that is uninhabited by women for the most part".

Prior to his success with Bridesmaids, Feig began his career as an actor and writer. He created the short-lived cult series Freaks and Geeks, whose young cast included James Franco, Seth Rogan and Jason Segel.

The series also introduced the world to the talents of director Judd Apatow - who went on to work with those actors in films including Knocked Up and Pineapple Express.

Apatow's comedies are known for their free-flowing naturalistic dialogue, much of it seemingly improvised. It is a ethos similarly shared by Feig.

"My theory is that you just get everything. Anything the actor wants to try, or ideas you have, or the writers, I'll do it because you never know," he explains.

"Most bad comedy comes from a director, especially if it's a writer-director, who says 'don't deviate from the script'."

'Gender balance'

With half of 2013 gone, the top box office films of the year so far are dominated by family films and animated sequels like Monsters University and Despicable Me 2 or action-filled big budget fare like Iron Man 3, World War Z and Man of Steel.

And according to one US university, of the last year's biggest movies, just 28% of speaking characters were female.

US television seems to have been quicker than cinema to embrace female writers like Wiig and Tina Fey, who both cut their teeth on programmes like Saturday Night Live, and more recently Lena Dunham, the writer and actress behind Girls.

The report - by the University of Southern California Annenberg School - said female directors were outnumbered five to one in 2012 by their male counterparts and only 24 women have directed top-grossing films in the last five years

However, Feig says films like The Heat and the forthcoming The To Do List, written and directed by Maggie Carey and starring Parks and Recreations' Aubrey Plaza, are slowly chipping away at the male-centric Hollywood establishment.

"We're definitely breaking down walls," he says. "The Heat's doing extremely well over here and Bridesmaid did too but that's not the end game.

"There need to be more women directors." he continues. "I work with so many women writers but there need to be more projects that are female heavy.

"It doesn't mean men can't be involved - I think the best things come out of having a real balance because it keeps both genders from going too far in their portrayals of the opposite gender."

Melissa McCarthy at The Heat US premiere McCarthy is unrecognisable in the UK and US film poster (pictured)

Feig's sentiments are admirable but alongside some decent reviews and box-office takings, The Heat has picked up some negative press along the way, not for its content but rather the way it has been marketed.

The film's promotional poster show McCarthy heavily airbrushed to the point where she is barely recognisable.

She is arguably one of the most popular comedy actresses currently working in Hollywood, with another film Identity Thief in the top 10 box office movies of 2013 so far.

But in an interview for The Heat, co-star Sandra Bullock side-stepped the issue, making light of the poster suggesting she would like to have an enhanced bosom through airbrushing.

But doesn't the poster send out completely wrong messages to people about body image? Feig is on uncomfortable ground as he admits he has little to do with the marketing of a film, adding: "That's the sad thing - you really don't have any say."

"She's a beautiful woman," he continues. "People know and love her and that alone should be the only litmus test of any sort of print advertising."

The Heat opens in the UK on 31 July.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 294.

    293.Paul - "...........You just proved yourself stupid"

    Oh dear, oh dear - you just don't get it do you?! I am LAUGHING at your your utterly FATOUS statement that in & off itself provides AMPLE EVIDENCE to disprove your own arguement...!!!

    The educating required is of you - check out what the world of Psychology has to say about paranoia (note Psychology, not Psychiatry)....!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 293.

    "You just proved ourself WRONG!!!!!!"

    You need to look up the concept 'prove'. In fact, you might do well to go back to kindergarten and restart your entire education. Disagreeing is a distinct from fearing and only a dishonest person would attempt to co-relate the two to void counter arguments.

    You just proved yourself stupid

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    291.Paul - "..........Most men aren't in the least intimidated by actual women. Many men are however cautious about the government power being used to enforce increasingly eccentric, biased demands on them by women."

    That statement is utterly DRIPPING with paranoia that it can only be driven by feelings of intimidation........!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    You just proved ourself WRONG!!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    264.Jack Napier
    "I find it suprising & quite funny that so many of my fellow men are so threatened"

    You can't diasgree with something without being intimidated by it?

    Most men aren't in the least intimidated by actual women. Many men are however cautious about the government power being used to enforce increasingly eccentric, biased demands on them by women.

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    250.Derpsworth - "Why are there fewer women represented in comedy? because they're not CHOOSING to do it! It's not sexism, it's CHOICE ...."

    And your PROOF for that statement is what exactly?

    If you make such claims it is not unreasonable to ask for the EVIDENCE that JUSTFIES your stating your personal opinion as if it were fact.....

  • Comment number 289.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 288.

    re. #274.paulmerhaba
    "Heat is a strange title for a film about female cops. Connotations of kitchens spring to mind"

    Not Heat, The Heat. The term is slang for putting pressure on criminals as in "we better lay low, the heat is on" and to police officers in general as in "talk to you later, the heat just arrived".

  • rate this

    Comment number 287.

    This is the same television company that re-runs the comedy roadshow, where male comedians have an open mike, the female comedians can make jokes about men, the black comedians can make jokes about black people and the Asians can make jokes about Asians. No wonder we heap women comedians into the same male hating template. It's bbc induced!

  • rate this

    Comment number 286.


  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    I wonder what a non-feminist female thinks of the matter, whether it is patronising towards them that women are now portrayed to be "doing it for themselves" in films directed by blokes?

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    1. Little_Old_Me
    10 HOURS AGO
    Before my fellow blokes (all too predictably) pile on here to claim that female commedians are generally not as good as male ones

    I have never seen a female commedian who has made me laugh more than say George Carlin or Bill Hicks...

    ...wake up and live in the real world...

    ...and stop using that stupid layout for all of your comments.

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    Nothing like the old sexism debate to bring out extremes and generalities from both ends of the argument. (And of course numerous comments from repeat posters frothing at the mouth about this - feminist and anti-feminists alike.) Maybe someday we can have a thoughtful conversation about gender and inequality . . . to dream the impossible dream . . .

  • Comment number 282.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 281.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    All female leads in Comedy are nothing new, at least in TV land, Remember 'The Liver Birds'. Female writers include Carla Lane who produced some of the best comedy of the late 80's . I suspect this article is a lame attempt to find an 'angle' where none exists.
    AS stated 'Comedy is Comedy' , all that directors need to realise is that Bad Comedy is still Bad, whoever wrote it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    It's probably too good for a Razzie award. Just.

  • Comment number 278.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    There's a really simple dead to this arguement. Parks and Recreation has been one of the most successful comedy series of this decade.
    It is truly brilliant, with brilliant men and women.
    I don't think many people care about gender. If films were more alligned in terms of the main gender roles, possibly they'd receive more followers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    I've been of working age long enough to have experienced good and bad male & female bosses.

    As a regular viewer of the Comedy Channel I've seen good & bad male & female comedians.

    I do agree that there are sexist males, I also acknowledge there are as many sexist females - most of them call themselves 'feminists' & this is deemed acceptable - unlike the male equivalents.

    Time for true equality?

  • Comment number 275.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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