Consider the muse.
Alfred Hitchcock made three of his greatest films with Grace Kelly and tried to lure her back to the big screen long after she retired. Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio have a seemingly unbreakable cinematic bond and the world of movies would be far less interesting if Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski had never met. John Ford and John Wayne inspired one another to do their best work and Tim Burton and Johnny Depp’s shared eccentricities gave us unforgettable nights at the multiplex.
Muses inspire their directors to aspire to new heights, to push the limits of their creativity.
Add another to the list: Melissa McCarthy.
Over the course of four films — including this weekend’s Ghostbusters — she has upped director Paul Feig’s game and in turn he gave her the roles that broke her out of the TV sidekick treadmill and turned her into a big screen star. “It’s not even like we go, ‘We’ve got to do the next movie together,’” Feig says.
“It’s just that suddenly the next movie will pop up and I’m like, ‘You know who would be great for this?’ So it’s funny that people think we have an agenda to keep doing this.”
Agenda or not, their creative chemistry is undeniable.
Feig describes McCarthy’s audition for the first film they made together, Bridesmaids, as a “religious moment.” She was less sure.
“The whole ride home from the audition,” she says, “I was thinking, ‘I got too weird. Should I turn the car around and do that cheesy actor thing of I can do it better! Give me another shot!’”
The director cast her in the scene-stealing role of Megan — imagine a feral, female Guy Fieri — and it was her flashpoint.
Her wonderfully weird performance, complete with sexual hijinks and an explosive bout of diarrhea —“It’s coming out of me like lava!” — stole the show out from under other, better-known stars like Kristen Wiig — and earned her an Oscar nomination.
Next up for the dynamic duo was The Heat, an odd couple, buddy cop movie set in Boston co-starring Sandra Bullock.
McCarthy plays a tough-talking street cop who forms an unlikely alliance with the uptight Sandra Bullock to bring down a murderous drug dealer.
The role riffed on McCarthy’s signature character, the aggressive but damaged comedic persona. “I’ve played a lot of characters who are very vocal, very aggressive,” she told me in 2014.
“For the women I’ve played there is a reason why they are so ballsy and it is nice when you see the crack in the veneer and you realize, ‘It’s part of their insecurity. They stay loud so nobody yells at them.’”
Feig knows when to let McCarthy off the leash — there are some wild slapstick scenes here — but he also knows when to pull her back and let the script do the work.
This week McCarthy headlines Feig’s all-female Ghostbusters reboot alongside Bridesmaids co-star Kristen Wiig.
Will that be their final collaboration? Don’t count on it.
Feig is reportedly writing a Spy sequel as we speak.
“She’s so good,” he says, “and we just really have the same sense of humour.”