Director Paul Feig Talks Funny Women, How Chris Hemsworth Got Cast in "Ghostbusters," and More
By Anna Moselein
Director/producer/actor Paul Feig is the man behind just about every one of your favorite shows and movies: He created "Freaks and Geeks," directed "Bridesmaids," "The Heat," and "Spy" (available on digital HD, DVD, and Blu-ray today), and is also directing the upcoming all-female "Ghostbusters" that, going by the cast alone, seems likely to win us over too. We snagged a few minutes with Feig to talk about women in comedy, what to expect from "Ghostbusters," and more. Read on!
Glamour: You've directed some of the biggest female-driven movies in the past few years: "Spy" and "Bridesmaids," for example. Was there a moment when you decided to commit to getting more female voices out there?
Paul Feig: All of my best friends have always been girls, and I know so many funny women. I would go to the movies and not see them reflected, especially in comedy, which is all I really care about. [Women] were always really stuck in the crappy "mean girlfriend" role, the angry wife. So when you finally see them pop up, it's like, "Oh good, they're going to be in this!" But then you think, "Why aren't they getting to be funny, but the guys are getting to run around and be funny?" They’re stuck with this terrible image of what guys think women are. You know, it’s the little boy’s concept of what a women is: a mom who ruins a good time or a girlfriend or wife who won’t let you go out with your friends. It’s a perspective on the world, but I don’t think it’s a very fair one. It was just bothering me that these young, funny, talented women weren’t getting to really show what they can do. And I just have a much more feminine take on the world, I guess. Over the years in comedy, I’d always get sent these stories about a guy and his friends going out trying to get laid. But that’s not how I ever ran my life, and that’s not the world I know or anything I’m interested in. I don’t hang out with guys like that—you know, [the stereotypical] nerd and his pussy-hound friend, and you’re like, "What kind of dynamic is that? What world does that exist in?" My friends and I never hung out with guys like that; we would run from them. So I guess it was sort of my reaction to that and just a relief because I just know how to tell those stories better.
Glamour: One of our writers pointed out that "Spy" is an allegory for how women don't always demand what they deserve at work.
PF: I'm a big fan of leaning in — I haven't worked in enough office places to know that dynamic, but, you know, I read the numbers and it seems like there are women who are successful and fulfilled and get to do what they want, but it also seems like the ratio is way off. I can only kind of tell these stories from one person’s perspective, and I really relate to anybody in an underdog position or anybody who hasn't figured out their life or place in the world. I also feel that people need to be motivated to really go for what they want. But then when they are motivated and you come up against a wall or a ceiling, that to me is really terrible. Anybody who gets limited from a system really raises my hackles and makes me react in a way that makes me want to fix that because that’s not fair. It's always hard to make your way through showbiz or any kind of business, and to get to a point where you actually get to do what you want to do takes years and years of fighting and hard work. But from my perspective as a guy, you get a little more opportunities to advance, whereas I do know that the professional women I’ve known in my life feel like they have to work harder. My wife was a manager forever at her own management company and she was great at what she did. But she would react negatively to somebody and get accused of being a bitch. If a guy did it, they’d be like, "Oh, it's tough." So that double standard is . ..it all adds up to feeling like if I can just tell stories about people who take on the system or try to make their lives better and get to do what they want — that to me is the most important thing. Like I said earlier, people not getting to do what they want to do and are good at doing is the worst thing that can happen to a person.
Glamour: On the flip side, we love that Chris Hemsworth is playing the sexy assistant in "Ghostbusters" and kind of turning that stereotype on its head. Can you tell us how he got involved?
PF: We always had this part written for [the "Ghostbusters"] to have this receptionist who shows up because they can't get anybody else, and he answers this ad in Craigslist or whatever. It could have been anybody, really, but I heard that Chris might be interested in doing something like this and then that just became really funny to Katie [Dippold] and me. If it was Chris Hemsworth as your receptionist, that just made me laugh, especially with these four ladies playing the leads. For me, the casting is always just a gut reaction to something. Like in "Spy," Jason Statham playing a dopey agent makes me laugh. It’s unexpected. Everybody who read the script of "Spy" assumed I wrote the part of Rick Ford for Will Ferrell, but no. I mean, I love Will, but I wanted Jason Statham to play this. I just think those kind of things make it that much funnier. And the great thing is that I always knew Chris was great, and he was so funny when he hosted SNL. I’m a fan of his acting, but I had no idea he was going to be as funny as he actually was. He ended up having some pretty amazing improv skills. Half the time the girls and I would look at each other like, “Oh my god, did he just make that joke?” It was hilarious. He was really committed to becoming the character and being funny as that character.
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