From left: Jessica Chaffin, Paul Feig, Jamie Denbo, and Katie Dippold
What can you tell me about that?
I mean, basically I sold the idea to Fox and I’m in the process of writing the first draft now. But it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, I have so many friends who are gay — men and women — and again they’re so funny, I’m always looking at like, who’s funny? I just love that the comedy of their groups and their community, and also feeling just like, yeah they don’t do this anymore. I mean, it’s never, you know, there’s definitely that world — the indie world, the world of gay cinema, but let’s make it more mainstream. My whole goal is just to get people to stop having preconceived notions about what they will or won’t watch or what they think something is. If I can do a real hilarious movie about gay people, that would be great. ’Cause then they’ll be like, “Yeah, they’re just like us.” To break down this weird — these walls. I’m just tired of these walls and you feel them cracking anyway with gay marriage, you know, getting finally passed with all these laws.
And getting majority of supporters in this country. I mean, ’cause the majority of Americans actually support same-sex marriage, at this point, so maybe they’re ready to see it at the box office.
Oh, 100%. I mean, 100%, but again in a way that is fun. Because nobody likes to be preached to by anybody, you know, and I don’t like preachy comedy at all, I don’t like comedy with a message at all. I mean, we slip messages in, but we do it so subtly that you don’t realize you’re getting it. But you know, the time has come.
Yeah, that’s great. So there’s this great article that The New York Times did on you, I think it was in 2008 or 2009 and you told the writer that you were a failure. That you did great on other people’s projects — I’m paraphrasing — but you did great on other people’s projects but not on your own. You struck out because the project wasn’t well received or you were forced to make changes to it to soften the edges, so to speak. Did Bridesmaids change all that for you?
Yeah, completely. I mean, that was such a gift to do that movie. I have to give a shout-out to my friend Judd Apatow, who asked me to direct it. I floated around that project for a number of years. I went to the first table read back in 2007 that actually Melissa was part of in a completely different role. I really liked the project but was busy with other things and didn’t have time to shepherd it the way that he was hoping I would. Then it just all came back in 2010. And um, yeah, it changed everything. He knows I had a very feminine sensibility, and we’d kind of click into it. Because Lindsay Weir was always my favorite character to write about on Freaks and Geeks. It changed everything, it got me out of movie jail. Because I was very hard-core — especially when that article came out — I was really in movie jail. I just had a movie come out and it bombed. But I love my career and everything I got to work on has been awesome. I’ve been so lucky. Every TV show has been great, not because of me, but I’ve just been lucky to get on these things with all these writers. I’m very proud of Freaks and Greeks that I created, and you know, I’ve been very lucky, really I do feel lucky enough to pinch myself to think that at 50 years old I got to go back in the movies. Being well thought of in the moment. But it can change at a moment’s notice. That’s why you’re always so tense, I cannot be more tense abut this movie coming out next weekend. I don’t want to go back to movie jail [laughs].
[Laughs] So, discovering talent seems to be one of the things that is important to you. Freaks and Geeks launched the careers of many people. James Franco, Seth Rogen, Linda Cardellini, Jason Segel, and then Bridesmaids made Melissa a star, and if The Heat goes well, you sort of launched Katie’s career as well.
Oh, well, if anyone should be launched, it should be Katie. She’s one of the most talented writers I’ve ever worked with. I mean —
Well, that’s what I wondered — after Bridesmaids, you were able to write your own checks, so to speak, why bank on a script from a woman with no real credits?
Well, you know what? When I read that script, it made me laugh so hard. For me, it’s all a meritocracy. I will only work with people if they earned it. because it all reflects on me. My reputation is sullied if I hire someone that is not great. And we have plenty of people that are like “Can you do me a favor?” And this and that. It’s like, you know what, if you can’t nail it, I can’t do it — it’s just going to make us all look bad. [Laughs]
And this script from Katie was so funny, I mean, I cannot impress upon you just how much absolutely I fell in love with it. I was on an airplane flying to New York and pulled it out of my bag to read it and was just laughing out loud the entire time. I couldn’t wait for the plane to land to give it to my wife for her to read and call my agent and say I want to do this. Um, yeah, it was the biggest no-brainer of my career.
That’s great, and next up, you’re writing and producing a spy comedy called Susan Cooper?
Yeah, that’s my hope. We’ve still got to make sure we get the cast right and the timing right. But yeah, that’s something I wrote. I love spy movies and have always been a James Bond fanatic and always thought like, Oh let’s have a lady do it. But you know, not in the way where, you know, she’s a little girl and can kick the ass of 300-pound guys, no, but to do it realistic and to do it in a funny way. Very much like The Heat, where the story is real and the danger is real, but then it’s how she’s reacting and interacting and the people around her that’s where the comedy is going to come from. So I’m very excited about that one. You know, you always want to make them, they don’t always come together. But this one I really want to make work.
Do you have a dream person in mind?
I do. I do, I can’t say, just in case we don’t do it [laughs]. but fingers crossed, we’re closing in. So I hope to have an announcement soon.
That’s great. One last question, I think you’ve been married just as long as I have — I’ve been married 22 years.
I know, for me, that has influenced the choices I’ve had in my career. In creative choices, has that been the same for you?
Yeah, I mean my wife has been such a great, not only spouse and romantic partner and best friend, but also a great business partner. Just in the sense that she has a very populist eye. And you know, she’s my litmus test for everything. Sometimes annoyingly so. I’d be like, “I want to do this, this is so cool.” And she’d be like, “No one wants to see this, I’m bored.” And it’s like, come on! But then you’re like, you know what, she’s right. No one wants to see me doing something turgid or arty like that. But she’s just great, and also she was my manager in the beginning of our relationship, and so what’s nice is, in the past I’ve had relationships where you’re dating like, if I was an actor, you were dating another actress, and it was just a competition all the time. And what’s great is we both have the same goal, which is that I’m doing this kind of work. It just couldn’t work better, she’s the best. She’s a good protector and puts up with a lot of my artistic weirdness. But yeah, we’ve been together 23 years and married 19 years coming up in September.
Oh, that’s great. That itself is a huge accomplishment in Hollywood.
I was going to say, exactly. That’s what we all should get awards for. [Laughs] But it’s literally like — I mean you’re married too, it’s the same thing, you go, like, “Have we been together this long? It feels like it’s only been a couple years.”
Yeah. it starts flying. When it’s right, it just starts flying.
Oh, totally, to the point where you go, “Can you slow down a bit? I don’t want to be old yet.”
Right. [Laughs] Yeah, I think that ship has sailed for both of us.
Exactly. [Laughs] I hit 50, and I was like “Oh, boy, here were are.”
Here we are, there you go. I always say, “Yeah, I got married early because I wanted to lock it in while I was still young and beautiful.”
Exactly. We did and now we won’t let them escape.