Paul Feig knows from funny women. The director of "Bridesmaids" and "The Heat" (the latter of which is available on Blu-ray and DVD now), Feig broke the mold of the typically male-dominated realm of ensemble comedies, and proved that studios could make money while also catering to women.
At a dinner party in New York City celebrating the home release of "The Heat," NextMovie was able to chat one-on-one with Feig in a somewhat-quieter corner of the downtown SoHo House. Feig seems to invite the breathless "here's what they wore" recaps more commonly attached to female stars, so here goes: Charcoal three-piece suit, silky indigo necktie peppered with dainty white dots, a crisp white shirt, a purple pocket square bordered by white and coordinating purple socks.
It's not just a commitment to notable ensembles that Feig has in common with his fairer sex counterparts; he said he also tends to see the world from their point of view, saying that when he's tried writing scripts for a guy's guy movie a la "The Hangover," he didn't "have an honest take on it."
"Nothing would make me happier than if I wrote nothing but funny women again," Feig said. "I would be the happiest guy in the world. I don't relate in general to male characters as much, unless they're sensitive, geeky guys like myself...I've tried writing and going into guy-heavy content, and for some reason it just doesn't work for me."
Just because he's found massive success by recognizing the talents of rising actresses like Melissa McCarthy (who played a supporting role in "Bridesmaids" and co-headlined "The Heat) and Kristen Wiig (the "Bridesmaids" co-writer and star), Feig doesn't want ownership of the adjective-heavy funny-ladies-ensemble-R-rated-comedies genre he's carved out, and would welcome other directors to play in the sandbox of female-fronted comedies. In fact, he's desperately beckoning them to join him.
"I don't want Hollywood's takeaway from this to be 'Paul Feig's the guy who does women's movies and nobody else can do them'," he said. "That's not the end goal. There's too many funny women, I can't make that many movies. I can't employ that many women because there's only so many films." (To that end, Feig said he is open to writing another male-led script if he can find a story he's happy with. He mentioned a gay rom-com idea he'd been toying around with, ideally led by Channing Tatum.)
What Feig really wants to do, however, is continue the legacy. He dreams of starting a "farm team of funny women," as he puts it, to find "the next generation, the Amy Poehlers, the Cecily Strongs. The women who are ready to go to that next level."
"If you just look at the business, there are hardly any bankable female stars," he said. "I mean, Sandra [Bullock] and now Melissa are finally coming up, and there's other people, Julia Roberts and now Jennifer Lawrence, but there's not enough compared to the men. It should be an equal number."
In addition to Poehler, Strong and Lawrence, Feig named current "SNL" cast members Vanessa Bayer, Kate McKinnon and Noel Wells, along with "The Heat" supporting players Jamie Denbo and Jessica Chaffin as women whose stars are poised to rise in the comedy world.
"When I find these women who are just unbelievable -- not just like 'oh, they're kinda funny' but you're like, 'Holy s**t, I'm like belly laughing, like balls-out laughing' -- those are the women I want to work with. That level of hilarious women I love."
Not yet on "SNL" or admiring your Oscar (ahem, J-Law), but want to catch someone like Feig's eye? The strategy is simple -- though perhaps easier said than done: Make 'em laugh.
"I'm not so much a fan of, 'Oh, she's a pretty girl and she's kinda funny.' I want someone who's gonna make me fall down laughing...I like hardcore laughter," Feig said of what he looks for in a female lead. "I don't like chuckles. I call them the 'good for you' girl. Like, 'Hey, you're pretty, you made a joke, good for you!' No! I don't want that. Who's gonna make me just fall out of my chair laughing?"
Finally, tucked into a leather armchair with a small swarm of tipsy journalists circling platters of pineapple carpaccio (apparently a thing), Feig shared his final words of wisdom for what makes a successful comedy, the it-factor that his favorite actresses like McCarthy and Maya Rudolph, another "Bridesmaids" co-star, have in spades.
"You have to have no vanity, you have to be willing to go for it," he said. "Like Maya Rudolph. They just go for it. Vanity comes second and the joke comes first, and the joke is always not grotesque, it's very fun. It's fun and it's goofy, for lack of a better word. It's like loving life. That, to me, is so fun. It's a commentary on human behavior, but it's not judgmental, it's not ugly, it's not aggressive."