New comedy reunites director Paul Feig with actress Melissa McCarthy


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Director Paul Feig and actress Melissa McCarthy wanted to work together again after "Bridesmaids." But neither the timing nor the script was ever right.

That changed with "The Heat," the female buddy cop movie that casts Ms. McCarthy as a detective who ignores the rules as much as her personal hygiene. Sandra Bullock plays the other half of the crime-fighting duo, an FBI agent who won't do anything that isn't clearly mandated in the rule book.

"The script was sent to me and I knew that Sandra was interested in doing it," Mr. Feig says. "I read about 10 pages and kept hearing Melissa's voice in my head. That's when I knew this was the right project for us to do."

Knowing and doing are two different things. They had to overcome some challenges.

Ms. McCarthy had the commitment to her TV series, "Mike & Molly," which meant there was little time to do pre-production work on the film. And, even with a sped-up schedule, she had to fly between the TV show and the movie sets over two weeks.

Mr. Feig was happy to make the concessions to get the comedy pairing he wanted. Although Ms. Bullock recently has done more serious work, such as "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" and "The Blind Side," it's her comedy films ("The Proposal," "All About Steve") that made Mr. Feig confident she was the right person.

"She's the straight character in 'The Heat,' but she gets so many laughs," he says.

There should never be any questions about Mr. Feig's ability to spot the right talent for a role. When he and Judd Apatow put together the cast of the 1999 NBC series "Freaks and Geeks," they cast the then unknown James Franco, John Francis Daley, Linda Cardellini, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel and Martin Starr.

Casting is critical to Mr. Feig, even for minor characters.

"I don't want to waste one role. I know a lot of filmmakers will cast local people -- and we found some great locals for this movie -- but I want to make sure we have just the right actors because a movie can live and die with the supporting cast," he says. "It did help that all of the people we cast to play Melissa's family are from the Boston area."

The actors playing her always bickering kin, include: Michael Rapaport, Nathan Corddry, Joey McIntyre, Jane Curtin and Michael Tucci. Mr. Feig also went against conventional casting when he selected comedian Michael McDonald to play one of the movie's bad guys.

He did not cast himself in the movie. But he's convinced his time in front of the camera has helped him be a better director.

"I have worked with a lot of directors who have no idea what the actors are going through. An actor feels exposed. They are not trying to look bad. My biggest job is to create a safe environment where an actor never has to hold back," he says. "There's no right or wrong on the set. People can pitch ideas. They might seem dumb at first but a least we will try it."

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