- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
With directorial efforts like Spy, The Heat and Ghostbusters earning north of $1.2 billion in the past decade and a reputation for donning three-piece suits, Paul Feig may be Hollywood’s highest-grossing dandy. A once-struggling actor who created the landmark NBC show Freaks and Geeks before going on to helm the 2011 smash hit Bridesmaids, he’s also a comedy powerhouse. His Feigco Entertainment produces a growing slate of series — HBO Max’s Minx, about the foibles of creating the first erotic magazine for women, and Fox’s Welcome to Flatch, which follows a documentary crew in a small town, join the roster March 17 — while its namesake makes a steady drip of blockbuster features. The latest, The School for Good and Evil, arrives on Netflix this year. The bona fide renaissance man, who splits his time among New York, L.A. and London with his wife, Laurie, has his own gin label, too, along with a forthcoming cocktail book and a lot of thoughts on where filmmakers go wrong.
So, did you realize just how many penises were going to be in the premiere of Minx?
Well, I knew there was going to be a lot. When [creator] Ellen Rapoport first brought it to us, I thought, “Who’s not going to buy this. There’s going to be a bidding war!” We pitched it everywhere, and Ellen would always come to the meetings with a giant stack of old Playgirl magazines and put them all out on the table. We did that all over town, endlessly getting turned down. “Oh, we love it, but it’s not for us.” “We’re worried it’s a little too R-rated.” Blah, blah, blah. Honestly, it was dead.
We’d pitched it to TNT — so when they joined forces with HBO Max, we got a call out of the blue. It’s this beautiful phoenix that came back out of the phallic ashes.
The idea of what’s acceptable in comedy has changed a lot. Have you felt the pressure to change with it?
I’m not one of these people who thinks anything has ruined comedy. You’ve got to be cautious a little bit, sure, but I don’t want to insult anybody. I don’t want to make anybody feel bad. Good comedy is all about the human condition, extreme personalities and extreme characters put into situations. I think comedy’s in a great place. Movie comedy is in an odd place.
It certainly doesn’t seem like a place where movies like Bridesmaids or Spy could make $250 million-plus at the box office.
We don’t quite know where our product is going to be consumed, if I may be clinical. And there’s a slightly different math for comedy that’s going to be streamed and not shown in front of a giant audience. You can’t have a theatrical comedy where everybody’s smiling warmly and nobody’s laughing — because then it just sounds like a bomb. With TV, even though you want the big laughs, you have a little more leeway.
What do you think needs to shift to get studios to commit to a wide theatrical release for a comedy?
Studios are a little nervous about putting out stuff that doesn’t have established IP behind it, and a lot of comedy is original. If you think about it, all the funniest comedies come out of nowhere — out of somebody’s head or based around talent. And I think the size of most comedies, to studios, feels more like they should be on their streaming service than something they should put into a theater and do a lot of marketing for. It’s also up to us as filmmakers to provide undeniable comedies that don’t feel like something you can get on streaming.
You make a lot of TV these days, often just as a producer, but you directed Welcome to Flatch, yes?
I directed the first three [episodes] and wrote two. I directed the original pilot, which was to start the day everything shut down for COVID. It was clear it wasn’t going to be safe, so we grabbed everybody and went to a park. We just shot monologues and the funny little scenes we could cut together into a 20-minute trailer. I think we’re one of the only shows ever to get sold off of a one-day shoot. I take great pride in that.
In terms of notes and oversight, at what point in your career did you realize you were on a longer leash?
Here’s the irony: I feel like the leash gets shorter. I’ve found in this business that everybody thinks whatever your new project is, it’s the one you’re going to lose your mind on — especially in movies. They think, “Oh, they’ve been commercial up till now, but now they’re going to try to do their art film!” I have no goal other than to make you the most commercial thing in the world because it does me no good if I don’t. And I want to reach the most people I possibly can. It’s the only thing that really drives me.
There’s no noncommercial project you’re dying to make?
I’ve seen more careers taken down by passion projects. … So, unless that passion project has Star Wars written all over it, don’t do it. Especially after your first hit. That’s when you’re on the biggest probation. They’ll think you’re a fluke, and you’ll have to climb back up the hill again. Coming out of Bridesmaids, it was really hard to figure out what to do next.
Your 2017 Ghostbusters remake was marred by people unhappy with the female cast. What did you learn from that experience?
That a lot of people have a lot of passionate opinions and the internet allows them to directly express those opinions to you. It was a tense time in our nation’s history, and I think we got caught in the middle of that. Had it been a few years earlier or later, I don’t know if it would’ve hit like that. It was hard to absorb — and quite an assault for me because I’d always had such a lovely relationship with the internet. It just took me back to grade school and bullies. The bummer is that all we did was try to make a movie to make people laugh. Suddenly it became political, and it escalated out of control.
There are still people trolling you. I saw you wish them “happy holidays” last year. Do you ever consider quitting social media?
Constantly. But it’s a necessary evil. I’ve got 2 million followers on Twitter. It’s really hard to let go of that. When you work with studios, they want you to have that outreach. And I don’t disagree. And I love that movie, by the way. I’ll never be sorry that I made it.
You have Artingstall’s, your own gin. How did that happen?
I’m a cocktail fanatic. CAA paired me up with Minhas Brewery and Distillery, who liked the lifestyle I represent. I didn’t just put my name on it — Artingstall is my mom’s maiden name. This was my recipe that I formulated with them. I’m as proud of it as I am any of my movies.
Wait, what’s the lifestyle that you represent?
Being classy. (Laughs.)
Interview edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in the March 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day
More from The Hollywood Reporter
Tyler James Williams
Tyler James Williams Says ‘Everybody Hates Chris’ Producer Told Him He Would “Probably Never Work Again”
‘Rabbit Hole’ Review: Kiefer Sutherland Struggles to Hold Together Paramount+’s Messy Espionage Series
‘Vanderpump Rules’ Star Raquel Leviss Plans to Drop Restraining Order Against Scheana Shay