Interview: Ben Falcone didn’t want to go mean for “Tammy”

Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone arrive at the "Tammy" Los Angeles premiere at TCL Chinese Theatre.  Credit: Getty Images
Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone arrive at the “Tammy” Los Angeles premiere at TCL Chinese Theatre.
Credit: Getty Images

“Tammy” director Ben Falcone might be a first-timer, but he knows enough to pad his bench with some veteran talent, including Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates and the film’s star — and Falcone’s wife — Melissa McCarthy. He even managed to find room for himself in a small role as Tammy’s sleazy fast food boss. Nice work if you can get it.

How do you decide exactly where to put yourself in your own film?
You know, at first I didn’t want to do anything, and then I was like, “Well… it seems fun to do a small part. I like acting with Melissa.” I barely thought about the idea of being Bobby — for, like, a heartbeat — and then I was like, that’s a lot. And then we found Mark Duplass and I was like, “Oh my gosh, we got the guy.” He’s so good. It was kind of coming down to it and I was like, “Well I could be the boss. Melissa loves yelling at me in movies.” So that was what we came down to. Unfortunately for me, creepy is an energy that I can play kind of easily. It seemed right on a lot of levels.

Do you worry that people will start to think all you two do is sit home and yell at each other?
Well I hope that people will see that we do that in movies and then at home we’re quite happy.

What’s the approach to dealing with sensitive topics without resorting to being cruel about them?
Our first goal is to make a really funny movie, and then our second goal is to try to do so in a way that feels right to us. Melissa has never been one for that sort of mean-spirited kind of comedy, and neither have I. Could you imagine? I’d be fighting for it and she’s like, “We shouldn’t be so mean,” and I’m like, “God damn it, woman!” [Laughs]. I don’t think people are funny because they’re old, I think there are funny old people — if that makes sense. It’s just like anything else in the world. Too many generalizations usually leads to not quite as funny of a result. Susan is just funny because she’s funny.

Ben Falcone directs his wife, Melissa McCarthy, in "Tammy" — and found a small part for himself too. Credit:  Michael Tackett
Ben Falcone directed his wife, Melissa McCarthy, in “Tammy” — and found a small part for himself too.
Credit: Michael Tackett

You’ve created quite an interesting grandmother with Susan’s character.
Isn’t she great? Obviously she’s one of the best actors in the world, truly. But she’s also super-funny. She has a kind of — I don’t want to say craziness, but she has a freedom to her own life and her own way of thinking that I think she was able to tap into that brought out that kind of past history of Pearl and the depth of flavor that Pearl has, so it wasn’t just like, “I’m a granny and I party.” You know, instead I believe that Pearl as played by Susan Sarandon did in a non-creepy way did go hang out with the Allman Brothers on tour. And you’re not like, “That’s weird.” You’re like, “Yeah, if I was the Allman Brothers I would hang out with her, too.”

And apparently you had some guest writers coming in during the shoot?
That was something we unabashedly stole from Paul Feig and Judd Apatow. What they do is they have somebody who’s a really funny writer, and their sole purpose is they come in for a couple of weeks at a time — and they usually switch them out to keep their takes fresh — and their sole purpose is to be there and say, “Is this as funny as it could be?” So we stole that as a model, which was fantastic. I had a lot on my plate as a first-time guy — I’m looking at monitors, asking a million people a million questions. It just seems like such a good use of your time and your energy and resources to have these guys. My gosh, who doesn’t want a hilarious person there whose only job is to try to pitch lines and things that could beat the things before it?

Some filmmakers’ egos might not let them do that.
If those people can do it that way, good for them. To me, I just want the best possible thing at the end of the day, and if I can get talented people to help, why on earth would I not accept their help?


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