Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a press conference with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, stars of the new comedy hit The Heat, as well as the film's writer, Katie Dippold (Parks & Recreation) and its almost embarrassingly accomplished director, Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, Freaks & Geeks, The Office, the list goes on).
As I arrived, Bullock was just inside the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton saying hello to a woman who had apparently been hanging around to meet-and-greet her. She is pencil-thin and model-gorgeous in person, and was graciously trying to get the woman to stop standing in the heat (ironically) for hours to see her.
The other Heat, the movie, is about two law-enforcement officers (Bullock and McCarthy) who have to learn to work together in order to bust a major drug ring, one that has ensnared McCarthy's no-good brother. McCarthy's character is tenacious, completely not by-the-book, violent, blunt, devious. Somehow, she makes her likable in a way she failed to do with her Identity Theft character. Bullock plays an uptight FBI agent whose prowess on the job doesn't lead to promotions because she's annoying. You'd have to be pretty annoying for it to hold you back in the FBI, but she really is. And like McCarthy, she nimbly makes annoying likable.
I could almost have gone with the movie—how often do you see a movie in which a white cop beats a black culprit with a watermelon, only to have it turn into a knowing mini-rant about how it's racist?—if only the construct weren't so formulaic; the performances are enough to make it fun, and I wouldn't be surprised nor would I be judgmental if most viewers ate the whole thing up.
The movie's working title was Untitled Female Buddy Cop Movie, of which Dippold joked, "I fought for that to stay." If only her script were as witty as she seems to be.
The presser itself was held downstairs in a tiny conference room. It threatened to get off to a bad start when the first two questions were idiotic. The first was to Bullock: "Do you see this as an unofficial sequel to Miss Congeniality?"
"Hell, no," Bullock said firmly but amiably. "The only similarity is there's a gun. I have absolutely no facial hair in this film. That shows on screen."
Next up was a question for McCarthy: "Did you think a lot about Rosie O'Donnell for this performance?"
McCarthy, looking beautiful at Bullock's side, joined her in razzing the journalists for implying they were just copying other people.
"No...no, I did not. Not once. I think she's swell, but I didn't have her in mind for this."
The movie, which I found funny in parts but no Bridesmaids, has going for it the chemistry between the women, who have a sisterly nit-pokcing thing going on (on-screen) and whose affection for each other in real life as well as in the movie is visible from a mile off. Bullock leaned over to McCarthy at one point and joke, "I get lost in your eyes."
"This ended up being a very, very sweet love story," Bullock said. "This one just happened to be amongst friends."
The movie is also noteworthy for its vulgarity; the director was proud to point out it has 190 F-bombs and 90 S-bombs. McCarthy had a thought on where she got the filthy mouth:
"It is genetic. I have to first blame my people," she cracked:
The movie has a feminist-lite bent; the women are in power, much as Bullock and McCarthy are when it comes to movie roles. Asked if Hollywood were coming around on female comics, Feig offered, "We are, but not fast enough. We are the only studio film this summer that has two women in the lead. I think we are sadly and horribly behind, and we should be going much further than this."
McCarthy was reluctant to play the girl-power card. "I think funny is funny, and the general consensus is it doesn't matter who's leading it...hopefully that crazy idea that women can't be funny is finally be squashed."
The movie is also feminist in that it doesn't seem to feel the need to have a romantic angle. Sure, we see McCarthy blowing off me her character has apparently had one-night stands with, but Bullock only has a couple scenes' wroth of fliration with a handsome colleage, Marlon Wayans.
"Let me just say about Marlon, that whatever room a Marlon walks into, I don't care if the woman is 12 or 85, he will flirt with every single woman in the room," she said. "Marlon is beautiful, absolutely a beautiful specimen of man. And if only he had flirted with me...but nope. God blessed him."
The funniest moment in the press conference was when the ladies were asked if they thought their characters were good role models for cops.
"I hope not!" McCarthy snorted, before dead-panning: "The Heat's actually just a training video. I had a lot of my police in my family, but no."
The funniest moment in the movie, for the actresses, turns out to involve a peanut up Bullock's nose. And she did the scene very Method:
"Sandy decided in the middle of the scene to shove a peanut up her nose. For comedy. A salted peanut, so the danger factor went right up," McCarthy recalled. "She put it so far up, and then I had swizzle stick, which is at one moment in the scene and I thought, 'What's happening? I have something shoved up Sandy Bullock's nose, okay...just don't hurt her.' And then I thought, 'Oh, she didn't really do it, that's too weird and gross.' I was up a good ways and there was nothing, and just when I was gonna let her head back down and I saw something...and then it got serious because I thought, 'God, I gotta get that thing outta there.' I don't know what I'd think that that was on me, medically. Then I really got in there and I got it."
The presser wound down with me asking the very last question. I warned that it wasn't very good and Feig teased that perhaps I would ask them to read a screenplay. But I wanted to know if McCarthy, who is remarkably physical in the movie, ever gets banged up doing her stunts. She assured me she does:
"Yes, horribly. Yeah, I'm a complete idiot. I don't know why...every time, I go, 'Ooh, I'll do it, let me go over the fence!' I mean, there was a stunt woman who took the fall, and stuff, but...I really enjoy it in process of it, until the next day when I'm, 'Go and get me a chiropractor!' I love to see how physical I can be. I find it really fun. I'm sure I'll pay for it when I'm a hundred and I can't stand up. Most of the swearing, it's hard to distinguish, that particular block of swearing [during a scene in which she slides through cop-car windows], was pretty much all real. I kept coming down on, all of the stuff in the front of a police car is really, really hard plastic, so every time I would fall and bang me knee...that whole section there was no acting going on at all, it was just a litany of me [swearing]."
And with that, the press op was over. Bullock bolted, narrowly avoiding a bright-eyed young editor explaining that she needed a pic-with to show her mom, but McCarthy stayed a few minutes to gamely do a few extra questions for one reporter into his iPad. Very pro on his part, right?
Let me know if you check out the movie! Don't forget to enter for your chance to win a The Heat prize pack!