When Bridesmaids hit theaters in 2011, its stacked cast and hilarious antics charmed fans and critics alike, becoming the highest-grossing R-rated female comedy ever and picking up two Oscar nominations (for supporting actress Melissa McCarthy, and screenwriters Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo). But as Paul Feig explained in New York on Tuesday night, a sequel wasn’t necessarily the no-brainer many assumed.
“It’s really up to Kristen, but also, sequels are dangerous,” Feig told Saturday Night Live star Michael Che during their talk at the Tribeca Film Festival. “People always say they want a sequel to Bridesmaids but the whole reason that movie worked was [Kristen Wiig’s character] is a mess and she learned how to repair her life, so you can’t do a sequel and she’s a mess and has to repair her life again. And people tend to think the artifice around all that is what made the movie great, but it was really that emotional journey and so, you almost kind of have to be careful of it.”
Feig, whose conversation with Che also spanned back to the director’s early days doing stand-up and his time working on TV’s Freaks & Geeks, also touched on the backlash last year to his all-female Ghostbusters reboot, which reunited him with Wiig and McCarthy and also starred SNL faves Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones. Before the movie even hit theaters last summer there was a campaign against it from sexist internet trolls who took issue with the film being remade with female leads; when Ghostbusters finally premiered, it took a reported $70 million-plus loss that made any hopes for a sequel unlikely.
Che expressed the surprise he remembered feeling over the uproar, telling Feig, “It was as if you were just taking four women off the street! These are still the funniest people - name four other actors that would be funnier or better performers for this kind of role. ... It’s not like you’re taping over the old Ghostbusters!”
Feig admitted the backlash was frustrating - “You’re like, Why is there any kind of litmus test for this?'” - and added, “I didn’t realize it was a religion for sort of the generation of boys after me. It turned out it was the ultimate boys movie for some weird reason, a lot of guys it was their thing. I didn’t realize to them what a sacrilegious thing I did.”
Now closing in on a year since the film’s July 2016 release, he admits he and co-screenwriter Katie Dippold might have overdone it on the callbacks to the original Ghostbusters (“critics kind of took us apart for that”), but he’s glad that the movie showcased women working in science fields. “I get contacted by women and girls who are now interested in science and women will write me and say, If I’d had this movie when I was a kid I’d be an engineer by now,'” he said. “It’s important to be able to show women in science, women in STEM. I’d love to do more of that. ... the more you show of women in these professional careers, it really helps.”
Feig has become known for making films with strong female leads - including Ghostbusters, Spy, and The Heat - and explained to Che why he likes working with those hilarious leading ladies. “There’s just all these funny women and not enough roles for them,” he said. “And then selfishly, I have more fun working with funny women because I’m not like a guy’s guy. I like hanging out with guys, and I like the humor of guys, but it’s not where my brain goes. So if guys are throwing around a lot of dick jokes, I’m going, Oh that’s funny,’ but I’m not participating really. There’s something about the funny women I know, there’s just a different kind of dynamic to it. I find it to be fun. It doesn’t mean it’s all good natured - obviously, Sarah [Silverman] and Amy Schumer can get down and dirty as any of them ... but there’s a different dynamic that I really enjoy.”