Ben Falcone co-wrote and directed comedy “Tammy” starring Melissa McCarthy.
Read our exclusive interview with Ben below where she shares how the film came about and what it was like working with his wife Melissa.
This is your first time directing a film. What was that like?
It was really fun – there was a lot to it. There’s definitely a learning curve for sure but I am really lucky that I surrounded myself with talented and experienced people so that gave me the chance to sit back and make sure the story was making sense and that everybody felt free to have fun and it was funny. So it was a delight.
You co-wrote the film with Melissa. Speak about your collaborative process.
It’s so much fun to work with her and she’s so funny and such a good actor and everyday was a new funny type of experience. I would be driving home from work and would say, “Argh, you know. I’m kind of disappointed the day was over.”
She recently said that you got the inspiration of the film in a dream. Would you like to elaborate on that?
Sure, I mean I walked downstairs and I said, “Hey, I think I want to do this movie where you go on a road trip with your grandma and she drinks and sleeps around and stuff” and she said, “Great” which is why Melissa’s great because she suggested the idea. This was like six years ago, so this was before Bridesmaids came out and I knew what Melissa could do it and I knew how funny she was and she could take these characters and make them larger than life and keep them grounded and believable and I just thought I would like to help her write something where she can do that. And so we were starting to work on it and then Bridesmaids comes out and people started to get a sense of what she could do and then other movies come out and it’s the same thing. And now it’s like, “Well Melissa, what do you want to do next?” And she said, “Well, there’s a character I haven’t got to do yet – it’s a western woman and Ben and I have been working on the script.” And New Line said, “Oh, well we’re totally interested in that. We should do it.” And next thing you know, here I am and the movie’s done.
How did you get all of these stars to sign on? (We know a Blues Brother must have been pretty exciting).
He’s one of my idols. Just for him to come in and to do as well as he did and to just be Tammy’s dad, I mean that was just a mindblower for me. And he’s just so nice. And then you’ve got obviously Susan and Kathy and Gary and Toni Collette comes in and Nat and you just have all these great people and some of these people are really icons. The great thing about working with them is that, what I really established and learned from them is that they’re not at the top of their profession for no reason. They’re at the top of their profession because at every moment make it really good. Obviously they’re great actors but they want to do everything in their power to make sure what they’re trying to do is translating. So they were all open to collaborating to make that translation happen. I wasn’t telling people what to do all that much because these people know what they’re doing. I would give little suggestions on things and it was a delight to get to work with that many crazy, great people.
How did you cast the part of Pearl?
Well, we were trying to think who can convey – we didn’t want a stereotypical “Well, she’s a granny and she drinks,” you know? We didn’t want to go in that direction. So we’re kind of going around and then Susan Sarandon shows up and we’re like, “Well, can we make her look that way? Well maybe we can – people do everything. They can make dinosaurs out of thin air, so can we make Susan look a little bit older?” And I started thinking, “I bet we can” and the next thing you know, now you’re just getting excited because you’re like, “Oh my God, this lady is one of the best actors in the world,” and somehow she wanted to do it. Talking to her was so nice and so open and collaborative that it was kind of the final piece we needed. We had Tammy, the other cast started coming into place and when we finally got Susan to be Pearly, we were like, “Oh my God! This is really happening.”
What was one of your favorite scenes to shoot or a highlight from set?
It was really fun to shoot at Niagara Falls because we were really down there and around all that water and it was crazy. With that said, it was also technically tricky so I would have to say my favorite, I think I have so many favorites all over the movie. Being at that lake house was so fun for me where the big July Fourth party is. We were there for eight or nine days, so it started to feel like your home away from home a little bit. It was a beautiful house and I just had so much of the cast there that that would be the favorite thing. We’re blowing up jet skis and we’re doing all this stuff and it’s such a beautiful place. I think that’s the place that when I think about the movie, that’s the place that I remember and it’s the first place my mind goes, like, “Remember when you were there?” I think of that location.
You’ve been able to appear with Melissa in multiple films. What has been the highlight of that experience?
Well each time I think is the most fun one. Obviously, Bridesmaids was a really fun one. Identity Thief, I hung out and that was fun. I was in Atlanta with Jason Bateman who’s hilarious and this great guy. The Heat, that was just a quick in and out. But I did get to meet Sandy who’s so sweet and work with Paul Feig who’s the nicest man and best director in the world and then this last one, it was just, “Come on. We wrote it.” It’s up there as one of my favorites to do Tammy. And then Melissa got to throw ketchup packets at my face so it was great.
You’ve already won the Palm Springs International Film Festival as a top director to watch. What’s next for you?
I think I would like to direct again. It wasn’t like I was ten years ago, “I must direct!” Not that guy, but I really, once this came up as a thing, I really did enjoy it and tried hard to do my best and I would like to do it again. Melissa and I are working on another script with our friend Steve Malory and we’re going to hopefully shoot it next year and Melissa would be in it and I would direct it.
Can you tell us more about the project?
It’s called “Michelle Darnell” (Laughs) tentatively by the way because I realized that not every movie should be the character name. But what we’re working on would be another movie with Melissa and it would be a comedy and hopefully be a blockbuster.
What were some of the challenges you faced directing?
I think the biggest challenge for me was my management. We didn’t have a giant budget – our budget was, it sounds like a lot of money, twenty million dollars. But apparently it’s not a giant budget. So we had to readdress the schedule and so to me, to try to stay in the moment with the actors and if I know that the rain is about to come and it’s going to rain and we’re going to lose an hour and we’re trying to make our day and then we need to do this and do that and then to stay in the moment and think, “What’s the best way to make this, what we’re doing right now, really funny?” And that’s the biggest challenge and hopefully, I think usually I was able to do it because it was so much fun working with everybody that that didn’t need to be present.
Were there moments where you couldn’t believe you got Susan or Kathy to say or do something?
Every moment. Really. The scene on the docks with Kathy where she kind of tells Tammy what’s what and tells her philosophy – she had done it twice and it was beautiful. And we just had a couple more thoughts of “What about this one, what about that?” And she said, “Oh I get it.” And what ended up in the movie was kind of like the things that she came up based on a couple of final little thoughts so she just kind of killed it with that take and we all really felt like we were watching something really great.
“Tammy” hits theaters tomorrow July 2.