When Jason Bateman saw Melissa McCarthy dishing those priceless Bridesmaids quotes, he knew his latest flick -- Identity Thief -- had to change. The film was about a man (Bateman) who has his identity stolen and life practically ruined by a con artist -- a role originally written for a man.
"I went to the premiere of Bridesmaids and the following morning I called Universal and said, 'I’d really like to work with this woman. Can we please change the thief from a guy to a girl and make it Melissa?' They could not have liked the idea better," Bateman said as the duo sat down with Movie Fanatic.
McCarthy had yet to become America's newest sweetheart, so Bateman -- also a producer on the film -- felt confident they could cast her. "Fortunately this was the Bridesmaids premiere so it was not yet in America’s hands so we still had a chance for her. I took her out to a quick meal and had her sign something while she was passed out from the booze [laughs]."
We met the stars, who show off their high humor quotient in the Identity Thief trailer, for a chat about their priceless comic chemistry and much more.
Movie Fanatic: You two were so fabulous together...
Jason Bateman: I'm a little bit better, right? Thank you!
Movie Fanatic: [Laughs] Yeah, sure. You’ve both done some crazy things in the name of comedy. Anything that is too much?
Jason Bateman: She’ll shit in a sink for a laugh.
Melissa McCarthy: I was ill [laughs]! I don’t know, for me so long as it makes sense for the character on the worst day and the most extreme circumstance, I like to see how far you can push it. But it’s not funny anymore if it doesn’t make sense. I don’t like to do anything that’s mean spirited. I don’t find it funny. I’d rather be the jackass than make fun of somebody else. It feels too cheap and easy.
Jason Bateman: Well said, I second that.
Movie Fanatic: Jason, Identity Thief director Seth Gordon told us you’re the best straight man in the business…
Jason Bateman: Well, they don’t have those takes in the movie and there were a lot of them where I broke up. There were only a few where I kept a straight face and you only need one. She makes it very difficult because she does it in a way that’s different on every single take, so even if you know what’s coming -- it’s gonna be a little bit different.
Movie Fanatic: You two spent a lot of time together cramped in a car with cameras in there. Did it ever get too much?
Melissa McCarthy: The car scenes were really my favorite. You’re confined in this car and a lot of times you’re locked in on both sides because they have camera rigs so you literally can’t get out even if you wanted to. So you get cabin fever and you get punchy and sitting next to that (points to Jason) for so long of a time -- I had to do a lot of weird stuff like stare at his forehead instead of his eyes because I couldn’t keep it together. But, those are my favorite things because you start to go a little loopy.
Movie Fanatic: Melissa, as famously shown off in the second Identity Thief movie trailer, you are pretty good at hitting a guy in the throat to knock him off his feet. If you had to defend yourself would you go for the punch to the neck?
Melissa McCarthy: I believe I would do a sharp kick to the balls and when they drop to a lower height then I’d also get the throat. I’d combine them [laughs]!
Movie Fanatic: How do you get in the mindset to do such physical comedy? Melissa, did you ever get hurt?
Melissa McCarthy: I got hurt a lot and I’m apparently an idiot. After the movie I was like, "I’m not very bright." There was that stunt woman there for so much of this. I think I just get really excited to do it and I don’t think about doing it 42 times. I think, "I’ll fall down the stairs!"
Jason Bateman: Especially you getting hit by that car. That would have been an easy one to give to the stunt woman for like an extra 20 bucks or something...
Melissa McCarthy: It's actually 26 dollars.
Movie Fanatic: Now Jason, how on earth do you ready to physically attack this beautiful lady?
Jason Bateman: She pisses you off and you go. This is what happens...
Melissa McCarthy: He had no problem, let’s start there.
Jason Bateman: It was not difficult. She starts running that thing. I saw the guitar there when we were rehearsing and we were trying to figure out a way to stop her from leaving because we didn’t want to do the tackling of her yet and I said, “What if I take her off her feet with this guitar?”
Melissa McCarthy: I think what he said was, “What if I hit her in the face with this guitar?” Kind of laughing and I was like, “We’re kidding right?” But Seth (Gordon, director) seemed to keep laughing and that made me nervous [laughs]. Then you started fiddling with the guitar and I thought, “Oh God, I’m gonna get hit in the face with the guitar.”
Jason Bateman: I was taking practice swings with it. We built a helmet that could fit underneath the stunt woman’s wig so she could have a good portion of her face protected and a little of her shoulder and we spent the night building that, well not we, I of course was sleeping comfortably in a bed.
Movie Fanatic: I heard that you actually throw a Panini maker at her.
Jason Bateman: That was a mistake -- regrettable.
Melissa McCarthy: I don’t know about that. There were about 14 fake Panini machines that weigh about a quarter of an ounce because they’re foam and one real one that weighs about 32 pounds...
Jason Bateman: It was a little bit shinier...like a fish.
Melissa McCarthy: He’s like a raccoon -- just goes for the shiny one. The first time we did that run to the door, he picked up the real one and let that thing fly towards my head...
Jason Bateman: Missed her...
Melissa McCarthy: And he was like, “I didn’t know that it wasn’t a fake one.” There was like a 32-pound difference!
Jason Bateman: Well, I didn’t know that there were any light ones. I thought they were all real. I thought clearly someone’s checked with Melissa on this.
Melissa McCarthy: It was a dicey shoot.
Movie Fanatic: Melissa, your character in this does some horrible things and probably ruins some lives but we’re pulling for you all the way. How do you straddle that line and make us cheer for you when you’re kind of an unlikable character?
Melissa McCarthy: I think that’s a testament to the good script and Craig Mazin writing a fully developed person. I wanted to make sure she wasn’t just a one-dimensional, mustache-twirling villain. I love the thought of someone doing criminal acts but not doing them to be menacing. She does them because she’s lonely and doesn’t have anyone. She kind of steals identities so she can go out to a store and pretend to have these lives. Pretend to have a husband. Pretend to have a family. Pretend to be engaged. She’s not even stealing from people to be menacing. She’s just lonely.