Ben Falcone is making his directorial debut with Tammy, but he has some company that has helped the process immensely.
Falcone and his wife, Melissa McCarthy, wrote the Tammy script about a woman who feels trapped in her Illinois small town. As teased in the Tammy trailer, she has a chance to go on a road trip, but must bring her alcoholic, promiscuous grandmother (Susan Sarandon). Tammy feels it's worth it and the duo hits the road.
“We sought to make a comedy that’s really funny and has a lot of heart,” Falcone said in our exclusive interview.
We talked with Falcone about whether he and his longtime love, McCarthy, ever had a chance to stop in the middle of filming and take a moment to realize how far they’ve come as a family. Plus we chatted about his all-star cast as well as how his wife made him a better director.
Movie Fanatic: How did anticipation about directing a big Hollywood summer movie compare to the reality of what you experienced?
Ben Falcone: It was actually one of those strange times in life where it was very similar to what I had imagined it would be. The build-up... I was definitely nervous when we got the cast we got, all these people with all these awards. Sometimes, I was looking at them and I got nervous. That scene at the lake house, there was Susan Sarandon, obviously Melissa, Kathy Bates, Gary Cole, Mark Duplass and Sandra Oh. I was like, "This is like a freakin’ all-star team." The lucky thing for me was that everyone was so nice and so wanted to do a good job that they were open to me giving suggestions. They were open to me not knowing the answer. I’m going to be as prepared as I can be. I know the script really well. And if I don’t know the answer, I’m not going to pretend that I do. I’ve gotten into trouble with that in the past.
Movie Fanatic: What did you learn from some comedy people like Judd Apatow you’ve worked with before?
Ben Falcone: Well, those guys always have writers around on set whose only focus is, how can we make this funny? They only stay for a week at a time. They can’t get too wrapped up into everything. You get a fresh perspective from people that you usually know really well. You also have Susan and Melissa and all these other funny actors -- something is always going to work. You stay calm and have patience, and you get there. It was an embarrassment of great stuff to pick from.
Movie Fanatic: You and Melissa have been married for a while now and have truly come up through the Hollywood ranks together. You two have really made it with Tammy. Did you ever have a moment where you could just stop and look at each other and say, “Wow?”
Ben Falcone: We did. We’re really grateful about being able to be in this spot, to be doing what we’re doing -- making movies that we wrote. It’s an incredible gift. We’re very aware of it. With that, we’re also really big workers. How do we get to the next thing? People think she’s loose and free, and she is, but she’s also someone who has worked so much to get to a place where she can be so free. On set, when she was singing in the car and we had to reset the scene, I was strapped on a giant camera truck and there’s Melissa singing her heart out. We’re on a beautiful country road and we just looked at each other and said, “This is incredible. This is so neat.” We’re trying to do the same thing with this process. Yesterday, like a dork, I went to the Grove and looked at all the Tammy stuff and took selfies and it was so fun [laughs]. Melissa was working and I’d text her these pictures. So, we were still enjoying it together. I’m going to make her do it too.
Movie Fanatic: I’ve loved you guys since the Groundlings. What is it about that fertile training ground that produces so much talent? Is there something in the water?
Ben Falcone: [Laughs] They do have weird water! I think the thing is it engenders the people that come there, usually, to be really patient. The first thing you’re told is that you’re probably not going to get in -- which is the same thing that this town is telling you. Then, they tell you that they have some good techniques to help you learn how to get better. I think the Groundlings are a group of people who have been told over and over again you can do better. Even when you’re moving forward and moving up the ranks, you’re always told you can do better. It’s life. There’s something about the Groundlings that is a constant constructive criticism, which is very emblematic of what Los Angeles and this industry is.
Movie Fanatic: You’ve known Melissa for so long. And now you got to direct her in Tammy. Does she still surprise you?
Ben Falcone: She’s always surprising me. On Bridesmaids, I was there for a week, maybe less -- the other things, a day. I see her at home, reading her scripts. She plays with the kids and puts them to bed. And then she takes a bath and looks at the next day’s work. What surprised me was how prepared she was. She ups my game.
Movie Fanatic: Sounds like she made you a better director.
Ben Falcone: They all did, but especially Melissa.
Be sure to check out Falcone's crazy chemistry with McCarthy and watch Bridesmaids online.