The super funny Melissa McCarthy – who had her break out role in Bridesmaids is back with a brand new movie she’s produced, co-written and starred in, Life of the Party. As the lead character Deanna, McCarthy plays a housewife who decides to go back to college after breaking up with her husband and ends up in the same sorority as her daughter.
We had a chat with McCarthy to get the lowdown on the film as well as the details of her intense dance sequence and what it was like to co-write with her husband.
What drew you to Life of the Party?
This film is all about second chances and reinventing yourself. I love when people tell me they’re starting over, doing something like moving to a foreign country. I’m from a small farm town where most people can’t do that. As I grew older, I realized you can really do anything. You can change – your location, your job, how you see the world, what you love…anything. The possibilities are endless and exciting, and it’s a recurring theme with several of the characters I’ve played, even when it’s not the driving force for the character. It’s something I always think about in terms of where the characters are in their lives, and where do they want to be?
Your character in Life of the Party, Deanna, becomes a “cool mom.” Did you know any cool moms when you were growing up?
I think my mom is cool. She was always there for me, no matter how crazy I dressed or the dumb things I did, I knew she would always love me. And, believe me, I sometimes pushed it as far as I could! [Laughs]
I know lots of cool moms now. Of course, moms in Los Angeles, where I live now, are very different from the moms where I grew up. We’re all a little more of the moment.
You worked very closely with Molly Gordon, who plays Maddie, your daughter in Life of the Party. Did you bond with Molly, as Deanna and Maddie do in the film?
We bonded immediately. If someone doesn’t click with Molly Gordon, I’d be careful of that person. People have an immediate response to Molly. Meeting her and the other young women in the cast gives me hope for the world. These young people are so caring, smart, kind and professional. They’re inspiring and awesome! It was a running joke on set that I was always hugging Molly. I treated her like one of my own kids. I was always fixing her hair, but she never seemed to mind (laughs).
There’s an elaborate dance sequence in the film. What was that like to put together?
It was super fun. I studied with [famed hip hop dancer/choreographer] tWitch to get ready for it, which was a dream of mine come to life. It was so much fun to dance with tWitch – I had to pinch myself to make sure it was really happening! There were dancers mixed in with the actors, and watching them perform was a joy. We were doing ‘80s dance moves from Deanna’s youth, and I just love how that fit into the story. It was so much fun to bust it out, and I’ve always loved that kind of dancing.
Maya Rudolph plays Deanna’s best friend, Christine. What was it like working with her?
Maya and I have been friends forever – since our Groundlings days. She is truly one of the funniest human beings on the planet. Maya is a combination of a soft, chewy center and a unique kind humor – and that’s why everybody loves her. Working with her again was like heaven.
As she settles into college life, Deanna develops a relationship with a student, Jack, played by Luke Benward. What was it like filming those scenes?
What I really liked about that relationship was that it avoided being seedy, like, “Oh, I’m going to go get a younger man.” It’s part of Deanna reinventing herself – that she’s more than just a mom or an ex-wife. A guy was getting to know her as a person, and then they really connect. It’s an exciting turn of events for Deanna.
Your mom and dad in the film, Sandy and Mike, are played by Stephen Root and Jacki Weaver. Are the characters anything like your parents?
I named the two characters after my mom and dad, Sandy and Mike, who are exactly like the parents you meet in the film. When writing the script, we said, “Let’s write exactly what my mom and dad would say.” It’s a complete parody, if not dead-on recording of my parents.
There’s a lot of my mom’s sweet nature in Deanna. My mom should be made of marzipan because she’s the kindest, sweetest person I know. And like Sandy in the film, my mom loves to talk about sandwiches. Jacki Weaver asked me, “So, your mom really likes talking about sandwiches?” Having Jacki, an amazing, powerhouse actress, say things my mom always says was a surreal and incredible experience for me. The same with Stephen Root – there were moments working opposite him where I was thinking, I can’t believe this is happening; this is dreamy!
When my mom and dad saw the film, their reaction was, “Oh my gosh!” Also, there’s a scene in the film involving two older, cranky characters, played by my dad and [director] Ben [Falcone]’s dad.
You’ve previously collaborated with your husband Ben Falcone on Tammy and The Boss. How has your creative process with him evolved over the years?
We have always had a really nice creative shorthand, which is why we’ve enjoyed working together so much. There was always kind of an ease to it – not that everything comes easy when you’re making a movie. It’s always like, “I like red, you like blue, Ok, then what about purple?”
We learn from each film, and nothing quite helps you learn how to make a movie better than spending time in the editing room. That will always change how you make the next film, in that you keep learning that you can’t fall in love with everything you’ve shot. You may have to cut things.
Ben is always aware of the tiny details that go into the making of movie, but he never loses sight of the big picture, which is what you need in a director. An actor can become very in the moment, so you need your director to be in the moment with you, while dealing with the thousands of other things they encounter each day of production. My ease with and trust in Ben is the perfect scenario, and it’s always fun.
Life of the Party will be in theaters around Mother’s Day in several parts of the world. So, beyond the film’s release, how are you going to celebrate Mother’s Day this year?
I hope to be with my mom and my girls – and in pajamas all day. That would be a good Mother’s Day.
Life of the Party will be in cinemas on May 10.