Paul Feig has range. Drawing a straight line from Freaks and Geeks to A Simple Favor and Last Christmas may seem at first odd—these are disparate stories, tones, and even styles. But while Feig has worked within a number of different genres throughout his career, there’s a common thread at the heart of most of the writer/director/producer’s stories: outsiders. Freaks and Geeks, obviously, is the story of the “uncool” kids in high school, but Bridesmaids is the story of a woman who feels so alone she’ll do anything to cling onto her one friendship. The Heat is the story of two very different kinds of outsiders who develop a kinship. The entire conceit of Spy is that of a woman who’s not supposed to be in the espionage world, but succeeds anyway. Ghostbusters, obviously, is about a group of outsiders who team up to save New York City in spite of how almost everyone else feels about them. Time and again, Feig’s characters are underestimated and rise to the occasion, showing personal growth in the process.
Even Love Life, the new HBO Max original series that Feig produced, is filled with feelings of loneliness as the series follows a woman played by Anna Kendrick through every relationship in her life—from her first, to her last. Each episode focuses on a different relationship, but in doing so the show charts the character’s growth and evolution throughout her twenties and thirties (with a flashback to her teen years for good measure).
The fact that these themes stick out in all of Feig’s films is a testament to his talent as a filmmaker. He not only makes funny and joyful films, but they’re built to last precisely because they’re so deeply rooted in character and emotion. Which is why we at Collider were thrilled to have Feig as our latest guest on our remote interview series Collider Connected, in which we take a deep dive into a person’s career over the course of an extended video chat.
In this installment of Collider Connected, Feig talked about how Freaks and Geeks solidified his love for being behind the camera instead of in front of it, and recalled the many struggles with the network throughout that show’s short-lived (yet critically beloved) tenure. He also addressed why a Freaks and Geeks reunion is unlikely, and talked extensively about his time on NBC’s The Office and how his episode “Office Olympics” was critical in re-shaping the Michael Scott character into an empathetic person instead of a prickly bore.
On the feature side, Feig was candid about how Bridesmaids came about and was seen as a make-or-break film in his career after directing two previous box office disappointments, and how the film faced pressure to succeed as a “female-driven comedy.” Feig also discussed how The Heat came about, and the disappointing critical response that film received despite the fact that Feig was trying to create a film that was very different from Bridesmaids. The filmmaker then talked about how Spy materialized because he’s a massive James Bond fan, and how a key scene in The Heat influenced his desire to make the stakes serious despite how silly a movie’s comedy might get.
We also talked about Ghostbusters (a film that is Good, Actually and incredibly fun! Shut it, haters), as Feig explained exactly how he came to be involved in the reboot (after turning it down) and why he decided to reboot the franchise instead of making a sequel. Feig addressed the toxic fandom that decided they hated the movie without having even seen it yet, and the joy he felt when kids responded enthusiastically to this new take on the franchise.
We also got into Feig’s evolution as a visual stylist and how films like Ghostbusters, A Simple Favor, and Last Christmas saw him pushing himself in terms of cinematography and shot design. He also discussed how he first became involved with A Simple Favor because the studio had no idea how to approach the tricky tone.
Finally, Feig talked about his role as a producer on Love Life and Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, his hopes to get his Universal monster movie Dark Army off the ground, and potential sequels to Spy, Ghostbusters, and Bridesmaids.
Feig was delightfully candid and eloquent over the course of this hourlong interview, and I could have easily peppered him with questions for another hour. It’s rare for a filmmaker to have a filmography this diverse but also this high in quality, and as I said I think the key to Feig’s talent is his keen understanding of character and emotion—as well as his desire to entertain audiences.
I do hope you enjoy watching the full interview above, and below is a full list of what we discussed. For more Collider Connected, check out our previous chats with Roger Deakins, Michael Giacchino, Kaitlyn Dever, Will Forte,
When did he realize he wanted to be a filmmaker?
- Freaks and Geeks – Creating the series with Judd Apatow, struggles with the network, why he thinks audiences didn’t immediately respond, and if there will be a reunion.
- The Office – How he initially turned down the offer to help create the U.S. version, and how he was a crucial voice in re-shaping the Michael Scott character in Season 2.
- Bridesmaids – The long road to getting the film made, the pressure that came with making a “female-driven comedy,” and the surprising box office success.
- The Heat – How the film almost didn’t happen with Melissa McCarthy, the challenge of making the film while McCarthy was filming her sitcom Mike and Molly, and the pressure of following the success of Bridesmaids.
Spy – How the film was borne out of Feig’s desire to direct a James Bond movie and the importance of creating real stakes
- Ghostbusters – How Feig originally turned the film down, why he decided to reboot the franchise instead of making a sequel, the ridiculous reaction from toxic fans, scenes they didn’t get to shoot because they ran out of money, and the greatest moment of his life from that film.
- A Simple Favor – Evolving as a visual filmmaker and upping his cinematic game, why he worked with a different cinematographer for A Simple Favor and Last Christmas, and layering in humor while making a thriller.
- Working as a producer on shows like Love Life and Zoey’s Extraorindary Playlist, and what drew him to Love Life
- An update on his upcoming Universal monster movie Dark Army, and why it’s not a straight horror film.
- Potential sequels to Bridesmaids, Spy, and Ghostbusters