At the movies

Love, Hollywood style: A chat with Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone

 
Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images

“There’s the Mooch,” says Ben Falcone brightly as his wife, Melissa McCarthy, enters the room.

It’s a term of endearment, a long-used nickname between the two who have been paired in love and comedy since they were aspiring performers at the Groundlings, the Los Angeles improv school. Their long partnership reached a professional crescendo with the release of Tammy, a road trip comedy they wrote together that McCarthy stars in and Falcone directs.

McCarthy and Falcone, who married in 2005 and have two daughters, are incredibly sweet together — riffing easily and warmly complimenting each other — but you wouldn’t know their marital harmony from their movies. Their on-screen relationship is far more combustible.

Falcone was the undercover air marshal in McCarthy’s breakout, Bridesmaids, and he played McCarthy’s clingy former lover in The Heat. In Tammy, she hurls put-downs and ketchup packets at him after Falcone, playing her boss, fires her from a fast food joint.

The big screen comedy was born when Falcone woke up one morning, groggy from a dream envisioning McCarthy and her alcoholic grandmother (played by Susan Sarandon) embarking on a journey away from their small Illinois town. After six years of working on it (and buoyed by McCarthy’s now considerable box-office clout), their personal little comedy (both are from Illinois) is opening in the heart of summer blockbuster season.

The couple recently spoke to the Associated Press:

Melissa, you went to college in Ben’s hometown, Carbondale, Illinois. Did you ever meet there?

Falcone: I knew who she was. She went through a Goth phase.

McCarthy: I didn’t know it, but he said we were at the same parties together, which I just find the most bizarre thing. It wasn’t until 10 years later that we met.

Falcone: After a year of being friends, we started putting it together. She had blue hair and clown makeup.

McCarthy: I prefer to say kabuki white. “Clown” has sort of a negative connotation.

Did you have similar upbringings?

Falcone: She was probably more popular than me.

McCarthy: I don’t know about that.

Falcone: I definitely think so. I wasn’t, like, unpopular. (McCarthy starts cackling. Ben shifts into character.) “Listen! Listen! I was super popular!” I storm out of the interview and jump through the glass windows.

So you actually met later in Los Angeles?

McCarthy: We met at a Groundlings class. We immediately were improvising with each other and immediately gravitating toward each other, writing-wise. The first day, everybody’s doing their biggest, probably most unrealistic, poorly done characters. And Ben got up there and did this very strange inmate that sat on a chair quietly. I just thought it was the funniest thing. I thought: I like that creepy guy.

Ben, do you remember the first time you saw Melissa perform?

Falcone: It was in that class … Her character kept going to the same Kinko’s and talking to a guy name Todd. She said the name about forty hundred billion times, like, “Hey Todd. How you doin’ Todd? Anyway, Todd, I just need a couple more copies.” And it was obvious she was not there for copies at all. She was just there to talk to Todd. It was a super funny and great character — spazzy and fun.

Were you crafting volatile characters from the start?

McCarthy: I love to have a character with a firm belief in their point of view, no matter what it is. It doesn’t always have to be aggressive. It can be a really shy person who really wants a cul-de-sac on the end of her block.

Falcone: She steals from everybody. Bits and pieces and then she puts them inside herself. People that she grew up with or relatives.

McCarthy: The fun is, if you can justify it, then it can make sense. I always think in real life people do so many strange things.

In “Tammy,” you throw ketchup packets at your real-life husband.

Falcone: Her suggestion.

McCarthy: You were screaming, “My eyes!” because of those corners, which may have kind of fueled my fire. Which is terrible because in real life, I would never do that. If anything hurt, I would be like, “Oh my God.”

Falcone: I would hope that you’d never be throwing ketchup packets at me in the first place.

Given your success together, these must be good times.

McCarthy: We’ve been doing it for 20 years for free, with cheaper wigs. We would have kept doing it. If the opportunities that we have now wouldn’t have come up, I still think we’d be at the Groundlings doing the same thing: building crazy costumes and crazy sets that do or don’t work.

Read more People stories from the Miami Herald

  • CBS: Rihanna out of NFL telecast

    NEW YORK (AP) – CBS and Rihanna are splitting up, more fallout from the Ray Rice domestic violence incident and the turmoil it has caused for the NFL.

  • Celebrity birthdays on Sept 16

    Blues singer B.B. King is 89. R&B singer Betty Kelly (Martha & the Vandellas) is 70. Actor Ed Begley Jr. is 65 Actor Mickey Rourke is 58. Magician David Copperfield is 58. Actress Jennifer Tilly is 56. Actress Jayne Brook is 54. Singer Richard Marx is 51. Comedian Molly Shannon is 50. Singer Marc Anthony is 46. Comedic actress Amy Poehler is 43. Singer Musiq is 37. Rapper Flo Rida is 35. Actress Alexis Bledel is 33. Rock singer Teddy Geiger is 26. Rock singer-musician Nick Jonas is 22.

  • At the movies

    Kevin Kline talks working with Dame Maggie Smith on ‘My Old Lady'

    Veteran playwright Israel Horovitz believes no actor is capable of doing it all. Except for perhaps Kevin Kline, who, Horovitz observed, “can do really a lot more than most actors can do.”

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category