Paul Feig on the Record-Breaking Success of Bridesmaids and What It Means for Hollywood


Why do you think Bridesmaids struck such a chord? Have mainstream audiences gotten smarter since Freaks and Geeks?

Because comedy has changed in the last five years. Part of it is what Judd ushered in with all his movies, bringing back that same ethos that we did on Freaks and Geeks into films. It's also I think -- this is completely non-scientific and just my opinion -- but I think the Internet and YouTube helped usher in my favorite kind of comedy, which is behavioral. All the videos that go viral are very behavior, because a lot of it is real-life stuff that people are watching; funny, weird behavioral things that happen to real people that then get passed around. I think people have gotten in the past five or six years much less tolerant of "jokes." And they're really demanding that humor come out of an honest place.

It's very funny. When The Office first came on, people had a hard time embracing it, because of the documentary style and because of the slightly more naturalistic feel of it; The Office was very behavioral and real. And then suddenly people just started to get into it. I remember when it first started, people would go, "Oh, I can't watch it, the camera is moving all over the place; it feels weird." And now no one thinks about that -- again, because that's all you see on YouTube. It's all people capturing stuff with cellphones and handheld cameras. People like that fly-on-the-wall quality. Even though I didn't shoot Bridesmaids that way, that's the style of acting, writing, and performance in our portrayal of the world we're showing.

Look, it could all change next year -- somebody could put out a big over-the-top comedy, and suddenly that makes a gazillion dollars, and people go, "Oh, we like that again! We're tired of the behavioral stuff." I hope they don't do that, because I'm not good with that other stuff [laughs].

It might not change that quick. Bridesmaids will even pass Sex and the City this weekend as the biggest female-fronted R-rated comedy ever. In your wildest dreams, did you ever think that was possible?

No. I'm hugely blown away by that fact. I didn't even know it was pending until that article came out in The Hollywood Reporter the other day. I just assumed Sex and the City had made like $250 million domestically. I'm very competitive in that way, I'm always looking at what record we can beat, but it wasn't even on my radar, because I didn't think we had a shot at it. I'm dancing in the streets about that one.

You mention your competitive fire; it has to be vindicating for you to finally have a hit after the commercial failures of Unaccompanied Minors and Freaks and Geeks.

I'm thrilled. It's really exciting. And it got me out of movie jail, which I at least had one foot in. You're proud of all your babies that you make, but I'm a realist and I know the business. If you make babies and they don't make money, people don't want to make more babies with you. So, at least I get a few more shots. It's what you hope for going into this business, unless you're a cool indie guy who is like, "I don't care what people think of my movie, I just want to make what I want to make." Which is a cool way to face things, but I think most people going into the business go, "I really want to make stuff that is creatively and critically satisfying, but that also does really well." This is the best of all worlds. At the end of the day, successful box office just means that more people saw what you did and liked it, and that to me is the most important thing. That a lot of people saw it and liked it.

When that phenomenon happens in Hollywood it seems like a sequel has to follow. Would you do a Bridesmaids 2?

It's not officially been moved toward, but I'd be very open to it. It would just have to be as good or better than this one. What you don't want to do is the one that ruins the memory of the first one. But nothing would make me happier if we could make another one with this amazing cast, and people go, "That's awesome!" If it's as good or as better than the first one, that would be fantastic. Because everything around it was great -- the cast, the people behind the scenes, the stories we're telling, the fact that we get to do movies for and with hugely talented women. What could be better than that? It would be great to carry that on, but, again, it has to be high quality.

So, record box office success, a possible sequel; seriously, how do you celebrate all this?

I drink heavily. No. I'm so used to having things go wrong in my career, the whole time I was like, "OK, it's going to completely fall in the toilet tomorrow." Like, suddenly, "It made zero dollars! It's out of all the theaters!" For me, I was kinda going -- as things were going really well -- "I'll celebrate when we hit $150 million." It could all fall apart, but if we hit that this weekend, there's definitely going to be a moment where I go, "Let's order a really nice bottle of champagne."

Bridesmaids is now at $153 million and counting. Hopefully Paul enjoyed that champagne.

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  • Ben says:

    Terrible movie. Sorry Paul. Always been a big fan. But this kind of lazy, unfunny, underdeveloped schtick is beneath you, as I expect you're well aware. Glad to see you getting a paycheck though, of course. Now please return to the subtlety, emotional honesty and sincerity that are your trademarks.
    Worst part is this whole "Bridesmaids became the rallying point for the “women can be funny!” movement". What a sad reflection of the times when people are so willing to celebrate mediocrity in the name of gender equality. Of course women can be funny. Bridesmaids just isn't.

  • Meg says:

    I thought it was great. One of the funniest movies I've seen in awhile and dare I say as good as The Hangover.

  • Ben says:

    As good as the Hangover, huh? On that we can agree, Meg.
    Hardly an aspirational benchmark, but then that's the current state of comedy

  • Mick says:

    I loved BRIDESMAIDS so much. Every single person in the cast was perfect and, while I normally don't like the idea of sequels, I'd be extremely happy to see the same characters again. If there is a sequel, I really hope they make it more of an ensemble piece. While I enjoyed the movie, if I could change one thing about it, it would be for the women to be together in a group more often.

  • Mick says:

    Dear Ben: According to you, MILLIONS of people who enjoyed "Bridesmaids" are completely wrong. No, that isn't arrogant in the least. Why don't you go rent "Schindler's List" and let the rest of us laugh at "Bridesmaids" without your sneering? Have fun sitting in the sandbox all alone, feeling bitter and superior. I'd much rather play with the other children and feel happy to be alive.

  • Ben says:

    Hi Mick,
    I suggest you chill out. Some of us are okay disagreeing with each other about stuff. No big deal. But you know, yeah, I think people who loved Bridesmaids are easily entertained.
    I think the same thing about people who loved Transformers. What of it?
    PS. I'm not a huge Schindler's List fan, nor do I think movies have to be 'serious' to be good. I love Paul Feig's earlier work, including his memorable turn in Heavyweights. Just thought Bridesmaids wasn't a good movie. You'll live.

  • annie says:

    Calm down, Judd.

  • TK says:

    Love Paul Feig and was so happy (and a bit relieved) that the movie was laugh-'til-you-cry funny. Can't imagine how much MORE money the movie could have made if all the trailers didn't sound like backhanded compliments. 'Now boys, there may be women in this comedy genre movie, but you might actually watch it without tearing your hair out.' PR, take a cue from Paul Feig – be less sexist and stop underestimating men!