Part­ing Shot

Newsweek International - - CONTENTS - —Anna Menta

Melissa Mccarthy

She is one of our most in­spired co­me­di­ans, whether lead­ing a block­buster com­edy like The Heat or play­ing a Barbie-wield­ing Sean Spicer on Satur­day Night Live. Bound­aries don’t ex­ist—she’s full-bore, im­mers­ing her­self in char­ac­ters with zero van­ity. Why should a dra­matic role be any dif­fer­ent? Can You Ever For­give Me? ush­ered the Emmy win­ner (for the se­ries Mike & Molly) un­der the skin of the anti-so­cial Lee Is­rael, a real-life strug­gling au­thor who turned to forg­ing let­ters of the fa­mous (Dorothy Parker, Fanny Brice, Noël Cow­ard), un­til she was ar­rested by the FBI in the ’90s. The film, di­rected by Marielle Heller and based on Is­rael’s me­moir, has just earned Mccarthy a Golden Globe nom­i­na­tion, and Os­car buzz is brew­ing. The ac­tress saw Is­rael as “an ar­madillo, co­coon­ing within her­self and hop­ing if she stayed still long enough, peo­ple would go away.” Though the real Is­rael died of com­pli­ca­tions of myeloma in 2014, Mccarthy hopes to “do right by Lee.”

Lee is not easy to sym­pa­thize with, but you make us root for her.

There’s very lit­tle in­for­ma­tion on her. Luck­ily, our pro­ducer David Yar­nell knew her for 20 years and is a big rea­son she wrote her me­moir. He says she was a com­plete pain in the ass about it. [Laughs.] But you can’t fake the writ­ing of some of the best writ­ers and not be great at what you do. How many re­mark­able Lees do we pass on the street with­out notic­ing them?

What do you think she would make of your por­trayal of her?

When we were shoot­ing at Julius’ [a New York City gay bar], where she re­ally did hang out, some­body was watch­ing us. “It’s hard not to come sit next to you,” he said to me. “That was my job—i sat to Lee’s left. She was my friend.” I was like, “Oh my God, am I do­ing OK? Would she be happy with what I’m do­ing?” With­out pause, he said, “You know, happy wasn’t re­ally Lee’s thing.” Which to­tally made me laugh! But he added, “She would love the at­ten­tion on her work.” [Laughs.] I think that’s true.

Why do you think the me­dia makes such a big deal when com­edy ac­tors move to drama?

I feel like it’s a re­cent thing, that you have to pick a side. Look at Planes, Trains and Au­to­mo­biles; no­body goes, “Well, what’s this about?” A great story is like life: You’re laugh­ing, cry­ing, an­gry and happy. There is some­thing tragic about all the char­ac­ters I play. Just tell the story.

Lee was like “an ar­madillo, hop­ing if she stayed still long enough peo­ple would go away.”

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