The first thing you notice when you meet Melissa McCarthy in person is how much she likes to laugh. There are actually a lot of comedic actors who, in person, are much more reserved and serious. This is not McCarthy. As she holds court, you start to realize McCarthy is the type of person who you immediately just want to spend the entire day with. She’s just delightful to be around. And she finds humor in a lot of things, even strange turns of phrase. (When this interview ended, I had forgotten my half finished, now flat, Diet Coke on her table and I apologized for leaving my “waste’ behind. She picked up on my use of the word “waste” and made a comedy show out of it.)
McCarthy gives one of her best performances to date – in a career already filled with so many great performances, including her Oscar nomination for Bridesmaids – in Can You Ever Forgive Me. Based on a true story, McCarthy plays author Lee Israel, who at this point in her career is down on her luck, can’t seem to get another book deal, and spends most of her time day drinking with her friend Jack (played by Richard E. Grant, who is also fantastic). By fate, she stumbles on the lucrative world of collectors who pay top dollar for personal letters written by famous literary figures. Lee starts forging these letters (she becomes quite good at it) and makes a lot of money in the process.
When I was waiting in the hallway of a Manhattan hotel to speak to McCarthy, a man came up from behind me and asked, “Are you waiting to speak to Her Majesty? You must address her as Your Majesty.” At first I assumed it was an overly zealous publicist, but I looked up and it was Richard E. Grant, just horsing around. He also suggested that I curtsy. And I had planned to do all of this, but then I entered McCarthy’s room and she just kind of takes over, and then I forgot to do everything Richard E. Grant told me to do.
Where should I sit?
I’ll just go where I’m told. I respect authority.
[Laughs] Oh, then you’re in the wrong room. I’ll just keep pointing at things.
I just met Richard E. Grant in the hallway…
Oh my god.
He came up to me and said, “Are you waiting to speak to Her Majesty?”
He’s such a troublemaker.
I didn’t realize I needed to address you that way, and then I forgot to do it.
He stormed in here, literally he scared me. He stormed in at such a speed. He came in as fast as he could walk with this super menacing look on his face, and then choked that mannequin in the corner and said to the interviewer, “That’s how I feel about her.”
[Laughing] And then he was like, “Helloooo!” I can’t keep myself together around him.
How do you do scenes with him? I assume there are high-jinks?
There are but never at the wrong time. He’s a constant professional and he’s always irritatingly super prepared. And I’m always prepared. I’m quite a nerd about it.
This is a great New York City movie.
It really is. I was here in New York from ’90 to ’97, so to me I literally kept saying “my New York.” I have an affinity for the early ’90s New York and I just never thought I would kind of get that back, but filming this, it was like I went in a time machine and I got it back for a little bit.
I moved here in 2004 and even the 2004 version is very different.
Where are you from?
I moved here from St. Louis. When you did Tammy I was like, “Oh, I know all these areas.”
I went to Southern Illinois University. And my husband [Ben Falcone] is from Carbondale. He grew up there. He went to the University of Illinois, but he’s from Carbondale, but I went there when he was still in high school. We didn’t know each other then.