Tonight at USC, a small but warm and receptive crowd filed into Norris Hall for a conversation with Ghostbusters and Bridesmaids director Paul Feig as part of the annual USC Comedy Festival. At various points Feig took the opportunity to discuss his experiences working with women in comedy.
Addressing the smash success of Bridesmaids, Feig noted the extent to which the industry has changed in just the time since that film was made.
“When we were making Bridesmaids, the whole industry was on hold for women — I had a lot of female writer friends who were going out and trying to sell movies in the same world, with female leads, and all the executives said, ‘Well, we’ve gotta wait and see how Bridesmaids does,’ which is completely f*cked,” he laughed. “And then I was going, oh my god, I’m literally ground zero for killing movies for women? This is terrible…We were tracking like we were going to bomb, too. I had been told: If we don’t get $20 million opening weekend, it’s a failure.”
Looking on track to disappoint, Feig recalled sitting at dinner with Melissa McCarthy and husband Ben Falcone, then watching the box office numbers rise exponentially within the day.
Feig said he received some disturbing feedback from studio executives in response to his work on female-driven films. “I will tell you this gross thing, which was I’d had so many producers and stuff pull me aside and go like, ‘So, you don’t want to get pigeonholed into this. You’re going to be, like, this women’s director,’ ” he said to a shocked audience. “Like, what the f*ck does that mean? Do you pull Scorsese aside and say, ‘Mmm…you’re working with a lot of men…’ “, Feig asked — to big laughs and applause.
Feig, a USC alumnus, seemed genuinely surprised at the end of the night as an annual university scholarship was announced in his name.