Spy - Clip No. 1
For some reason, 2015 is the year of the spy spoof.

Earlier this year we got "Kingsman: The Secret Service," which turned out to be something of a surprise hit (especially given its brand new IP and R-rating) and on June 5th comes "Spy," the latest collaboration between director Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy (this is their third, after the hugely successful "Bridesmaids" and "The Heat").

"Spy" turns the espionage thriller on its head; instead of a slick male agent, we get McCarthy's bumbling office drone who's recruited after a Bond-ish spy (Jude Law) gets killed in the field. It could be dopey and crass, but Feig treats the material seriously and gets genuinely inspired performances out of a varied cast that includes Rose Byrne and, surprisingly enough, Jason Statham.

"Spy" premiered at this year's South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas, where we sat down with Feig to discuss what made him want to tackle the spy genre, his upcoming animated feature based on the "Peanuts" cartoon, why he cast Statham in "Spy" and his upcoming, all-female "Ghostbusters" reboot.

Additionally, we have an exclusive clip (above) from the movie. This takes place at the beginning of "Spy," when McCarthy is trying (and failing) to helpfully guide super-spy Law through a particularly dangerous mission. What makes this scene so great is that it's really evocative of the film as a whole -- the combination of espionage and silliness, the relative straightforwardness with which Feig treats the material and, of course, how funny McCarthy is.

Moviefone: ​What brought you to the spy genre?

Paul Feig: I just love spy movies, ever since I was a little kid I loved the Bond movies and the Ian Fleming books. I love thrillers. I love action and I love thrillers and I love the spy genre because it's figuring things out -- it's not all brawn, it's brain too. And also I love the international settings of things, I obviously love men's style. I just love going into that world and always wanted to do one but obviously as a comedy filmmaker I knew nobody would ever let me direct a Bond movie, as much as I would love to. I always tell my agents, "See if they'd let me." And they said, "They won't let you."

The first time I saw "Casion Royale," I thought, Wow, this is great... Because Bond had gotten so silly I had kind of given up on the genre and forgot about it but when that came out it was like, that's how you do it! Then, when I made "The Heat," we had minimal action elements, just a few, but it was like, I really like doing this. When we were in post on "The Heat," "Skyfall" opened. And I was like, Sh*t, I want to do one of those. I had all these funny women I like to work with and so it was why don't I write my own version that's for a female spy. It was simple as that.

And it seems perfect because Bond has gotten so serious, you can do a silly one.

Exactly! But still treating it real and treating the stakes real.

What is your approach to shooting these action sequences?

Well, to treat it seriously. It's funny, when we were talking about this project with the studio and when they were reading the script, they had this tendency to read it as if it was a cartoon almost, like reading the most over-the-top version of how you could play a scene. And we had to tell them, "We're treating this dead serious." Bob Yoeman, my cinematographer, we kept it dark and moody and not bright. My composer, when I brought him on, I said, "We're not going to play one note as if it's comedy, write a serious spy score," because then that makes everything funnier. All you can do as a director is guard the tone, especially as a comedy director. That's your main job -- guard the tone. And if you go, "This joke's funny, let's put it in" but it totally subverts everything that came before it, then you've failed. So you have to weed that stuff out.

Were you directly referencing any films or filmmakers?

Well, the way that Martin Campbell directed "Casino Royale," I think it's the best action movie ever made. It's treated so real; that whole opening parkour scene; there's no gadgetry involved, it's just human bodies in motion. There's some pretty outrageous stuff but you don't not buy any moment of that and that's what I want to hit because that's how I approach my comedy. I wanted to be funny but I never wanted people to be like, "How can this be happening?" I wanted it to be funny because that person is behaving in a way that I wouldn't behave and this other person is behaving in a realistic way and it's the combination of that, that I wanted to bring to the action. Also with the action, you don't want to be like, here's our big serious action scene and then let's have some funny stuff happen. For all our action scenes we wanted to figure out what funny things could happen in the action scenes that still don't blow the stakes or blow the realism. So it's just about decision-making.

Was it hard to maintain that consistency?

It's difficult in that you have to really figure out what's going to be funny that doesn't blow it. Personally, I love it because that's how my brain works. It's scarier for me when we go off the rails. We have one scene that's towards the end of the second act when she is captured and it's kind of a tense scene, but when you're trying to find what funny things we can do with it, we gave people a take and suddenly everybody got "funny" and it became "Spy Hard." It was chilling. It was like, this movie can go off the rails so fast. But then a couple of the things we pitched they started playing real and it started getting really funny because it became relatable.

Can you talk about your relationship with Melissa and how it's evolved?

Honestly, it's never changed. We were that couple where it was like love at first sight. We bonded immediately and have this shorthand. Nothing's really changed; if anything we just know each other's moves a little bit more now. When I give notes we literally don't even say anything but we know what we're talking about.

What made you consider Statham?

I've always been a Statham fan, and I've seen all of his movies, even the ones he hates. He'll always go, "Aw that was terrible -- why'd you watch that?" And I said, "Because I love everything you do!" Ever since "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels," it was like, This guy is funny. But it was when I saw the first "Crank" movie that I really felt like he's got a sense of humor. Because those movies are bananas and clearly you can't not know you're being funny or silly; it became years of me thinking that I had to put him in something.

Then, when I made this movie, I had this role of this rival spy and I thought, This is it! And what's funny is that every person who read the script thought that, "Oh, you wrote this for Will Ferrell?" Because on paper it's kind of goofy. And then I said, "No it's written for Jason Statham." And they'd kind of crack up. But again, it's about the tone -- if I had a comedian in that role, sudden we're becoming a spoof. Statham sells it so hardcore; he really makes an impression on audiences.

Why did you bring the movie to South by Southwest?

Ever since we screened "Bridesmaids" here, I walked out and said, "I want every movie I do to premiere here." So we wanted to get "The Heat" in here but it didn't work out so I was really bummed. When I heard that they wanted to do this, I was so happy. It's a thrill. That theater is awesome and the crowds are great. It's people who love movies but don't come in with their arms crossed.

Can you talk about "The Peanuts Movie" and developing the look? It's got that nifty 2D/3D aesthetic.

Well, all credit goes to Steve Martino and that team. But we all came in dead-set with that goal: we loved the originals and we didn't want it to be "Space Jam." We wanted to be 100% true to what it was and use that 2D/3D thing to connect to it more. They studied Schulz's pen line and everything is broken down to Charles Schulz's pen. So, when we first got announced, everybody including Brad Bird came out against it since it was 3D and CGI. And you want to go, "No, everybody, it is so careful." Because we're all obsessed with it. And Charles's son and grandson are writing the movie for us. So it could not be more pure of heart. When I see those animation tests, I think, Wow, they nailed it. When I first came on board, they showed me preliminary artwork they'd done and I almost broke into tears.

And you're using some of the original audio?

Well, for Snoopy. But we hired kids who sound exactly like the kids who you heard growing up.

How much of the iconography will be in there?

We do nods to a lot of stuff and some of our favorite moments. There are some things that are just so funny that you've got to see versions of that -- Snoopy making fun of Lucy behind her back and then licking her and her saying, "Ew, dog germs." You can't not do that. Those are too good to leave out.

I know you can't talk much about "Ghostbusters," but the last we heard there was this whole shared universe being developed. Are you involved in that stuff?

I had heard rumblings of that and then who knows down the line depending on how our movie does.

"Spy" is an action comedy. Is "Ghostbusters" still going to be a horror comedy? Is it still scary?

Oh yes. This is PG-13, so you can only make it so scary but you can still really push it. Again, the more real we treat this, the funnier this is. The technology allows us to have really good ghosts but at the same time, I don't want to make it so far away from the original. What was so nice about the original was that there was a real warmth to it, the way these ghosts were done. As much as we can we'll keep that live-action but enhanced feel. It all depends on our budget.
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