At home, Ben Falcone's been married for over a decade to the woman of his dreams, and on the job he produces, writes, and directs for one of Hollywood's top comedy stars. And because those women are one and the same -- Melissa McCarthy -- they can carpool to work.
The couple's latest creative collaboration "The Boss" -- in which McCarthy evolved her long-ago-conceived stage character Michelle Darnell into a Suze Orman-style business guru attempting to come back from Martha Stewart-sized legal problems, with Falcone behind the camera -- recently hit home video, and they have even more dual projects on the horizon, including serving as executive producers of the upcoming TV Land series "Nobodies" and their third big-screen comedy together, "Life of the Party," which casts McCarthy as a mother who enters the collegiate world at the same time as her daughter.
Falcone recently joined Moviefone for a look inside their crucial partnership, both at work and at home.
Moviefone: "The Boss" must have been a lot of fun, but especially having an extra resonance for you because this character had been in your life for some time. Tell me about the fun of figuring out how to translate this great character that your wife created onstage into a feature film.
Ben Falcone: It was a challenge -- like, a challenge in the fun way of a challenge. It was a character that she created way back, as you know, and our friend [and co-writer] Steve Mallory was always kind of bugging her: "I think it could be a movie, you should do something." And they wrote an outline for it -- I was doing something else; I was working on some other writing thing I was doing – so they did an outline, and then things kind of got really busy for a while.
Then, when Universal, basically after "Tammy," said, "Okay, great, you can make another one," we said, "Oh, great! I said, "Melissa, what do you want to do?" She said, "I really want to do something with Michelle Darnell." I said, "I love that outline you guys were working on." So I basically horned in on her project!
From that stage of this outline they created, the basic thing was there, which was this lady who's a multi-billionaire falls from grace, loses all her power, and then comes back by basically taking down the Dandelions -- our version of Girl Scouts. So, basically, we went from there. It was kind of just a real delight to ride it the whole way through.
I'm curious about the division of labor between you and Melissa as you develop material. Obviously, she's a great creator of characters and finding funny in them and in the situations she puts them in. What are your fortes in the process of bringing one of her characters to the big screen?
Well, I hope that I'm helpful with structure stuff. Like, how is the movie going to hang up? And I'm hopefully good for a joke or two in there. But she's very, very funny. She's able to find the humor in anything, and she's very, very sharp, and she knows exactly how she wants her characters to all have an arc, and she wants them to be flawed, and she wants to have a journey that they go on. We really feel like those are the movies that hopefully stand the test of time.
So that's what she brings to that world. I think I try to be like, "Okay, well, before we murder ourselves on this scene, maybe, do we need this scene? Because don't we want to see her get to this next place faster?" I think I can be helpful in the structural world, and hopefully a good joke or a good scene here and there.
You guys also surround yourself with the friends and comedy colleagues that you've accumulated from The Groundlings on through your careers in Hollywood. Tell me about bringing in this deep bench of comedy friends you have and letting them take what you guys have done further, because you all know how to do it: you all know how to take a premise and make it funnier.
Well, we have writers on set. Meaning friends of ours, or people that have become friends along the way, that their only job when we're there on set is to see if the scene is playing as funny as it could, as it can. So they have post-it notes, and they write down a bunch of what we call alts, right? A lot of people use alts, everybody from Adam McKay to Paul Feig and Judd Apatow. So I'm pretty sure Sean Anders, the newer guys, are doing it too.
We use these writers that we've known for a long time to kind of help us come up with the best line we can at the moment. And their only job -- because I have a lot that I'm looking at -- is to make sure everything is as funny as it could possibly be. We actually use that with actors as well. Sometimes somebody only has three lines, but if it's somebody you know can really score with those three lines, why not bring them in and see what they can do?
Nobody knows Melissa better than you, what still boggles your mind as far as what she's able to do as a performer? Are there still things about her you're like, "Wow, I just don't know how she gets there?"
You know, she can kind of do anything, and there's not so many actors that can in my estimation. I think she's got so much more left to show people, of like sides of characters that she can do. I think she's got some great dramas in her that are going to come out. She can't just be on the comedy train forever. I love it and she loves it, but you know, there's so many things that she's able to do.
But she can find the humor in anything, and she is so insatiable for a comedic moment, that she will try harder than anybody that I know to find the comedy inside of what you're trying to do, you know what I mean? So there's only several people in this business that I think will go that far, and not be afraid to feel foolish.
There's so many talented and great people, I'm not saying people won't do it. I love how much she's not afraid to just try, and if it doesn't work, she'll try something else. She just gives 100% commitment with that much talent. It's quite a combo.
Tell me about "Nobodies," the show that you guys have set up at TV Land.
Yeah, it's a really cool show. These guys are so funny. Again, it's friends of ours from way back that we thought deserved a chance to show what they can do. We've known them for over 15 years, all of them: Hugh Davidson, Rachel Ramras, and Larry Dorf. The showrunner is Mike McDonald from "Mad TV," who literally was our teacher at The Groundlings. So it's like, it's a way-back friendship festival, and the show is just about, it's sort of a loosely based, exaggerated version of Larry, Rachel, and Hugh's real lives, where they feel like they were at.
They write for an animated show, and they feel like all their friends are like passing them by in their careers. They feel like everybody's got boat money, and they don't have boat money, that kind of thing. So it's basically just watching them through the course of the first season as they try to get a movie made, a script that they wrote made.
So it's kind of got the really fun feeling of like "Curb Your Enthusiasm," or "Extras." It's very much an industry show, but we think that the characters are so interesting and great and hilarious, that we think it's really going to translate for everybody. Because what they're trying to do, is they're just trying to have a better life for themselves, which is hopefully, we can all relate to. The way they go about it is really great and awful and tragic with comic effect.
What was that in-between experience like for you and Melissa? You guys worked plenty, you had your careers in Hollywood and your lives at home, but then one day it goes to a whole different level. What was that like kind of transitioning through that period?
Well, we've known each other obviously the whole time and loved each other, so things for us, there's a lot more travel. You're very pleased that people seem to be enjoying the work, and I'm incredibly gratified and grateful to keep getting opportunities.
When you go to a premiere and all these people want Melissa to sign an autograph or something, it's kind of an amazing thing that there's that many fans that love her work that much. To get to direct movies now, it's an incredible place to be. We just feel really grateful, honestly, to be here. There's some elements of it that, you know, just when you're raising a family and stuff, you're trying to figure out all the travel, and how do you make everything work. But it's really been amazing.
Tell me how your next film together, "Life of the Party," came together for you, because it sounds like a really fun jumping-off point for you guys to do your thing.
I've always loved college movies. I kind of can't get enough of them. I grew up in a college town, a place called Carbondale, Illinois. My dad actually taught English, he recently retired, but he taught English at a community college outside of my hometown. So I've spent a lot of time just noticing college, and I went to some college. I kind of love the environment as a place. So I just quickly had a simple thing of like, "What if Melissa is sort of a Midwestern mom who goes back to college with her daughter?"
I was sort of kind of pitching it to Melissa and she really liked it. It was one of the things where we're like, "Who knows? We'll do whatever." We were looking into something that somebody else wrote, because we spent a lot of time writing and traveling and everything else. And then we wrote it anyway, and low and behold we're getting to do it. Again, I'm just so lucky and happy about it.
Everything is going great for you behind the scenes, but it's always a treat to see you show up on camera, too. What's in the works with your acting career?
I would love for you to just put it out there, Scott, that I'm openly looking for acting jobs! [Laughs] I'm going to do some episodes of "Nobodies" when I get back, but yeah, I think when I finish this movie, I think I'm going to probably, at least for a hot second, take a step back and try to just act for a minute.
Maybe just in some project that really feels interesting or fun. There's so many great shows on TV now. A little movie that shoot somewhere close to home. Really, it could be anything, but I'm definitely open for business.