Whether he’s creating a movie blockbuster or just getting dressed in the morning, Paul Feig’s style and attention to detail shines through. He is behind some of the most iconic comedy films and TV shows of the 21st century, with director, writer, and executive producer credits on a host of bona fide modern classics. He may even have directed your favorite show without you realizing it, having helmed episodes of TV gems from ‘Mad Men’ to ‘Arrested Development’. To accompany our WTF profile interview with the talented filmmaker this week, here are five of his funniest projects.
Freaks and Geeks (1999)
‘Freaks and Geeks’ was where it all started for Paul as a TV creator, and also supercharged the careers of many other great talents who worked on the show. Created by Paul and executive produced by Judd Apatow, it was inspired by Paul’s experience growing up in Michigan, and focused on the universal struggle to find where we belong at high school. The show struggled on release, and was dropped after just one season on NBC, cutting short the coming-of-age story of the brilliant cast. But it developed a cult following that grew over the years, and is now rightly considered by many as the greatest high school comedy of all time. The show was the launchpad for the careers of young stars Jason Segel, Seth Rogen, James Franco, Linda Cardellini, Martin Starr, and more. And it was an early indicator of Paul’s amazing ability to lampoon, but also affectionately embrace, the quirks of life.
The Office (2005-2013)
It’s common to get into the UK v USA debate when it comes to which one is the best, and the UK original, penned by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, was certainly genius. But as a British family of five, all ex-pats, it has to be said that the USA version kept us captivated, titillated, engaged, and returning to watch and rewatch the entire series multiple times. Adapted for the USA by uber-ace showrunner Greg Daniels, Paul had a steady and definitive hand in its success as co-executive producer of 26 episodes, and director of 15 episodes, including the most awkward and excruciatingly brilliant ‘Dinner Party’ episode, which I guarantee will have you squirming in exquisite agony, witnessing character Michael Scott’s attempts at a sophisticated soiree. Paul’s work directing the series earned him three Emmy nominations.
Paul is the director of this gem of a movie, penned by Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, that many peg as a trailblazer for women-led comedies. An adrenaline-packed cracker from start to finish, it follows the intense competition between the maid of honor and a bridesmaid over who is the bride’s best friend. Unrelenting with its knock-out humor, it underscored the comedic brilliance of actress Rose Byrne, Maya Rudolph, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Kristen Wiig, and Ellie Kemper. Plus it catapulted Melissa McCarthy – who was Oscar nominated for her role – into the stratosphere of Hollywood royalty, whilst at the same time fusing what became an ongoing creative collaboration with Paul. For him, it was a case of a home run on his third strike, given his previous two movies had done decently but hadn’t performed to the studios target. Fortunately for us all, ‘Bridesmaids’ was a massive hit and has brought in a whopping $289 million worldwide at the box office for a cost of $32.5 million, as Paul’s career continues to fly.
Always a fan of James Bond, Paul wrote and directed action comedy ‘Spy’ which follows a 40-year-old single, desk bound CIA employee (Melissa McCarthy) as she transforms into unorthodox secret agent Susan Cooper. Her mission is to trace a stolen portable nuclear device and avenge the murder of her man in the field, agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law) and, of course, to save the world. Accompanied by stars Jason Statham, Rose Byrne, Miranda Hart, Bobby Cannavale and Alison Janney, the film is a smart, high octane, old school romp and received positive critical reviews whilst making a handsome $235 million at the worldwide box office, against a budget of $65 million. It was Paul and Melissa’s third film collaboration, once again underlining his passion for making films that have fascinating, funny, and sharp female leads. ‘Spy’ is high stakes, super entertaining, lots of fun, and definitely worth a rewatch when in need of escape.
Paul executive produced this excellent recent HBO comedy series through his company Feigco Entertainment and was instrumental in its creation. Once again showcasing his talent for hilarious and nuanced female-driven comedies, ‘Minx’ follows young feminist Joyce Prigger (Ophelia Lovibond) as she joins forces with pornography publisher Doug Renetti (Jake Johnson) to create the first women’s erotic magazine. Set in 1970s California, the show tackles the civil rights and women’s liberation movements of the era, served up with lashings of beautifully-shot, sun-soaked laughs.