She's brassy, hilarious and just about the only comedian around who can almost single-handedly carry a movie to a $35 million opening: Tammy star Melissa McCarthy is on the cover of our Summer Double issue (on stands Friday), flexing her muscles for a revealing story that details her long rise to stardom and (sometimes unusual) acting techniques.
McCarthy may be known for swearing onscreen, but hanging out with contributing editor Erik Hedegaard, she offers more "holy smokies!" than fucks, explaining how she spent a decade kicking around comedy clubs in New York and Los Angeles, then gave herself a deadline: If she didn't catch a break by the time she turned 30, she'd consider giving up the dream. A week before her birthday, she got a call about an audition for Gilmore Girls, and 14 years later, she's become one of the most reliable comedy actors in Hollywood, stealing the spotlight in movies like Bridesmaids, The Heat and Identity Thief and chilling with Brad and Angelina at the Golden Globes.
Here are five revelations from the story:
She started her career in comedy doing stand-up as a drag queen named Miss Y.
When McCarthy moved to New York at age 20, her roommate, Brian Atwood, a friend from home who would go on to become a popular shoe designer, suggested she try stand-up. "I really dressed to rival a drag queen, for sure," she recalls. ("It was the time of Lady Miss Kier, RuPaul and Lady Bunny," says Atwood.) "I had a gold lamé swing coat on, a huge wig, big eyelashes," McCarthy recalls. "I talked about being incredibly wealthy and beautiful and living extravagantly."
She got cast in Bridesmaids despite slipping into one of her "fugue states" during the audition — and rambling about dolphin sex.
Improving with Kristen Wiig in front of Judd Apatow and Paul Feig, McCarthy blacked out and began rambling about inter-species dolphin sex. "There's not one thing you could have done to seem any stranger," she said to herself in the car home. "Sex with a dolphin? Handplay with a dolphin! You just could not have been any weirder." A year or so later, she was nominated for an Oscar for her role in the film.
She also blacks out during many of her best curse-filled tirades.
When McCarthy was a kid, she'd flatten herself against dining room chairs and scare her father by grabbing his leg when he finally walked by. These days, she brings that commitment to her acting roles, getting so deep into character that she almost loses consciousness. During the end credits of This Is 40, for instance, McCarthy tells Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann, "I would like to rear up and jackknife my legs and kick you both in the fucking jaw with my foot bone. That's what I would fucking love. I wish my fucking would go right through your skull." Now, she laughs, "When I saw that scene, I really truly didn't remember saying most of it."
She was a bit of an angsty teenage goth.
Early in high school, McCarthy was a preppy jock: a cheerleader and a student-council member. But when puberty hit, she dyed her hair blue-black, wore weirdo fishnets on her arms and snuck out to Chicago, where she'd frequent a club called Medusa's and dance on scaffolding. "I turned slightly nuts," she admits of the years she drank wine coolers and cheap beer — and did a little shoplifting. "We'd wrap sweaters around ourselves and walk out." (She also owns up to stealing a Chunky when she was five.)
She's actually quite happy now.
Less the tortured comic genius of cliché than a married-with-kids success story, McCarthy seems almost content. When Hedegaard asks what she might be running from, the star can't come up with an answer, offering only, "I don't know." Her self-destructive habits? "I could eat healthier, I could drink less," she says. "I should be learning another language and working out more, but I'm just always saying, 'Ah, I could get hit by a bus tomorrow.'"
Also in the issue: Al Gore on climate change, Jonah Weiner on St. Vincent, Mark Binelli on how extremists are taking control of Texas and a summer dance special featuring Disclosure, Afrojack, DJ Snake and more.
Look for the issue on stands and in the iTunes App Store this Friday, June 20th.