'Tammy' Star Melissa McCarthy Talks About Her Death-Defying Comedy Style

Meriah Doty
melissa mccarthy
melissa mccarthy

In Tammy (out Wednesday), Melissa McCarthy crashes her jet ski, gets thrown from a car during a drunken joy ride, and stands much too close to an automobile engulfed in flames. Does the 43-year-old funny lady have a death wish? No, she’s just really dedicated to physical comedy. She plays the movie’s title character who embarks on a road trip with her boozy grandmother (Susan Sarandon) after her life falls apart. (McCarthy’s husband Ben Falcone directs and also costars.) Yahoo Movies chatted with McCarthy at a recent press event in Beverly Hills about stunt work, her go-to comfort comedies, and what not to do on a Jet Ski. 

Is Tammy the most physical role you’ve ever done?
It’s a doozy. Being physical always goes hand in hand with my stuff — I don’t know why. I always think I’m a 6-foot-4 guy who can do everything — and then I realize I’m 5-2 and I can’t. I still run at it with the gusto of a 6-4 man.

Did you get injured shooting this?
I took a really bad fall learning to ride the jet ski. I just took off on this thing and got up to about 40, 45 miles an hour. In my head I’m like, “This feels incredibly unsafe.” And then I thought, “Well, [the stunt coordinator] said ‘dig in.’” We had been doing these kind of S-curves, which you absolutely do not do if you’re going fast at all in any capacity — I know now. I don’t remember leaving the jet ski, I don’t remember being mid air, I don’t remember flipping it. All of a sudden, I just realize I was underwater and I had on the wig. We didn’t have a huge budget and it’s like $6,000 for a wig. I reached for my wig, which had probably 35 cross pins in it, with both hands, tried to rip it off my head. And because I didn’t know which way was up, I had to wait until I started floating. I came up and was like, “I lost the wig!” Ben was just standing there with his arms [open] and said “Ahhh!” They didn’t know if I’d broke my neck. I hit so hard, whole parts of me were bruised. 

How long did it take to recover?
We went right back to it. And I said, “That fall will make the movie.” And they said, “We weren’t rolling.” I was like, “Noooooo!!!!”

How do you and Ben unwind after a long day of filming?
We usually get home, play with the kids and watch them run around and do weird, funny things. And then if we can stay up after we’ve put them to bed — which is the challenge — we’ll just kind of hang out in our backyard. That’s hard to come by, so that’s all we really need.

What movie do you two put on when you both need a good laugh? 
We can’t turn off Groundhog Day. I will never turn off Planes Trains and Automobiles — it’s not physically possible.

Who is your physical comedy hero?
There are so many. Chris Farley really fascinated me. He just used his body so aggressively. He was so loose.

Is there any stunt you won’t do or have refused to do?
I won’t do anything that’s really going to hurt me. I have two little kiddies so I really have to make sure I get home at the end of the day.

What’s tougher to do: cry on cue or fly off a car on cue?
They both hurt. They both hurt in different ways. One I have to think of something terrible and the other I just physically hurt. 

Want to see Tammy? Visit our Showtimes page to get tickets.

Photo credit: Warner Bros.