Turning on THE HEAT
THE HEAT is the first produced screenplay by Katie Dippold, who has written for television shows like Parks and Recreation and MadTV. The film was born from Dippold's love of buddy-cop movies. She has many favorites, but singles out the 1986 comedy-action film Running Scared, starring Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines as wisecracking Chicago street cops. "I've always enjoyed those kinds of movies," says Dippold, who recently signed a deal to write another comedy for director Paul Feig. "The characters and actors always seemed like they were having so much fun."
Dippold's love of buddy-cop films provided the foundation for a script that ultimately transcended the genre with outrageous humor and heart. Feig sparked to the script, calling it "one of the funniest I've ever read."
"It turns the genre on its head by adding some breasts," jokes Bullock. "It's gonna surprise people what women with breasts can do."
When the filmmaker told Dippold that THE HEAT was going to be his next film, the neophyte screenwriter was flummoxed. "I thought I was being pranked," Dippold admits. "I got an email saying that Paul wanted to have lunch with me. After reading the email, I sat there frozen for several minutes. Then, I thought it was a joke."
"Well, that's Katie," says producer Jenno Topping. "She's incredibly humble and real."
With Dippold's first draft in hand, Feig moved at warp speed to cast the film, a task facilitated by his visualizing his "dream team" in the script. "I've always been a fan of Sandra Bullock, and as I was reading I was just like, okay, Ashburn is Sandra. Ashburn felt like her. Sandra is so funny in movies and in real life. She's confident and cool, but she's also analytical about things to a point where it's comical, and which I love. And that's how I felt about the Ashburn character."
"Sandra brings a sweet quality to what could have been an unlikable character," adds Katie Dippold. "She really nails that 'A+-student' vibe, and she's hilarious." And McCarthy notes that, "Sandra is great, funny and weird. We are very much in sync."
It didn't take much convincing to bring Bullock aboard THE HEAT. She was a big fan of Bridesmaids, and eager to work with its director, Feig. "Watching Bridesmaids was one of those rare moments when I thought to myself that this is a person [Feig] I want to work with because you know he is going to make you better -- and that he could turn THE HEAT into something memorable."
To cast Mullins, Feig looked no further than his Bridesmaids breakout star, Melissa McCarthy. "On Bridesmaids, Melissa became my hero," he says. "So, about 15 pages into reading THE HEAT, the idea of casting her just snapped into my head. The script, which was already hilarious, got ten times funnier when I read it while imagining Melissa as Mullins.
"Melissa will commit to a role so hardcore it will shock you," Feig continues. "It's hard to realize that it's Melissa inside that character."
The chemistry between Bullock and McCarthy was evident from the first table read. "When we read the script [together] for the first time, Melissa and I would make the same faces, simultaneously," Bullock recalls. "Our rhythms are different, but we worked so well together, they began to click. We made so many connections; it's something I never thought I would have on this level."
The strength of the Bullock-McCarthy dynamic, evident even then, inspired additional script fine-tuning. "By the end of that first read, it was obvious that Sandy and Melissa really inhabited these characters, and that it was up to Katie Dippold and me to take all that magic and get it into the script -- and really let the women fly," says Feig.
Dippold remained with THE HEAT through production, coming up with alternate jokes and character bits. "I always allow improv," Feig notes," but you must always start with a great script."
For Dippold, the process was liberating. "Sandy and Melissa took what was on the page and made it funnier than I thought it could ever be," she says. A particular favorite came during a Mullins' tirade against her captain (played by Tom Wilson) -- accusing him of lacking a set of testes -- when he refuses her demand to boot Ashburn from the case. "Melissa really ran with the one scripted line, 'Have you seen the captain's balls?' and turned it into something spectacular."
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