Interview with Susan Sarandon and Melissa McCarthy of ‘Tammy’
It’s not quite a staple of American cinema, but road trip movies certainly have legions of fans. They usually feature a couple of guys or a bickering family, but the genre got a big positive bump a couple of decades ago when Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis hopped in a convertible and ran from the law in “Thelma & Louise.”
Sarandon is back behind the wheel in “Tammy,” this time accompanied by Melissa McCarthy in a two-gals-hit-the-road comedy. Co-written by McCarthy and her husband, Ben Falcone, and directed by Falcone, it’s the story of down-on-her-luck Tammy (McCarthy) who, after a series of personal setbacks – including discovering the philanderings of her husband – decides to leave her small town and start really living life. Her only two problems: a lack of funds, and the fact that her traveling companion is her often drunk, usually randy grandmother Pearl (Sarandon). Both women spoke about the film last week in Los Angeles.
Q: Susan, you’re 67 and Melissa is 43, and you’re playing her grandmother. How were you approached to take the part?
Sarandon: Ben and Melissa called me, and prepared me for the script. Then I got the script, and thought it was a lot of fun, but I was doing another movie, and I didn’t quite understand what reality we would be in. So we had another call about it, and I was very excited about the way they worked. We texted little pictures of possible looks and figured out the age thing – actually Pearl wasn’t much older than I actually am, she just doesn’t have my makeup and hair people. But [Ben and Melissa] are both incredibly talented, and it would be very different. I didn’t quite know what was going to happen, but I thought, let’s go for it.
McCarthy: On one of our first phone calls, you said Pearl seemed like a little old granny with glasses and a crocheted sweater and an up-do bun, and I said, “Oh, no, she has raging problems with alcohol, and she sleeps around.” And you said, “OK, we’ll be fine.”
Sarandon: I’m bad at math, and I didn’t think about the ages. It actually makes sense if my character had a baby at 16, and the character of my daughter had a baby when she was 16. It’s totally possible. I was just happy to be able to do something like this. It’s very liberating to look that bad. We just accentuated everything that you would normally hide, so it didn’t matter if I was sweaty or the lighting was bad. That was kind of cool.
Q: Melissa, you wrote the script with your husband. Where did the idea for the story come from?
McCarthy: Ben came downstairs one morning, just having woken up and said, “I had a weird dream. You go on a road trip with your grandmother and she drinks and she sleeps around. I’m gonna go write that movie.” And I said, “All right.”That dream was around six years ago, and that’s how it began. He always says things, and I say, “That sounds great!” I just agree with him, and it all works out. But we had been working on it for years. I don’t know if we ever really thought it could make the next step. But then when it started happening, and we found out that certain actors were actually reading it, I was physically coming apart at the seams. It’s still dreamy to me.
Q: Susan, did you have any thoughts of “Thelma & Louise” while you were making this?
Sarandon: We actually didn’t think about it till we started doing press. They brought a car and I said, “You know, this might remind people of that other movie.” But it was so different.
Q: Have there been plans for you and Geena Davis to work together again?
I’d love to work with her again. They had kind of knocked around some ideas of a sequel to “Thelma & Louise,” but they were so ridiculous. I remember at one point saying, “But what would WE do?” And somebody said, “You’d collect a big check is what you’d do.” But I really don’t know how you would resurrect them. And even if we did, we’d have to do something sitting down because when we’re standing, Geena’s like a foot taller than me. That’s why the car worked in “Thelma & Louise.” We were kind of on the same level. I’m shrinking and she’s still 6 foot 1.
“Tammy” opens on July 2.