The idea for “Tammy” was born over breakfast.
The comedy, starring Melissa McCarthy, is directed by her husband, Ben Falcone. They wrote it together, from Falcone’s early-morning epiphany.
“He came downstairs one morning, blurry-eyed, hair all over the place, in his pajamas, and goes: ‘I’m not sure if I had a dream, but I want to write a movie where you go on a road trip with your grandma and I think she’s an alcoholic and she sleeps around,’” says McCarthy. “He was, like, not fully awake. I was like, ‘OK. That sounds great. Want some coffee?’”
Six years later, that concept has turned into the biggest professional collaboration yet for McCarthy and Falcone. In “Tammy,” which opened Wednesday, McCarthy plays a woman who loses her job and embarks on a road trip with her grandmother (Susan Sarandon in a gray wig and sensible shoes).
McCarthy and Falcone have performed together since meeting at the Groundlings, the Los Angeles-based improv troupe.
“It’s always been really fun to do stuff with him,” says McCarthy. “You always have those people for whatever reason you have the right chemistry with, and Ben is definitely that fella for me. And I tend to like him quite a bit. I’m going to keep him.”
The movie extends an often ironic on-screen relationship for Falcone and McCarthy. Though they’ve been happily married since 2005 and have two daughters together, their encounters on-screen are often tempestuous. In last year’s “The Heat,” Falcone made a cameo as a love-sick former lover she keeps spurning.
“He’s horrible to me in ‘Tammy,’” says McCarthy. “He’s the one who fires me. I say terrible things to him.”
McCarthy spoke recently by phone from Budapest on the set of “Spy,” her latest comedy with Paul Feig (“Bridesmaids,” “The Heat”). She said she was wearing a short, very curly gray wig: “I’m like a kid in a candy store with wigs. Give me wigs, and I’m good to go.”
While her work with Feig has grown into one of the best actor-director combos in comedy, “Tammy” is an especially personal release for McCarthy — a film she and Falcone built themselves. It’s set in Illinois, near where Falcone grew up and where McCarthy went to college.
“As a writer, you think about that forever: Can you imagine if we got to do our own thing?” she says. “To have it finally happen, it’s a very wild moment for both of us.”