2015 has been a big year for spy movies as roughly forty-seven of them have hit theaters since January. Most are the traditional kind – action-oriented thrillers aiming to wow audiences with stunts and intrigue – and more than a few of them succeeded. One of the year’s best though is actually a comedy.
Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat) is currently in the process of destroying all existing prints and copies of the 1984 classic, Ghostbusters, but earlier this year he released the ridiculously funny, Melissa McCarthy-headlined Spy into theaters. The title is straightforward, but the film itself does a fantastic job of being a spy comedy that never feels the need to veer into the realm of spoof. Top-notch action sequences and a spectacular cast elevate it even further, and the result is a movie that remains immensely entertaining across multiple re-watches.
The Blu-ray is worth picking up for numerous reasons – chief among them being the outtakes of Rose Byrne repeatedly losing her shit and cracking up – but one of the many highlights is the commentary track. Sure the various cast members all had something better to do the day of the recording apparently, but Feig is joined by several folks who worked on the film behind the scenes and that’s also pretty cool. Seriously, it’s a fun listen.
Keep reading to see what I heard on the Spy commentary.
Commentators: Paul Feig (writer/director), Robert Yeoman (director of photography), John Vecchio (gaffer), Jessie Henderson (producer), Walter Garcia (fight coordinator)
1. The opening scene takes place in Bulgaria but was actually filmed in Hungary. Almost the entire film was shot in Hungary.
2. The house that Agent Fine (Jude Law) enters used to be a popular vacation spot for Fidel Castro. “Apparently he was quite the randy fella we’re told,” says Feig.
3. Some of the bats flying around the CIA office were accomplished via people holding sticks with fake bats on strings. Feig was one of those people.
20th Century Fox
4. The film was shot on the Alexa which helped in the low-light locales of the basement tunnels. This was Feig’s first digital film.
5. The blond agent spitting up the cake is Katie Dippold who co-wrote both The Heat and the upcoming Ghostbusters. “Ghostbusters, the reboot” clarifies Feig.
6. Law did most of his own stunts and fight scenes. “He’s a kickboxer actually,” says Feig. Sport of the future?
7. Jaime Pacheco, who plays the gardener Fine asks Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) to fire, is the guitar player at Feig’s favorite Mexican eatery in Los Angeles, The Gardens of Taxco. “I needed someone with a really sweet face who it would be hard to fire, and I have to fly Jaime all the way to Budapest to accomplish that.” The dancing sequence wasn’t scripted.
8. The marshmallow gag – Cooper mistakes hand towels for marshmallows – actually happened to Feig. “I was in a restaurant in London, and they brought these things to the table. I picked it up and started to chew it while the man just stared at me, blankly, and I bit into it once and all this hot, soapy water dripped down my throat.”
9. The ugly necklace Fine gives Cooper was originally scripted as a ring, but they decided that could be taken too seriously. “I just typed into the internet ‘ugly necklace’ and the first thing that came up was this.” If you Google “ugly necklace” this is still an item that appears in the first few rows of an image search.
10. Law improvised cleaning his nails with his ID card during the meeting with Agency Director Crocker (Allison Janney).
20th Century Fox
11. The wide-shot of Cooper and Nancy Artingstall (Miranda Hart) drinking at the bar features wall signage all written in Hungarian. The scene takes place in West Virginia, USA, but the Hungarian restaurant owners wouldn’t let them change the signs.
12. Steve Bannos is to Paul Feig as John Ratzenberger is to Pixar.
13. Like many of us, Feig is a legitimate fan of Jason Statham. “My wife and I have watched every single one of his movies.” Feig actually wrote the character with Statham in mind and was thrilled when he said yes, but they almost lost him when production on Fast & Furious 7 was delayed after Paul Walker’s death. Henderson was able to juggle and negotiate schedules to get him onboard. “He was nervous at first,” says Feig, “and he just embraced it.”
20th Century Fox
14. Feig was given minor grief by French journalists regarding the Paris-set scene where Cooper sees a woman giving a guy a blowjob on the side of the street. They wanted him to know that’s not the actual norm, an argument to which he replies that “Paris is for lovers. Lovers of oral sex.”
15. The drunken guy who pratfalls in the background of the Parisian hallway is Feig. He wanted to be a stunt man when he was younger, and as evident by one of the disc’s other special features he likes to partake in the physcal shenanigans whenever possible.
16. Feig ended up quite the fan of Budapest and kind of offers to provide tips and suggestions for people who email him if planning trips to the city. “There are beautiful restaurants,” adds Henderson. “Don’t order the baby chicken.”
17. The prosthetic penis was the subject of numerous communications during production, many of which had studio higher-ups included on the email chain.
18. The moment that occurs on pretty much all commentaries occurs at the 59:35 mark here.
19. They shot the film on “French hours.” The typical Hollywood shooting schedule is a 12 hour day with a lunch break right in the middle, but in Europe they do a 10 hour day with people eating as they work. “At the end of ten hours you go home and have a regular life.”
20. Garcia has worked with Statham on four previous occasions – Homefront, Fast & Furious 7, and a couple foreign commercials. He, like everyone else, loves the guy.
21. The sequence aboard the private jet where the gunshots put holes in the hull and depressurized the plane only to be stopped-up with various objects (apple, wine bottle) is based on an idea by Craig Schulz, son of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz. He’s also a pilot, so when he and Feig worked together on The Peanuts Movie the director had him read the scene for authenticity and suggestions.
22. Rose Byrne struggled to hold the gun on McCarthy while shooting the plane scene because it’s so big and she’s so tiny. “We eventually had to put her arm on a C stand,” says Feig.
23. That’s really Hart tackling 50 Cent. He didn’t want to wear padding for the shot.
24. The kitchen fight between Cooper and Lia (Nargis Fakhri) was broken into seven sections for shooting purposes which allowed them to memorize parts and leave room for adding character beats and laughs. It was filmed across three days.
20th Century Fox
25. Bobby Cannavale took a 15′ fall into some boxes for the shot where his character drops from the helicopter, and Feig took the opportunity to do it as well.
26. McCarthy’s kids visited the set on the day they were filming the scene of her in bed with with Statham.
27. Feig’s “theory on end credits” is that they’re typically boring and bland, so he likes to have his credits feature all kinds of extra tidbits to make watching it all the way through worthwhile.
28. Feig doesn’t like to use outtakes in his credits, but he made an exception for the post-credits bit here as it made him crack up like nothing else.
Best in Context-Free Commentary
- Feig: “Babies must be killed, as they say.”
- Henderson: “That was a great day. I’m being sarcastic, it was not a great day.”
- Feig: “And then there’s Rose Byrne.”
- Feig: “You don’t want to waste a frame of film on anybody who’s not awesome.”
- Feig: “Whenever I know Melissa’s going to say the funniest joke I’ve ever heard she’ll get halfway into it, and then she’ll stop herself and go ‘Oh I can’t say that it’s too terrible.’”
- Feig: “I never use the words ‘bitch’ or ‘pussy’ in any movie I do unless Melissa does it naturally, then I’m like go right ahead.”
Spy is still one of the funniest movies of the year, and the commentary offers an equally playful and frequently foul companion. Feig’s affection for his cast and crew is almost as strong as his love of finely-tailored suits, and it comes through on the commentary and in the other special features. Bring on the Ghostbusters reboot!