By Zorianna Kit
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actresses Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy are mounting a challenge to this summer's male-dominated comedies with their buddy cop comedy "The Heat" opening at movie theaters on Friday.
The R-rated comedic offerings at the summer box office have so far included three guys heading to Las Vegas to hunt down a gangster in "The Hangover 3," two middle-aged men interning at Google in "The Internship" and a group of male celebrities preparing for the apocalypse in "This is the End."
"The Heat," by "Bridesmaids" director Paul Feig brings together an unlikely duo, pairing an uptight FBI agent (Bullock) with a loud and aggressive Boston cop (McCarthy) to bring down a drug lord.
Amid shenanigans that include stake-outs, family drama, a drunken night and explosions, the pair learns how to work together and a friendship develops.
Buddy cop comedies have long been a Hollywood staple, from franchise films like "Beverly Hills Cop," "Lethal Weapon," "Bad Boys" and "Rush Hour" to more recent films like "The Other Guys" and last year's "21 Jump Street" remake. But they have featured male leads.
Starring two women in such a film required some changes, Feig told Reuters.
The 50-year-old director, who has helped usher in a new wave of female-led R-rated comedies, said he wanted the characters to deal with issues that professional women would face on the job, while also showing women who enjoy being in the work force.
"We wanted to say, 'If you love your job, that's what you should be doing and maybe you might need a friend in a similar situation to be your confidante,'" he said.
Feig's 2011 film "Bridesmaids," about a bride and her friends who suffer a series of unfortunate events ahead of the wedding, was nominated for two Oscars including best supporting actress for McCarthy and made $288 million worldwide.
'THE QUEST' FOR WOMEN IN COMEDY
McCarthy, 42, saw her star rise after the success of "Bridesmaids." She followed the film up with February's "The Identity Thief," which grossed $174 million largely on the strength of her persona, and a supporting role in "The Hangover 3," where she held her own opposite the film's male-led cast.
Bullock, 48, had been mostly absent from film since winning the Best Actress Oscar for 2009's "The Blind Side," focusing instead on being a single mother to her adopted son Louis.
"The Heat," produced by News Corp's 20th Century Fox studio, marks a return to comedy for her, drawing parallels to the quirky neurotic characters she has played in 2000's "Miss Congeniality" and 2009's "The Proposal."
Feig initially was drawn to the Kate Dippold-written script for "The Heat" in part because he felt comedy films in the last few decades have been mostly male-dominated, with women depicted as the ones who ruin the good time.
"The guys are having fun, or they're out saving the world and the woman is saying, 'You need to be home with the family,'" said Feig.
"Either they are killjoys or completely unaware of the importance of what their husbands are doing - neither one of which seems fair to the women."
Feig said he felt some of his favorite female comedians are not being given a chance to shine, citing Sarah Silverman's mean girlfriend character in 2003's "School of Rock" and Rachel Harris' shrewish girlfriend portrayal in 2009's "The Hangover."
"These are movies I love, but at the same time you go, 'Well that's a waste of a hilarious person," said Feig. "I just feel like, 'God, let's right the wrongs.'"
Going forward, Feig said his next project will be a female "James Bond" comedy in the vein of "The Heat," but he stressed he doesn't want to be the only go-to guy for women in film.
"The fact that 'The Heat' is the only studio film coming out this summer that has women in lead roles is almost a backslide," said Feig. "More people have to join me in the quest."
(Corrects Feig's age in the seventh paragraph. An earlier version of this story said that his age was 62.)
(Reporting By Zorianna Kit, Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy and Cynthia Osterman)