Talking to Katie Dippold About ‘The Heat’, Female Camaraderie, and Lots of Swearing
A UCB improviser and former Parks and Rec staff writer, Katie Dippold is behind one of this year’s most highly anticipated summer comedy blockbusters. The Heat, which opens Friday and was directed by Freaks and Geeks and Bridesmaids director Paul Feig, stars Sandra Bullock as a federal agent and Melissa McCarthy as a Boston cop who are forced to team up to track down a drug dealer. I spoke with Katie at a press junket for the film, where we talked about female friendships in films and how Chris Gethard ended up playing himself in the movie.
How are you feeling? This is a lot of hype for your first film.
I’m excited. I’m nervous and terrified but I’m trying to just hang on to the excitement part of it. I’m trying not to let the anxiety take away from the fun stuff. There’s a whole gambit of emotions right now, but I’m excited.
What made you want to write a cop movie?
I always loved them growing up. I have such an early memory of watching Running Scared, and I feel like with every buddy-cop movie, there was always this great bond between the two cops. They were really funny and there was great banter and they were so cool. Just awesome, running around taking down some drug lord and I always wanted to do that. Like [in] Running Scared, they go down to the Caribbean and there’s this montage of them on scooters, and there’s a different hot girl on the back every time it cuts back to the scooter. And it just felt like, I don’t want to be the girl on the back of the scooter. I want to be the awesome cop doing this stuff. It’s a wish fulfillment movie, because I feel like so many movies are just the woman trying to get this husband or boyfriend, which is all great, but there’s more wish fulfillment to me than that. So that was big inspiration.
I also just saw This Is the End, and I like that there are so many movies now that are friendship comedies, instead of romantic comedies. And it’s particularly great to see another movie, like Bridesmaids, about female friendship, to balance out all the bro-mance movies.
Totally. I want to see more female camaraderie in movies. And just funny, exciting, crazy-night-out movies. Growing up, I felt like I could often feel sad and depressed because I’d be at some party or something, just bored, and it felt like there was a lot of like, “Well, what are the guys doing?” And that’s the fun thing that’s happening, and we just go to that. I have the specific memory of being in college at a fraternity party holding a red cup and feeling like there has to be something funner than this, just waiting for some guy to talk to you. There has to be an adventure we can go on or something. And, especially today, there’s so much bullying of young females and just not being nice to each other. It feels like more movies about that female camaraderie could help that. If every girl grows up watching movies where they just have to find that husband, they’re gonna be competitive and shit on each other, and I just wish for less of that.
Absolutely. I also feel like, in romantic comedies, there tends to be this built-in group of friends. It’s nice to see a movie about finding friends as an adult. As you get older, you realize it’s something you need to work at, just like finding a relationship.
It’s hard. I feel like when you get older, it’s harder to make a new friend, especially that kind of close friend you would have had when you were a kid, where you can make fun of each other. Because I feel like often, when I make a new female friend, it’s so polite and it’s hard to break the barrier of being able to be like, “Yeah, fuck you.” It’s just so hard, and so it was also wanting to see that.
Both Melissa and Sandra are great in the movie, but there are also so many awesome comics in the movie in smaller roles. Were you involved in making that happen?
I would make suggestions, but that was really came down to Paul. I think he’s got a really, really good eye for people. There are a couple people that I was friends with that I would find out were cast, and I’m like, “Oh, that’s great!” And they probably think it was all me. But he’s got a really great eye. There’s so many people funny people, like Bill Burr. Even Zach Woods has the smallest part but he’s so funny in it. And Chris Gethard was, I don’t know if you noticed in the credits, he’s listed as himself.
I did notice that! I laughed so hard when that went by on the credits. [He plays a bumbling admirer of Sandra Bullock’s character in a nightclub.]
That was his idea, which was wonderful. Well first in the script, it was going to be a scene with a bouncer, and he got cast, and I’m like, “Hmm, that’s an interesting choice.” So we re-wrote it more for him to be this awkward guy, and so then it was just Awkward Guy, and I thought he might not like that being his credit. So I was like, “Do you want to be listed as anything?” And he was like, “Myself.” Perfect. Which was also really nice because he is the person that got me into comedy to begin with. We were on the same floor freshman year at Rutgers, and we eventually became friends. I always thought, who is this strange gentleman that’s always in his room prank-calling people or up to some kind of shenanigans? And we really hit it off and he got me to audition for this improv group at college, and then when he started doing stuff at UCB, I basically just followed his whole career path, so it was really nice to be able to kind of have that moment together. [SIDE NOTE: On Monday, Chris wrote a very sweet essay about his relationship with Katie that is well worth reading.]
Was there a reason you set it in Boston?
Actually, the first draft took place in New York. I didn’t know Boston at all and I didn’t want to pretend to know the city and then be ridiculed. And then somehow in the process, we ended up switching it to Boston. I’m really glad we did. It forced me to research a lot, but it just adds so much. I feel like there’s just much more fun in it. Just the characters, the Bostonian real-life person is just so interesting to me. There’s a freshness that I find really exciting. Maybe it’s because I never lived there, so it just seems so new to me. I feel like there could be more movies that take place there. So it feels like we got lucky, because there haven’t been a ton of comedies there.
I read that the sequel has already been picked up?
Yes! I’ve been hired to write a draft, and so if the movie is successful, it will happen. If not, I will perform it on stage for anyone who wants to watch. But I’m very hopeful, because I think this idea could be really fun.
And I know you’re writing another movie as well.
Yes, it’s a mother-daughter adventure comedy. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s a mother and daughter on a vacation, and so I really want to take my mom on a vacation without her realizing that I’m writing this. The second she hears about the plot, she’ll be on to me, so I have to plan something soon and just study her. If she knows, she’ll act completely different. Any little weird thing she does in normal life will suddenly be gone and she’ll just act just completely [blank].
But [my family] also can’t act totally normal. When they came on set to visit in Boston, I told my family, “You guys, you just gotta keep it cool on set. If you see a celebrity or something, you can’t run up or take a picture, you just have to keep it cool.” And they’re like, “Okay, okay.” And so then they’re standing there, and Paul Feig came up and nicely introduced himself. He’s like, “Hi, I’m Paul Feig. So nice to meet you,” and they just sat there silent and nodded. And I was like, “Wait, you can talk! I mean, when someone’s talking to you, act like a normal person!” But they were just so focused on keeping it cool that they just stared at him like ice. It was pretty amazing.
And you have a little cameo in the movie [as a nurse]. I know you still perform at UCB a lot…
Yeah, I do. In LA, I do every Monday night with my improv team there, and it’s with people I’ve known since the New York days, for like 10 years. Joe Wengert and Chris Kula and a bunch of those guys, so that’s been really really fun.
Yeah, the cameo is very small, as it should be. I keep telling everyone the movie was supposed to be a drama about a nurse, and this other stuff happened. But I was so scared. I realized anytime I was on set watching, I don’t laugh a lot because I’m so focused on trying to think any other funny jokes I can try to add. And then I realized what a bummer that must be for the people performing, because the second I was the nurse, when it stopped and people weren’t like, “Ahh, that was great!” I was like “Oh no, I was terrible! What did I do wrong?” I immediately became so neurotic, and so I try to be a little bit more vocal of my joy and support on set.
Do you think you want to perform more?
I don’t know. I think it’s fun. I enjoy it. I’ve never really actively pursued it, I’ve been more focused on writing. I’ve always loved writing more, but I don’t know. I like them both, so if stuff came up, great. If not, I’m not gonna kill myself over it.
That’s a good attitude, probably.
Yeah, it’s an attitude I have a lot about things. Just, whether or not I’ll kill myself over it.
And you wrote for Parks and Rec for a long time. What was that like?
It was a good experience. Mike Schur is the best boss in entire world. He’s the kind of boss that you respect so much because he’s really smart. He’s also a really good person, so you just don’t want to disappoint him. You’re not working hard so you don’t get fired. You just don’t want to let this person down. And everyone on staff is like that with him. He’s never complained about. It was a great room, and I really miss a writers room. I feel like the whole point of me wanting to do this was to have a job where all day, you’re with these really funny people and doing bits and pranks and whatnot, so I miss that a lot. With movies, you’re kind of off on your own. There’s benefits to it, but I also wish there were a bunch of funny people around me. I’m in my living room, sitting on my couch watching Law & Order. It’s just a very different environment.
There is a lot of swearing in the movie, though I have to say that I didn’t notice it that much. [Feig and McCarthy estimated 190 instances of “fuck” and 90 of “shit”.] Did you write all that in, or was it added on set?
There were a lot in the script. A trailer must have been really hard to make, because there’s so much swearing. Every one of my favorite jokes includes Melissa swearing. So yeah, the script definitely had a lot. I know people can think that’s cheap, but I just feel like that character would swear all the time. And I also personally swear all the time, so it’s never as shocking to me as it is to others. I’m not jarred when I hear that word. But I don’t know if I’ve just made the world uncomfortable. In the script there were a ton, and then Melissa, in character, added a thousand more. So it’s kind of ridiculous, but I personally, I like a lot of swearing.
The Heat opens nationwide on Friday, May 28. Katie Dippold can be found on Twitter at @katiedippold.