Connoisseurship is not about possessing a wealth of knowledge like a scholar, but about preserving the heritage of craftsmanship by identifying and appreciating the intangible detailing with a discerning eye. For Paul Feig, the distinguished Hollywood director, writer, producer, and actor exploring diverse landscapes to perpetuate the artistic taste comes naturally as he is gifted with the rare talent to procreate the epic work. He is Au courant of diverse areas that involve work of art and aesthetics and his stratospheric spirit can be seen through different spheres including film making, mixology, and fashion. This multifaceted persona knows to curate the nest with aplomb and finesse. A sneak-peek of his style vibe and dapper look reflects his predilection and penchant for sharply-cut impeccably tailored suits and timeless charm. He has not allowed the ever-changing fashion trends to own him, rather he has treasured a sense of fashion that is timeless and pays an ode to the styles of Michael Douglas, Robert Redford, Al Pacino, and Sean Connery. One common factor with all of them is their genteel and debonair style.
During this free-wheeling virtual conversation with Barkha Arora, Editor, High on Persona magazine we also got acquainted with the cheerful and gregarious side of his personality.
Paul has surely kept the grandeur going with his identifiable yet distinct style. Donning well snug double breast suits during a shoot for any director seems uncommon but for Paul, this is a de rigueur. “I always say if I am on the ship and the captain is in sweat pants I will get off the ship because he is not taking his job seriously and it is also about giving respect, to the people who are working with you”, reiterates Paul. No wonder his eye for detailing and an exclusive way of lm making have propelled him right to the top of the filmmakers’ list in Hollywood. He surely is the metaphor for ingenuity and the brains behind many successful Hollywood blockbusters and most-watched television series.
After making his directorial debut with the drama lm ‘I Am David’, he went on to direct many incredible movies including Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy, Ghostbusters, A Simple Favour, and Last Christmas. Tally of his work also boasts of the comedy series Freaks and Geeks, episodes of the U.S version of The Office, Arrested Development, Weeds and Nurse Jackie, Mad Men, 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, and several other applaud worthy projects.
As the Director keeps his chin and gin up and raises the bar with several fundraisers for novel initiatives presently, High on Persona had the privilege to indulge in an insightful tête-e-tête with Paul Feig on diverse issues. Being a captain of the ship as a director he gave his viewpoint on lm making while orchestrating different elements and the process and his unwavering love for gin and penchant for fashion.
Q. From working as a tour guide in universal studios to a Hollywood director, how has been your journey so far?
Paul: When I was a tour guide, Hollywood just seemed like a faraway dream. You are looking at all these productions going on, you see all those successful people around you and it felt so unattainable, but then also, it is so inspiring that maybe it is possible if you work hard. The fact that the current movie “The Last Christmas” is at the Universal Studios, reminds me of my lonely tour guide days when I was just 17 years of age.
Q. From your first movie as a director ‘I am David’ to your last movie ‘the last Christmas ’ in 2019, how have things evolved in the last two decades?
Paul: Now, there are more opportunities to get things out into the world, I love making movies which is my passion, and bread and butter. I love doing TV too, earlier distribution, and getting a movie theatre was a very hard thing to think of. Starting in 2002 with ‘I am David’ we had to struggle to get distribution for the movie and to get our movie into movie theatres was another incredibly strenuous thing to do back in that time. The fact that now we have many streaming platforms like Netflix, HBO Max, Amazon, and many other ways to showcase your movie where you can get your movie seen. So now, it is relatively easier than it was in 2002. Filmmakers are now in a better situation, their work has a larger audience too and that’s a huge deal, something we never had back then.
Q. As the industry is evolving at a great pace in terms of advancement in techniques as well as the thought process of the millennial, isn’t it challenging or tractable for you?
Paul: That’s an internal question that every filmmaker or a storyteller asks since the time moviemaking was invented. That is one of the biggest parts of our job to figure out which story will appeal to the audience. The first step is to just click the right story, then the second step is how we execute them and how big we do them starting from the casting to the job of final execution. Especially with me, I am making big-budget films, so I have to also make sure that it appeals to the wider audience, so you really run it through the litmus test. My litmus test is imagining myself seeing the trailer of this movie knowing nothing about it and is it something where I go like, ‘Oh My Gosh I have to watch this movie in the theatre in the opening weekend’ it is very hard to know, you can’t really know, but if you put that kind of a filter on it, you have a better chance and believe that hopefully, this is something that the audience would want to see.
Q. Do you ever get skeptical about the response movie will receive and take the opinion of your friends or colleagues before finalizing the script?
Paul: Yeah, we have a lot of people who read them, for me, the first litmus test is my wife, other than myself, she has a populace tastes and she can tell me if the subject will be heavy or light, interesting/not interesting, the audience will care about it or not, sometimes it’s like a bitter pill to swallow but that’s the kind of test you need because she is right. And on top of that, I have got all the great people in my company. My producer partner is extremely intelligent. She recently got a project for me, initially, I was skeptical about picking it but when I read the script I was totally convinced to do it.
Q. Is social media a boon in terms of connecting with your fans and motivating or it takes a toll on you when it comes to trolling? How responsive you are to your followers and fans on social media, do you handle your account or your team does it for you?
Paul: I handle my account all by myself. It’s all me. Trolling happens more on Twitter. But with Instagram, I feel and I find it to be more of a rational place. I appreciate constructive criticism. I have a public face, and It’s the extension of expanding my brand. It just puts people in a place where they can know me more and it’s very important to do that. I am a comedy guy and funny in real life too, and people love to connect with me on social platforms.
Q. India has immense potential and talent, Is Hollywood comfortable in gelling with Indian actors in terms of professionalism and other areas of work as characteristics of both industries are wide asunder. How can an aspiring artist approach you from India?
Paul: In many ways, whenever I am casting something, I am always looking for Indian talents. My wife is very much into Indian films. They can get through casting people and there are many other ways, I am totally accessible if they want to work with me.
Q. Your fans often nd you very suave and sophisticated in the way you dress up which portrays your predilection for fashion and aesthetics. Even during your work you can be seen dressed formally to the nines, any reasons for you tilt towards the look. Please name the designers you admire the most?
Paul: I love old Hollywood and love to wear well-tailored bespoke suits and ties. Certainly, showing up in sweat pants or shorts you know, kind of just rolling out of bed and going to work is not something I can imagine doing. I always say if I am on the ship and the captain is in sweat pants I will get off the ship because he is not taking his job seriously and it is also about giving respect, for the people who are working with you. Again, I’m in charge and I want to look like a boss, look like a person who’s in command and so many people respond to it and appreciate it. This also helps the way the set is run and personally, I just like dressing up. I don’t want to waste my day not looking my best.
Q. How do you manage to get all that time while handling multiple things, please share tips with us?
Paul: It’s a part of my morning routine. It helps me to get focused for the day. Again, I couldn’t be the guy who rolls out of the bed and goes to the set, I feel good and I feel confident as I perfect my look. Well-groomed look, my pocket square, my tie knot, my watch, everything is very important for me, by the time I get ready I feel fully aware, focussed, and awake. Moreover, I also associate dressing poorly with unsuccessful points in my career when I was a struggling actor, wearing jeans and a shirt waiting for the phone to ring, It is a part of the big picture for me, but I can’t separate it.
Q. How often do u upgrade your wardrobe, what are the dominating colors in your wardrobe, and also Please tell us if you believe in traveling light?
Paul: I tend to ship a lot of stuff if I am doing a job, I like to pack for six months, but when I tend to travel I try to keep one big suitcase, a hanging bag, my favorite suits, I personally like to travel pretty light. My suits are expensive and I like bespoke suits with classic tailoring. I have actually added many in the last couple of years. I play with a lot of ties, shirts, pocket squares, and tend to get basic suits. I prefer colors like grey dark brown, navy blue and black. I mix it up. I try to avoid suits that look very memorable.
Q. Who are your favorite designers?
Paul: Umm, I am a huge Ralph Lauren fan, I have a lot of Ralph Lauren suits, then Anderson and Sheppard, it’s more of a house style, they make a lot of my suits, they are the masters. In the UK, I prefer going to Saville Row to get customized suits. I don’t like to experiment with many brands. I like Paul Smith too but their suits don’t fit me well, either I am too narrow for them or they are too boxy for me.
Q. I am sure all these designers would be very happy as you keep appreciating them on different platforms, why are you making high street and leisurewear brands unhappy by not wearing that trend?
Paul: (Laughs) I don’t think I will make them happy because I look so terrible in those kinds of clothes. I have never been the guy to pull off those casual clothes, I think they would be happy if I don’t wear their creativity.
Q. You are a strong proponent of women empowerment and gender equality and can be seen through your work too, do you think that this is percolating down to the young breed of directors?
Paul: Yeah, I do, the landscape is very much changing. It was too bad for so long with the very old fashioned view of the world in the business. What audiences want, what they don’t want, it is antiquated thinking, There was the notion of appealing to only male audiences, everybody is just doing the same thing because they thought it’s the rule and not trying to serve the female audiences. It’s very antiquated, just giving romance or comedy. It’s one of my many goals to keep trying to prove it wrong. I was told about many of these rules like you can’t have a woman in a lead because the international audience won’t accept it and I didn’t understand that logic. That seems so wrong because there are more women than men watching movies.
The coming generation, the younger generation is living in a world where it is not acceptable because that’s the world from where they are coming in and I support that. I believe we need to represent everybody not only women but all different races, trans-people, physically challenged people, everybody deserves to be represented. I feel if movies don’t look like the world looks around us then you’ve failed as a movie maker, you’re not telling an honest story.
Q. The lockdown has proved to be catastrophic on the creativity of many people, how have you been maintaining your sanity and creative freedom at the same time in these times?
Paul: I have been very lucky because I have so much work going on even during the pandemic phase. We are lucky that we got the TV series picked up and I was busy writing episodes. We also have two other TV series. On top of that, I was writing other scripts just for potential movies, at the same time I carried out episodes for my gin brand ‘Artingstall’s Gin’ on my Instagram for 100 days in a row. So I have been even busier during quarantine than normally so it’s been nice, a nice thing to happen in the middle of a horrific situation so I feel very lucky.
Q. What do you think would be the future of the entertainment industry after the Covid crisis gets over?
Paul: Honestly, I think it’s going to go back to normal once the vaccine is out. We have just been in our homes for half of the year, and as far as the entertainment is concerned people miss the movie theatre experience. It’s fun to watch movies on streaming platforms, but the experience of watching in a theatre with a common sharing experience is something different. It’s irreplaceable and people miss that. These places should keep in the business. I am in allegiance with the theatres and really with that government should give them some stimulus, I would hate to see people who have dedicated their lives to the industry suffer due to pandemic effects.
Images by Nick Rasumussen