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Posterized: Melissa McCarthy, Unlikely Superstar

Though Melissa McCarthy's star went supernova just five years ago in a role so popular that she won both an Oscar nomination and an Emmy statue (Bridesmaids... oh please, you know the Emmy wasn't actually for Mike and Molly!) she's wasted approximately zero days since in cementing her unlikely place as a box office titan with star vehicles emerging annually since. Right now that means her new capitalist diva comedy The Boss and if it isn't Spy (2015) or The Heat (2013) level funny (sorry... but few things are) it's not bad. It sure as hell runs rings around Identity Thief (2013) and Tammy (2014) so it's firmly middle of the pack, if you ask me. (It's weird that the reviews so far are the worst of any of her solo vehicles.)

We call her place as a truly bankable actress 'unlikely' because it's just that. Guess how long it's been since audiences embraced a hefty actress as a (regular) lead? I can't think of a single one from my lifetime though we occassionally get a one time debut hit (Gabby Sidibe in Precious, Nikki Blonsky in Hairspray - they had to settle for supporting work thereafter) or a frequently employed secondary lead (Rebel Wilson). You might argue for Kathy Bates but she's only headlined a few times.  I think you have to sail back to the early 1930s to the odd case of Marie Dressler who was a true box office sensation and quite awesome (see her Oscar winning Min & Bill; It's a blast!)

Though Bridesmaids entirely changed McCarthy's career her debut was way back in the cult favorite Go (1999) which she soon followed with the role that most people think of as her debut "Sookie" on several seasons of The Gilmore Girls, a role she'll reprise for the upcoming reunion. Hooray!  All the McCarthy movie posters are after the jump. How many have you seen?


Part One. 1999-2007 (Gilmore Girls Adjacent)
During this phase she was also having her big break in general Gilmore Girls on TV. Though she was only an honorary Gilmore Girl playing the best friend to the leading lady. Most of her movie roles during this time period were small like "Paramedic" in White Oleander (2002) or "Sky King Waitress" in The Kid (2000) though some were substantial like the triple role in The Nines (2007) with Ryan Reynolds.


Part Two. 2008-2010 (Samantha Who? Adjacent)
She moved directly from Gilmore Girls to another second banana role in a female sitcom and made a few more movies on the side. Then everything changed...



 Part Three. 2010-2016 (Mike & Molly Adjacent)
She's finished with Mike & Molly though the "series finale" doesn't air until next month. It still seems hard to believe that McCarthy became such a leading lady superstar at the movies while leading a network sitcom on the air. Despite the lines blurring between TV and film this is very uncommon. Perhaps there is another example -- can you think of anyone? Perhaps it will become more common in the future but usually, for headliners, they do primarily one medium with occasional moonlighting in the other if they feel like trying it out. (Supporting players are, or course, much freer time-wise to jump back and forth) 


Part Now. The Boss (2016)  

Ghostbusters (July 16th) is up next after The Boss. How many of these 22 Melissa McCarthy pictures have you seen? Have you seen most of her three big TV series: Gilmore Girls, Samantha Who?, Mike & Molly

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Reader Comments (32)

Does Bette Midler qualify.

April 8, 2016 | Unregistered Commentermark

White Oleander!!!!!!!!!!! Alas, she had no scenes with the Pfeif :-(

PS, Does anything else think she looks like Delta Burke in The Boss previews? Uncanny

April 8, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDAVID

She really is one-of-a-kind in every way.

The only person I can think of that even comes close to the simultaneous TV/movies fame is Helen Hunt, who won her Oscar AND had a huge box office hit (As Good As It Gets and Twister respectively) while Mad About You was still on the air. She also won an Emmy the same year as her Oscar although she had already won one for the same part (oh, Emmy. Never change!). But despite a few other big films immediately after Mad About You went off the air she was never a headliner in the movies in anyway near like what McCarthy has achieved.

I've seen all of her headlining vehicles but only three before Bridesmaids (she was in Charlie's Angels?!?). I've watched her scene in Go SO many times. Brilliant.

April 8, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

I've seen 15 - even Pretty Ugly People which is the weirdest movie ever (also starring Octavia Spencer!).
I didn't like Tammy but other than that, I love her unashamedly and I really don't care about the quality of her movies, I will just forever love the fact that she's a superstar :D

April 8, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMorgan

I have seen 15 of them and I keep on loving her more and more with each movie she makes.

She's fabulous in all the big, headlining comedies she's made recently but I remember watching her in The Nines and thinking she was fantastic back then. Especially in that film with the three roles she played.

April 8, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBhuray

I need to rewatch GO immediately

April 8, 2016 | Registered CommenterChris Feil

McCarthy is a funny lady. Hollywood doesn't mind making them a thing we they produce revenue (Whoopi Goldberg in the 80's and 90's).

Kathy Bates is the only plus size dramatic film actress of our life time. One hit wonders are irrelevant. But Bates has more than a handful of lead performances to reference.

April 8, 2016 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

I've always remembered her in Charlie's Angels because I loved that Barracuda was playing and she called Lucy Liu a bitch, lmao.

I've only seen Charlie's Angels and Bridesmaids... shame on me.

April 8, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

I think I have only seen 5 of Melissa's films Bridesmaids,Spy,The Heat,White Oleander and Go Also watched Gilmore Girls Bridesmaids is easily my favourite,but I can barely remember her in Go.

April 8, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAdam H

I've only seen 6 in total, she was in Go? I love her Bridesmaids/Post Bridesmaids career, she's an inspired comedian on screen. She's clearly got the talent to do dramatic roles as well, so let's hope she gets more chances to branch out.

George Clooney was still in ER when he branched out into movie roles, also Tina Fey and Amy Phoeler ?

April 8, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

I've seen 10, as well as every episode of Gilmore Girls approximately 834758 times. Melissa was so wonderful in it. I was SO happy when she got her big break but I feel like more often than not her films ask me to laugh at her (and her weight) more than with her. I hated Bridesmaids.

April 8, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

I was the right age to fall for Go. When Gilmore Girls came out not soon after, I remember thinking, "Hey it's the funny person from Go!" Her 30-eecond scene makes an impact.

Curious that she had speaking roles right from the start.

April 8, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJames from Ames

Her Paul Feig movies are her only good roles. Everything else I've seen her in had been underwhelming.

April 8, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMDA

She was in "The Hangover Part III"? Or maybe I never saw it and I'm thinking of the second one.

Anyway, I do have to give some love to "Samantha Who?", which was downright hilarious in its first two seasons and then ABC messed with it. Christina Applegate was great, but there was a trifecta of comedic actresses -- McCarthy, Jennifer Esposito, and the Emmy-winning Jean Smart -- that were consistently hilarious despite playing rather broad characters.

April 8, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterjakey


April 8, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw


April 8, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

I've only seen 8.

I never liked Gilmore Girls -I particularly hated her character- so I think the first time I really noticed her talent was in "Life as We Know It". She had two killer scenes as a nosy neighbour (or was she a relative?) It was a very little role but she stood out.

jakey -- Agree on Samantha Who?

P.S. You guys, I've seen Julieta and I'm a bit disappointed.

April 8, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I'm just waiting for the return of Sookie St. James as that's my favorite thing that Melissa McCarthy did along with Spy which my mother fucking loves.

I should also note that she also did some work on her cousin Jenny McCarthy's short-lived MTV comedy special. And to think, we realized who is the talented and sane one in that family. I guess this also means that she might work with Mark Wahlberg as they're family.... yikes.

April 8, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSteven

Jakey - She had a small part in The Hangover Part III as a love interest for Zach Galifinakis' character. Melissa was honestly the best part of the entire movie :)

April 8, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBhuray

Does she have to be referred to as a hefty actress? She has made it as a bankable movie star, & that in and of itself is a rare achievement. What does her weight have to do with anything?

April 8, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJay Jay

I remember The Nines - it was such a weird, enjoyable movie that doesn't work overall (spoiler ** - especially when the three stories merge near the end). I've still never watched Gilmore Girls, but knew she was on it and was instantly impressed with her talent then. Once Bridesmaids cemented her stardom, I've been even happier for her success, especially her SNL appearances subsequently.

April 8, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJames

Some stars need better scripts.
Melissa McCarthy deserves better scripts.

April 8, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKimberly S

Jay Jay -- it doesn't have to do with her stardom except that it's so unprecedented so good for her. It's worth celebrating people who break molds.

April 8, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I remember seeing her in The Nines before she reached mega stardom, and was unfamiliar with her having not watched Gilmore Girls. I remember thinking how amazing she was. The film is shaky, but still worth a watch.

April 9, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoFo

@mark, Bette Midler is only considered "hefty" by today's ridiculous standards for women. At the height of her fame, no one would've considered her as such (and she isn't).

@Nathaniel, I know you don't watch a lot of TV (or as much TV as you do films) but were you a fan of Gilmore Girls? Seasons 1-3 were really wonderful, the best thing being the relationship and charisma between Lorelei (Lauren Graham) and her mother Emily (Kelly Bishop). It's worth watching for their dynamic alone (Alexis Bledel was always a weak spot I felt).

April 9, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSteph Bello

Roseanne? I don't care what anybody says, I loved She-Devil. :P

April 9, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSanty C.

Her character was my second least favorite thing about the show, after Milo Ventimiglia's character.

I second that her bit scene in Charlie's Angels with Lucy Liu is actually pretty funny. I loved her in Bridesmaids, Spy and The Heat.

The rest is either unseen or unimpressive (or I don't even remember she was in it).

Question: does The Nines really star Ryan Gosling? It looks like Ryan Reynolds in that poster (sorry, too lazy to google).

April 9, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen Sandiego

Carmen -- ohmygod. how embarrassing. the Gosling and the Reynolds are NOT interchangeable in anyway. yes, that's Reynolds. No idea why i typed Gosling other than perhaps he's the first Movie Ryan I think of in all situations.

Santy C -- alas, that was another one-off.

Steph -- i watch more TV than people think. and yes I love Gilmore Girls... though I abandoned it eventually, the later seasons being nowhere near as strong.

April 9, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Five. Three of which (Go, Charlie's Angels, White Oleander) I had no idea she was even in. The other two are Bridesmaids and Spy.

April 9, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

Calling someone hefty is not celebrating them, but I minimally understand your point. Her new movie is really bad, BTW.

April 9, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJay Jay

Jay Jay -- HAIRSPRAY (1988) would disagree with you. Hefty's Hideaway for the win! Not every adjective is an insult. It's not like I said "fat ass"... since when is "hefty" offensive? P.S. I don't get why everyone hates the new movie. It's so much better than Tammy or Identity Thief.

April 9, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

She's in GO for, like, a minute. Her best line is in the opening seconds of the movie's trailer, though.

Regarding the film/TV split. I reckon a lot of people don't know that her TV show is still on. And, also, I know her movies with Falcone - TAMMY and THE BOSS - have been quite cheap affairs (The Boss cost only $24mil so it'll make a profit even if it doesn't reach The Heat levels of box office) and so, I assume, quick to produce. It just so happens that her films get attention whereas back in the day when the stars of huge shows like Friends wouldn't always be making movies between seasons that press/public wanted to talk about and make a big deal over.

I've seen 12. Of her recent post-BRIDESMAIDS stretch I've only missed TAMMY and HANGOVER III (because the second one was so bad I didn't bother). I do not remember her in CHARLIE'S ANGELS or THE LIFE OF DAVID GALE.

April 9, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

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