Ben Falcone pairs bit parts and big laughs with wife Melissa McCarthy

Most moviegoers first met Ben Falcone on a plane in the 2011 comedy "Bridesmaids," when he portrayed an air marshal enduring the crude propositioning of bridesmaid Megan, played with boorish exuberance by Falcone's real-life wife, Melissa McCarthy.

The scene was notably a team effort — Falcone's shy bewilderment made McCarthy's overconfidence all the funnier.

That's a kind of creative marital alchemy he hopes to achieve again on this summer's comedy "Tammy," which he and McCarthy co-wrote six years ago and which marks his directorial debut.

Falcone envisioned the film as a vehicle for McCarthy, who plays the title role, a lovable screwup of a woman.

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"I came down one morning and said, 'I think maybe we should do a movie where you take a road trip with your grandma,'" he said recently in a dark editing room in Toluca Lake where he was putting the finishing touches on the film, due in theaters July 2. "Over the years we'd work on it together. The bones of it was to be comedy with heart."

Tammy hits a deer with her car, gets fired from her thankless fast-food job and comes home to find her husband with another woman. With a urge to roll out of town and no wheels to do so, she ends up driving to Niagara Falls with her hard-drinking grandmother (Susan Sarandon, in a bit of improbable casting, a gray wig and some sensible shoes). Along the way, Tammy meets a sensitive guy (Mark Duplass) and gets advice from a wise lesbian (Kathy Bates).

Falcone plays a small role as Tammy's boss, a self-serious manager at the fast-food place. "It's in my wheelhouse to be creepy, as a person," he said, explaining the casting.

Falcone, 40, and McCarthy, 43, both grew up in Illinois but first met as members of L.A.'s Groundlings comedy troupe in the late 1990s. Both worked sporadically in TV before she got a key part in "Gilmore Girls" and later her own series, "Mike & Molly." They married in 2005 and have two daughters, ages 4 and 6.

"Bridesmaids" became a breakout success for McCarthy, earning her an Oscar nomination and starring roles in the high-profile studio comedies "Identity Thief" and "The Heat."

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It also earned the couple the long-hoped-for opportunity to make "Tammy" when New Line bought the script and to set up their own production company, which also has films in development at Universal and Fox.

Shot last spring in North Carolina, "Tammy" allowed Falcone and McCarthy to play to their respective strengths, he said.

"She thinks about 15 different things at the same time," he said. "I think about one thing at a time. I'm the boring structure guy, the story police. She's the visual one."

As evidence, Falcone pointed to his shirt, which was blue with a subtle animal print. "Yeah, Melissa picked this out," he said.

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