During his nearly two decade career, Jason Statham has played plenty of grim, tougher-than-nails characters. (Take this year’s installment of The Fast and the Furious, for example.) So when you see Spy when it hits theaters on June 5, you may be surprised that it’s the British actor—who plays hyper competitive, testosterone-charged agent Rick Ford—who is the one cracking you up the hardest. But Spy‘s director Paul Feig knew it from the start: “I’ve been a fan of Jason Statham forever,” says Feig. “When I first saw Crank I thought, ‘This guy actually knows how to be funny using his persona. So I became obsessed for years about getting Statham into a comedy. When I was writing Spy I thought, this is the one.”
Melissa McCarthy says that Statham—whose character tends to go on long monologues detailing his dramatic exploits—was the perfect man for the job. “He was Paul’s greatest toy,” she says. “Paul would run in with a full legal pad covered and Jason would just be like, ‘Yeah, okay.’ And then he’d start going into saying all this crazy ridiculous stuff. I don’t break often, but I had a bit of a rough time with him.”
She wasn’t the only one, apparently. “I’d see Paul laugh through entire takes. There were times I’d start laughing and have to turn my back to him so he’d only just have to watch my weird shoulder shaking.”
In one memorable scene, McCarthy’s character is hanging out of a helicopter and Statham’s Rick Ford thinks he can help her… and in the process finds an interesting life-saving grip. “Poor Melissa: I was like, ‘Grab her boobs!'” says Feig. “But what could be funnier than Jason Statham getting handsy with you as you’re hanging out of a helicopter?” Spoiler: nothing.