With ‘Trainwreck,’ Amy Schumer now a leading lady
Amy Schumer forgot to tell the Tom Brady joke.
In a suite at the Liberty Hotel, where Schumer was recently stationed for a day to promote her new movie, “Trainwreck,” the comedian-actress-screenwriter went through the details of the previous night, which had her performing stand-up at the Wilbur Theatre with her director, Judd Apatow, and her costars Colin Quinn and Mike Birbiglia.
“Oh, it never does well, but it’s part of a point I really like making,” Schumer said, trying to remember the Brady bit. “Like, I think hot people have their own set of rules, like Tom Brady was dating a beautiful actress and he got her pregnant. He left her while she was pregnant, which is, like, really frowned on. And we were all like, ‘Ew, for who?’ And he was like, ‘Gisele.’ And we’re all like, ‘Well . . . do you guys need anything?’ Like . . . because we’re sort of afraid of hot people.”
Even though the “Trainwreck” comedy gig was a shared show, Schumer said she can’t help but feel responsible for the audience’s experience. So much is riding on her name right now.
In the months leading up to the Friday release of her first big movie as a leading lady, Schumer has become a household name. Her Comedy Central show, “Inside Amy Schumer,” now in its third season, has been the thing that everyone buzzes about the next day; her sketches — which often tackle ridiculous expectations for women — get millions of views after the network posts them online. One episode this season parodied “12 Angry Men” and had stars such as Paul Giamatti, Jeff Goldblum, and Vincent Kartheiser of “Mad Men” debating whether Schumer is hot enough to be on TV. Another sketch featured Schumer finding Tina Fey, Patricia Arquette, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus having a picnic in the park to celebrate Louis-Dreyfus’s “last [expletive] day.”
Schumer has become a go-to voice for young feminists, and when she picked up the Trailblazer of the Year award at the 2015 Glamour Awards in June, her speech became a viral hit. She told the crowd of celebs, after a hilarious impromptu stand-up riff, “I’m not going to apologize for who I am, and I’m going to actually love the skin I’m in and not be striving for some other version of myself.”
Her costar and friend Birbiglia, a Massachusetts native, said Schumer’s feminist comedy is a hit with so many people because she’s funny.
“It doesn’t lead with the message, it leads with funny. And then, you know, if you find the message in it, that’s wonderful, but it’s like it’s just undeniably funny.”
It was Apatow, writer-director of “Knocked Up” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” who recognized that it was time for Schumer to write a movie. He said he’s encouraged friends and collaborators (including Steve Carell) to come up with starring projects for themselves before, but not everyone is driven enough to get it done, especially if they’re already working on other projects.
Schumer, however, was able to write, produce, and star in her show, and develop her movie at the same time.
“Amy is devoted to putting in the effort. I’ve only seen a few people who bust out the pages like she does. I mean, with most people I would give them notes on a draft. They would come back in a month or two months — and she would come back in four days.”
Schumer’s story wound up being just a little bit autobiographical. The center of the tale is her romance with a sports medicine doctor (played by Bill Hader), but it also follows her character’s relationship with her father, who has multiple sclerosis. Schumer’s father has the disease in real life.
She said Apatow helped her figure out how to make a funny film that could also be a touching family story.
“I have this desire to get it perfect on the first try, which definitely didn’t happen. And he knows like the balance of, ‘OK, this has been sad for too long. Now we need to raise everybody up.’ He just has such an understanding of that.”
Besides Apatow, Schumer said she also had the benefit of an eclectic cast. Quinn plays her father. “Short Term 12” actress Brie Larson plays her sister. Oscar-winner Tilda Swinton plays her shallow boss. And Lebron James plays a version of himself who happens to be Hader’s character’s best friend.
Schumer acknowledges that the casting of James makes the film appealing to a broader audience. Even her friends and family were star-struck by the basketball player, who turned out to be a natural on set.
“I’m just blown away by him,” she said. “He genuinely just makes you laugh. It’s sweet.”
The movie is still days away from release, but Schumer is already thinking about a second feature. She said she and her sister, writer-producer Kim Caramele, who works on her show and is associate producer on “Trainwreck,” are rewriting a script by Katie Dippold, who penned “The Heat” and the “Ghostbusters” reboot that is filming in Boston now.
Schumer said she hasn’t signed up to direct the film, but she’d like to helm her own project at some point. “I’m afraid to direct myself. But I definitely want to direct. I’m even writing the script like a director. So yeah, I’m already writing the shots I want.”
Apatow said this is Schumer’s process — if she wants it done, it happens.
“It’s like when the president gets into office. In the beginning, they’re like, ‘So I sit here? And then what happens?’ Then after about a year, they totally get it. And that’s what if felt like with Amy. In the beginning, it was, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I’m writing a movie.’ . . . But then in the blink of an eye, she had completely mastered it. She knew exactly what she wanted to do.”