Meet Tinseltown’s most stylish man as he takes the finest suits of the season for a spin in his backyard
Words by STEPHANIE RAFANELLI
Photography by KURT ISWARIENKO
Creative & Fashion Direction by ALISON EDMOND
Paul Feig is just a regular guy, matter-of-factly improvising dialogue with a lemon squeezer on an everyday afternoon in his kitchen in Burbank.
He’s dressed down in a double-breasted purple pinstripe suit and a magenta print Tom Ford tie, offset by a lime green pocket square, and there are enough obscure liquor bottles on the shelves behind him to out-mix the barman at Musso & Frank. The 58-year-old comedy writer and director gets very excited about cocktails (more on this in two shakes). The suit is from London’s gentleman outfitters Anderson & Sheppard, one of around 70 that he dons with sartorial precision even for the humble occasion of a Zoom chat.
DIOR jacket (with silk scarf attached), $3,500, shirt, $650, gloves, price upon request, necklace, $1,050, and clip chain, $1,400. KINGSMAN pants, $545. JIMMY CHOO loafers, $750. Paul’s own PRADA glasses, seen throughout.
Everything about Feig seems straight out of a film version of midcentury England, but for the dead giveaway of “a horrible Midwestern accent.” Firstly, he is the unofficial holder of the title of most formal man in Hollywood, frequently lamenting what he calls the “tyranny of the casual” reigning in L.A. “Guys my age are the worst perpetrators of it. Aggressively casual,” he says, peering through his spectacles. “Am I supposed to think that you’re 16 years old? You can’t approach clothing as something you pull on so you don’t get arrested. ‘So I’m now not naked?’ I have very strong opinions on this, my friend.”
DOLCE & GABBANA coat, $2,495, blazer, $2645, and pants, $775. JIMMY CHOO loafers, $675. TIFFANY & CO. signet ring (pinky finger, seen throughout), $425. Paul’s own bead bracelets, rings (on ring fingers) and CARTIER Love bracelet, all seen throughout. Paul’s own white shirt, CHARVET cravat and ROLEX Cosmograph Daytona watch.
He exists instead in a parallel Wellsian Hollywood era of martinis and cigars and suits on set, minus the machismo. He is wincingly modest; his manners are impeccable; no grammatical rule has ever been broken for expediency on his Twitter account; and although I have no way to verify this, I am certain that he always leaves the toilet seat down.
As the director of Bridesmaids (2011), The Heat (2013), Spy (2015) and Ghostbusters: Answer The Call (2016) — the latter two of which he also wrote and co-wrote, respectively — Feig is singular in Hollywood circles, known as a kind of dandy feminist Charlie to the kickass Angels of contemporary comedy. His high-grossing films have helped establish a solid platform for Groundlings alumni Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph et al, all worthy sororal rivals to Team Apatow (Rudd, Rogen, Segel). Judd Apatow produced Feig’s 1999 cult teen comedy Freaks and Geeks; the Emmy-winning one-season-wonder was named in Time magazine’s 100 Greatest Shows of All Time.
“Guys my age are the worst perpetrators of dressing aggressively casual”
Since then, Feig’s films have reversed gender polarities, subverting and satirizing the tropes of male-dominated genres, breezing through the Bechdel test. “I think it’s such an embarrassing indictment of Hollywood and how bad it had gotten as far as portrayals of women to think that we would be that groundbreaking just doing a fun story about a woman trying to save a friendship,” he says wryly of Bridesmaids, now a decade old.
Not only is he one of the most pro-female directors in Hollywood, he might also be the most fun. He is famed for valuing downtime, shooting only 10-hour days, and as a congenial host of martini-fueled soirees. “When you compartmentalize life too much, you take all of the potential joy out of things,” he says. “This isn’t math.”
This ethos came in handy during lockdown. Writing while wearing his New & Lingwood silk dressing gown, the rest of L.A. exponentially awash with sweatpants, Feig came up with the idea of hosting a morale-boosting daily cocktail show livestreamed on Instagram at 5 p.m., in which he also shouted out names of charities, urging viewers to donate as a “minuscule service” to help support front-line workers.
Quarantine Cocktail Time ran for 100 days — and 100 different cocktails — straight. Harping back to his former days as a stand-up and the golden age of cabaret, he silly-danced to rumba king Xavier Cugat, applied “boozy math” to measures, improvised with his trusty lemon squeezer and monologued for up to 21 minutes at a time. “Once I’d done cocktail time, my writing day was over. Each night it was: ‘Oh God, it’s 6 o’clock, and I’m kind of buzzed.’ If I could wave a magic wand and get one ability from my youth back, it would be to not fall asleep after drinks.”
Over the summer, Laurie, his wife of 26 years who’s lovingly nicknamed Tipsy Faunt, also emerged as a comedy talent. “She’s my litmus test. She’ll say, ‘I don’t get it,’ and I’ll go, ‘Oh shit.’ She’s annoyingly populist.” In her honor, he created The Squeaky Door, a mash-up of all her favorite drinks, named after the noise that heralded her kitchen entrance. “Inventing new cocktails is my new favorite thing,” he says zealously.
“The irony of all time is that my parents were Christian Scientists — drinking was completely taboo”
He’s even curated his own craft liquor alongside Minhas distillery in Wisconsin. “I wanted to create a good gateway gin so that when people say, ‘I don’t like gin,’ I could say, ‘OK, just try this.’ And then they say, ‘Oh, oh that, I like.’” He pauses. “I’m sort of the devil I think.” This diabolic elixir is called Artingstall’s Brilliant London Dry Gin, after his mother’s British maiden name, although she never ever touched a drop. “The irony of all time is that my parents were Christian Scientists — drinking was completely taboo in our house,” he explains.
Born in Mount Clemens, Mich., in 1962, Feig fell in love as a young child with the crystal decanters and cuff links of the old silver screen while watching the likes of Howard Hawks’ Bringing Up Baby with his mom, a telephone operator. “I remember thinking that was how a successful adult dresses.” His father ran an army surplus store, but 8-year-old Feig had his sights loftily set on a Pierre Cardin three-piece suit at the local mall. “I grew out of it in three months, but those three months were fantastic, although I looked like a ventriloquist’s dummy.”
His future adult passions were further whipped up by his theatrical high-school drama teacher. “In my sophomore year, in comes this woman, this comrade, who was so kind of like [Robin Williams in] Dead Poets Society,” he says. “She would take us all back to either her apartment or somewhere she could get us all served. I was 15 years old and boozing it up with her every night.” At 19, by then a full-blown cinephile, he moved to L.A. to work as a tour guide at Universal Studio. “It was the greatest summer of my life. It blew my mind, because I was this kid from the Midwest suddenly in Hollywood. I would get so excited just seeing Johnny Carson’s parking space. I would say, ‘Johnny actually touches here, and he walks here, and he breathes the same air,’ and the people on the tour were like, ‘Yeah? So?’ I’ve never lost that excitement about Hollywood.”
The inimitable PAUL FEIG.
Nor, he admits, the accompanying “feeling of being a fraud” for being there. “I’m still nervous around movie stars, when I go to parties,” he says. “That’s why I need a martini to loosen me up. I live my life in complete terror of people going, ‘Get away from me.’ And I’ve had it a few times.” One of those times was with Mick Jagger at an Oscars party. “I probably would have been more welcome if I’d had a tray.” It doesn’t help that he’s been mistaken for staff before. “For the  Oscars, for Bridesmaids, I wore a white tuxedo jacket,” he shares. “It looked great, but when I got to the Governors Ball, every waiter was in the exact same jacket. Everywhere I went, people were stopping me and saying, ‘Oh, could you get me a …’ I’d said, ‘I’m sorry, I just had a movie that was up for two Oscars. But anyway, what would you like, sir?’”
“I live in complete terror of people going, ‘Get away from me.’ I need a martini to loosen me up”
He can’t even converse with his hero Tom Ford, despite being friendly with Ford’s partner Richard Buckley. “I just run over to him and say, ‘Tom! I’m Paul Feig! I don’t want to take up your time, I just want to tell you what a huge fan I am.’ And then I run off. I just can’t be cool around him.”
Somehow this starry-eyedness has remained intact throughout a 35-year-long career. After starting off as a stand-up comic, then an actor (in Sabrina the Teenage Witch), Feig went on to direct some of the comedy greats of 21st-century television, from The Office to 30 Rock to Parks and Recreation. He has been hailed (a little too late) as a comedy sage for Freaks and Geeks, helping set the awkward tone of behavioral comedy over the next decade.
Feig famously got a sour taste of Trump’s new polarized America in March 2016, when he and his cast faced abuse and opprobrium for daring to reboot Ghostbusters with an all-female cast: It was as if he had personally trashed entertainment’s first amendment. “But if getting yelled at on social media is going to stop us moving forward, then we might as well just give up as a society and go to sleep,” he says, now more sanguine.
The filmmaker is always busy, enthusiastically trying to drag Hollywood forward, gallantly flying the flag for womenkind in an impeccably cut suit. His company Feigco, a member of ReFrame which supports female filmmakers, operates inclusion riders and recently found funding for Nicole Riegel’s Rustbelt drama, Holler, about a young woman (Jessica Barden) who works at a scrap metal yard to pay for her education. Powderkeg, his new production company and digital platform, produced East of La Brea last year, a miniseries about the experience of Muslim women in L.A. Meanwhile, he’s to next direct Netflix’s The School for Good and Evil, a kind of revisionist fairy-tale series for girls. Apparently, it’s “Frozen meets Harry Potter meets The Princess Bride” — to the execs at least.
This story originally appeared in the Fall/Winter 2020 issue of C Magazine.
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