Can You Ever Forgive Me? | Film Q+A

Lead actors Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant join Can You Ever Forgive Me? producer Amy Nauiokas to discuss their new film, which is based on the true story of Lee Israel, a struggling writer who turned to forgery to make ends meet--and perhaps to put herself on the map as well. Listen to the end to hear what Melissa and Richard admire most about Lee despite her crooked and curmudgeonly ways.

Bringing a caustic female lead to life

She didn't need or want anyone to like her.

Based on Lee Israel's eponymous 2008 memoir, Can You Ever Forgive Me? is unapologetic in its depiction of Israel as a rude, abrasive person who turns to forgery as a last result and, ultimately, as a sort of redemption. Although this character was exciting and engrossing to the team behind the film, her unconventional persona made it a bit difficult to pitch!

Getting inside Lee Israel's head

I think a lot about defense mechanisms.

Melissa McCarthy discusses the means by which she found empathy for Israel and helped round out her portrayal of the writer. By interrograting what those defense mechanisms are covering and how they might be used to protect oneself, McCarthy decided that Israel's harsh personality was manifest in a tendency to "lie in wait" for someone to directly challenge her before going on the attack.