'The Heat' is on: Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy star in the first female buddy comedy

You have seen movies like “The Heat.” But you’ve never seen a movie quite like “The Heat.”

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Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy star in

The buddy cop comedy, opening Friday and starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, features a familiar plot, but a new twist. The buddies are both women.

These are not women who brunch and talk about their guy troubles or dream of getting married, or are planning pregnancy. These are tough single women who live for their law enforcement jobs and curse. Well, one does. McCarthy’s Det. Mullins is vulgar and wild and relishes making others uncomfortable. Bullock’s FBI Agent Ashburn is arrogant, uptight and doesn’t have much of a sense of humor. If they remind you of the guys in “Lethal Weapon” or “48 Hours,” you’re not alone.

“It’s just a fun comedy that you can swap two men for the women, and in that way it’s remarkable,” said Yael Kohen, author of “We Killed: The Rise of Women in American Comedy.” “It really is a very risky movie and exciting in a way. It’s not high-brow like ‘Bridesmaids,’ which also had an undercurrent of how women behave and relate. This movie doesn’t have any of that.”

When “Bridesmaids” became a box-office smash in 2011, earning $300 million worldwide, critics declared it the beginning of a new era for women in leading roles. But two years later, most of the comedic roles for women are still of the romantic variety, with a sweet actress paired up with a leading man. “The Heat,” which was directed by "Bridesmaids" Paul Feig, has now inherited the pressure. Even before the film hit theaters, screenwriter Katie Dippold (“Parks and Recreation”) was put to work on a sequel.

“At the end of the day, it’s a money question,” Kohen said. “If ‘The Heat,’ does well, you’re more likely to see more (female buddie comedies) and you’re more likely to see the sequel.”

Comedies with two leading ladies were more popular in the 1980s than they are now, Kohen points out. Bette Midler starred in “Outrageous Fortune" with Shelley Long in 1987 and in “Big Business” with Lily Tomlin in 1988. That same year, Rebecca De Mornay and Mary Gross starred in what could have gone down in history as the first female buddy comedy but “Feds” was a flop so no one remembers it. “Thelma and Louise” in 1991 broke ground for women in film and had comedic elements though it was essentially a drama.

But, recently, Hollywood has been more apt to pair someone like Kate Hudson with Gael Garcia Bernal than with a female protagonist. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler stood out in 2008 when they starred in “Baby Mama,” which won its opening weekend and grossed $60 million worldwide. But there hasn’t been a lead comedy female duo since.

“Hollywood thinks that men aren’t going to be interested in seeing the two women on the big screen,” Kohen said. “They always want a leading man to help the woman open a movie. If ‘The Heat,’ doesn’t do well, I don’t think it’s necessarily that two women can’t open a movie. It could just be that people are not interested in that particular movie. But we know that’s not how it’s going to be viewed.”

"Heat" screenwriter Dippold, 33, told Kohen in an interview in Marie Claire that she wasn’t thinking about gender barriers or Hollywood tropes when she wrote the script. Growing up, she loved “Running Scared” and “Lethal Weapon,” and says, “I always felt like those guys, the buddy cops, were so cool and badass and funny, and I always wanted to see two women like that.”

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    Image: Matthew McConaughey, Keanu Reeves, Hugh Grant, Sandra Bullock

    Sandra Bullock

    Actress-producer-philanthropist has played a feisty FBI agent, smart but lovelorn women and more in her career.

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    Veteran of hotness -

    Sandra Bullock seems to have it all: Beauty, brains and, according to the Guys Choice Awards in June 2014, a decade's worth of hotness. Matthew McConaughey, Keanu Reeves and Hugh Grant presented her with the prize in Culver City, California.

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    Prize winner -

    Sandra Bullock dazzled on the red carpet at the March 2014 Oscar ceremony. She was nominated for her role in "Gravity," but did not win.

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    Colorful pose -

    Bullock was one of the nominees at the 71st annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, California, on Jan. 12, 2014. She was nominated for her lead actress role in "Gravity" but went home empty-handed.

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    Critical favorite -

    Bullock's turn in "Gravity" had critics sitting up and taking notice, most notably on Jan. 16, 2014, when she picked up a best actress prize at the 19th annual Critics Choice Movie Awards in Santa Monica, California.

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    Arm in arm -

    They love her, they really love her! Bullock walked away from the 40th annual People's Choice Awards on Jan. 8, 2014, in Los Angeles with three prizes for her work on "Gravity" and "The Heat": favorite movie actress, favorite dramatic movie actress and favorite comedic movie actress.

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    'Gravity' -

    In 2013's "Gravity," Bullock plays an astronaut stranded in space and has to find a way to get home, all while coping with the recent death of her daughter. Bullock was alone on screen for most of the movie, and delivered a bravura performance lauded by critics and viewers alike.

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  • Image: The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences Hosts An Official Academy Members Screening Of "Gravity"

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    Dynamic duo -

    "Gravity" co-stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney made a powerful team in the movie. Here, at a special screening for members of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Oct. 2, 2013, in New York, they also found ways to crack everyone up.

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  • Image: Sandra Bullock Immortalized With Hand And Footprint Ceremony At The TCL Chinese Theatre In Celebration Of Her New Film "Gravity"

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    Getting her hands dirty -

    Bullock's hand and feet prints were immortalized in concrete in front of the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood, California, on Sept. 25, 2013.

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    'The Heat' -

    Bullock and Melissa McCarthy broke ground in 2013 when they starred in "The Heat." The film was the first buddy cop comedy to feature two women in lead roles.

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    For a good cause -

    Bullock arrives at amfAR's Inspiration Gala in Los Angeles on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011. The Gala benefits AIDS research worldwide.

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    Loyal friend -

    Bullock accompanies friend and former co-star Ryan Reynolds to the premiere of his film, "The Change-Up," at the Regency Village Theatre on August 1, 2011 in Los Angeles.

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    Lady in red -

    Bullock was a vision in red on the red carpet at the 83rd Academy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011.

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  • Image: Actress Sandra Bullock arrives at the 68th annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills

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    Golden -

    Bullock arrives at the 68th annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Sunday, January 16, 2011.

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    Mother and sun -

    Bullock tries to shield her son Louis from the photographers on January 6, 2011 in New York.

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    Lending a hand -

    Sandra Bullock was on hand for the ribbon cutting ceremony for a health clinic at the Warren Easton Charter School in New Orleans on Sunday, Aug. 29, 2010. She was joined by (from left) Billy Hatchett, Warren Easton Foundation President, Alexina Medley, Principal, Sandra Bullock and school nurse Cassondra Ferrand. The Kellogg Foundation and the San Francisco 49ers Foundation were the main financial contributors of the $700,000 facility.

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    Getting her back into it -

    Sandra Bullock, left, gets down with "The Proposal" co-star Betty White during the 2010 Teen Choice Awards at Gibson Amphitheatre, in Universal City, Calif., on Sunday, Aug. 8, 2010.

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    Double whammy -

    Copies of People magazine featuring Sandra Bullock and her newly adopted son Louis Bardo Bullock are show on sale in New York on Wednesday, April 28. The actress announced that she was divorcing her husband Jesse James and that she had secretly adopted the boy in January.

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  • Image: 2010 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Graydon Carter - Arrivals

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    Blindsided? -

    Bullock and James celebrated after she won the best actress Oscar on March 7, 2010, for her role as Leigh Anne Tuohy in the football drama, "The Blind Side." The couple looked happy, but rumors that the marriage was in trouble circulated later in the month, when Bullock abruptly pulled out of participating in the movie's London premiere.

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  • Image: 16th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards - Press Room

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    One from her peers -

    Bullock poses with the Screen Actors Guild Award for female actor in a leading role for her work in "The Blind Side" at the 16th annual event at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Jan. 23, 2010.

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  • Image: Sandra Bullock, Jesse James

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    'Monster' man -

    Bullock and her husband, "Monster Garage" host Jesse James, arrive at the Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles on Jan. 23, 2010.

    AP file / AP file
  • Image: 67th Annual Golden Globe Awards - Press Room

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    On a roll -

    Bullock poses with her award for best performance by an actress in a motion picture -- drama for "The Blind Side" at the 67th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Jan. 17, 2010.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Scene from holiday movie "The Blind Side" undated publicity photograph

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    In the game -

    In 2009's "The Blind Side," based on a true story, Bullock plays Leigh Anne Tuohy, the mother of a family that takes in Michael Oher, a homeless African-American youngster from a broken home. They help him fulfill his potential and with the help of his coaches and adopted family, he becomes an All-American football player.

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    'All About' Sandra -

    Bradley Cooper and Bullock arrive at the premiere of Twentieth Century Fox's "All About Steve" held at Mann's Chinese Theater on Wednesday, Aug. 26 in Los Angeles. The film tells the story of a woman who becomes obsessed with a man she's only been on one date with and ends up following him across the country. Bullock later won the Razzie award for worst actress for her role in the film--but it came just one day before she won her best actress Oscar for "The Blind Side."

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    Giving back -

    Bullock talks to high school junior LaShanta Williams on Friday, May 15, 2009, before being inducted into the Warren Easton High School Hall of Fame in New Orleans for her help rebuilding the school after Hurricane Katrina.

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    Decent 'Proposal' -

    In 2009's "The Proposal," Bullock plays a pushy boss who forces her young assistant (Ryan Reynolds) to marry her in order to keep her visa status in the U.S. and avoid deportation to Canada. Bullock told the TODAY show that the film is not a romantic comedy, but simply a comedy. She's no longer a fan of the rom-com, saying, "They're not comedy and they're not romantic."

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    Future shock -

    In 2007's "Premonition, Bullock finds out that her husband was in a car crash, but when she sees him the next day, she realizes that she had a premonition and will do anything she can to keep it from coming true. Bullock told the TODAY show that the film's bleak outlook played into her natural impulses. "I worry and I expect the worst out of everything," she said.

    TriStar Pictures / TriStar Pictures
  • Premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' "The Lake House" - Arrivals

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    Reunited -

    ‘Speed’ co-stars Reeves and Bullock reteamed for 2006’s “The Lake House.” In the film, they play a couple who fall in love despite the fact they live in different years. They bond over the house they both live in and trade letters by using the mailbox. "I was a little nervous," Bullock told the TODAY show about reuniting with Reeves.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • 2006 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted by Graydon Carter

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    True love -

    Bullock married motorcycle builder and "Monster Garage" host Jesse James on July 16, 2005. They met when Bullock arranged for her 10-year-old godson to meet James as a Christmas present. She's the stepmother to James' son Jesse Jr. and his daughters Chandler and Sunny. “Thankfully I married someone who loves me just the way I am – and all the nuttiness that goes into me,” Bullock told InStyle magazine.

    WireImage for Vanity Fair Magazine / WireImage for Vanity Fair Magazine
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    Surprise winners -

    The cast of "Crash," including Bullock, Matt Dillon and Terence Howard celebrates after the movie beat out favorite "Brokeback Mountain" for the best picture Oscar at 78th Academy Awards on March 5, 2006.

    AFP - Getty Images / AFP - Getty Images
  • Glamour Magazine Hosts The 17th Annual Glamour Women Of The Year Awards

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    Secretly charitable -

    Glamour magazine awarded Bullock the “Undercover Activist” award at the its “Women of the Year” Awards in 2006. The actress was celebrated for quietly donating millions to the Red Cross after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the 2004 tsunami without trying to get publicity for her charitable actions.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Sandra Bullock Honored With Star On The Hollywood Walk

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    Stardom! -

    Bullock was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of fame on March 24, 2005 in Hollywood, Calif.

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    Rom-com fever -

    Hugh Grant plays a billionaire who can't get along without the help of his attorney (Bullock) in 2002's "Two Weeks Notice." But when she gets fed up and decides to quit, Grant realizes that he may be in love with her.

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    Armed and dangerous -

    Bullock got serious for 2002's "Murder By Numbers," in which she plays a crime scene specialist on the trail of two students (Ryan Gosling, Michael Pitt) accused of murder. Bullock briefly dated co-star Gosling.

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    Ya Ya! -

    In 2002's "The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood," Bullock plays Siddalee, a New York playwright who gets into a fight with her mother (Ellen Burstyn) after she's quoted in Time magazine. It's up to her mother's friends (Fionnula Flanagan, right, Maggie Smith, second from right, and Shirley Knight, left) to explain her mother's history to Siddalee in order to patch up their rift.

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    Playing to her strengths -

    In 2000's "Miss Congeniality," Bullock plays an FBI agent who goes undercover as a beauty pageant contestant in order to catch a terrorist. But the tomboy agent has to undergo a complete makeover in order to play a believable contestant. "The one thing me and this latest character have in common is we're both slobs," Bullock said.

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    Here's to Bullock -

    Bullock played an alcoholic who reluctantly gets the help she needs in the 2000 film, "28 Days." The film received mixed reviews.

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    Showing a sultrier side -

    Bullock walks onto the stage in a bright orange dress at the VH-1/Vogue Fashion Awards on Dec. 5, 1999 in New York. She introduced singer Beck.

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    'Nature' calls -

    In 1999's "Force of Nature," Ben Affleck plays a man who must get from New York to Savannah, Ga., for his wedding but finds himself sidetracked by an eccentric woman (Bullock).

    DreamWorks via Getty Images / DreamWorks via Getty Images
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    'Magic' time -

    In 1998, Bullock and Nicole Kidman starred as women with witch-like powers in "Practical Magic." But their gifts come with a curse -- any man who falls in love with them is doomed to an untimely death.

    Warner Bros. via Getty Images / Warner Bros. via Getty Images
  • US actress Sandra Bullock displays her 1998 People

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    People's Choice -

    Bullock was named the favorite motion picture actress for her work in "Hope Floats" at the People's Choice Awards on Jan. 10, 1999.

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  • Bullock & Rowlands In 'Hope Floats'

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    Staying 'Hope'-ful -

    In the 1998 film "Hope Floats," Bullock stars as a recently divorced woman who returns with her daughter to her Texas hometown to stay with her mom, played by Gena Rowlands. As she tries to get her life back together, she strikes up an attraction with an old friend, played by Harry Connick Jr.

    20th Century Fox via Getty Images / 20th Century Fox via Getty Images
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    Sinking sensation -

    Bullock reprised her "Speed" role for the ill-fated 1997 film, "Speed 2: Cruise Control." Jason Patric took over for Keanu Reeves in this story about a cruise ship that becomes the target of a computer hacker. Scoring just 2 percent "fresh" on RottenTomatoes.com, the USA Today critic called the film, "A waterlogged sequel that'll soon be bottom-feeding with 'Beyond the Poseidon Adventure.'"

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    Hemingway's lady -

    In 1996's "In Love and War," Bullock plays a nurse who cares for Ernest Hemingway, played by Chris O'Donnell, during World War I. The film marked a dramatic departure for Bullock, but didn't light up the box office, earning only around $14 million.

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    'Sleeping' beauty -

    Bullock won hearts playing a lovelorn subway token taker in 1995's "While You Were Sleeping." She played Lucy, a woman who has a crush on a man she doesn't know and then saves life. He goes into a coma and through a series of misunderstandings his family comes to believe that she is his fiancée. Demi Moore was originally supposed to play Bullock's role.

    Buena Vista Pictures via Everett Collection / Buena Vista Pictures via Everett Collection
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    'Speed'-y road to success -

    Bullock's breakthrough role came in 1994's "Speed." In it, she played a feisty passenger on a city bus who finds herself at the center of a mad bomber's plot to blow up the vehicle if its speed drops below 50 miles per hour.

    20th Century Fox via Everett Collection / 20th Century Fox via Everett Collection
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    The 'Potion' worked -

    Bullock starred opposite Tate Donovan in the 1992 film, "Love Potion No. 9." The film tells the story of an elixir that makes people of the opposite sex fall love with each other. The potion must have worked for Donovan and Bullock because the couple dated for four years after meeting on the set.

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    'Working' for a living -

    One of Sandra Bullock's early roles was on the short-lived series, "Working Girl," the small screen version of the film that starred Melanie Griffith and Harrison Ford. The series only lasted for 12 episodes.

    20th Century Fox via Everett Collection / 20th Century Fox via Everett Collection

In that same vein, Bullock told Marie Claire that she was attracted to the script because Dippold did not restrict her character’s behavior according to gender expectations. "Katie wrote a story that required two human beings to be uncensored and not mind looking like idiots, something both women and men do on a daily basis,” Bullock said.

Bullock must have really liked what she read. Both she and McCarthy signed on to star in the movie just 10 days after Chernin Entertainment bought the script for $600,000. The movie is opening at record speed, only 20 months after Dippold completed the script. But even with such positive buzz, there’s still plenty of doubt among studio executives about whether two women can open an action buddy comedy, Kohen said.

“It’s hard enough to prove that one woman can open a movie let alone a duo,” Kohen said. “It’s very ballsy for a movie to do and for a studio to make that decision. Executives are usually concerned with whether the audience will be overly estrogenized with two women in the lead. Well, ‘The Heat’ certainly is not that.”

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