Director, screenwriter, producer, actor, comedian, martini connoisseur. . . Paul Feig is not prone to idle. As well as a full diary, he can also lay claim to an unmistakable sartorial flair, consistent affability, and enthusiasm for all things well-made. In short, he’s something of a bon vivant whose taste transcends the confines of the era in which he lives and works.
He’s probably known best for creating Freaks and Geeks, the short-lived yet cult-hit series that launched the careers of Seth Rogen, James Franco, and Jason Segel; or for Bridesmaids, one of the funniest movies of the 2010s; or perhaps for his 2016 reboot of Ghostbusters with an all-female lead cast. But despite being a charismatic presence at the best-dressed parties, these days he spends most of his time behind the camera. Constantly on the move, he’s currently editing an as-yet-untitled film starring John Cena and Awkwafina, which he directed for Amazon Studios, as well as exec producing the Starz series Minx—the tale of the first erotic magazine for women—which is in its second season. He launched his own spirit, Artingstall’s Brilliant London Dry Gin, in 2019, and during lockdowns took to Instagram to showcase his love of cocktails, leading to the release of his book Cocktail Time! The Ultimate Guide to Grown-Up Fun soon after.
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What’s the first thing you do in the morning?
It’s very sad: I reach for my phone. Which is like it being the ’50s and reaching for a cigarette and lighting up—it’s terrible. I wish I wasn’t so addicted, but everything comes through there. To me, it’s like getting up in the morning and getting the paper first thing.
What’s one thing you’ve done recently for the first time?
Play pickleball. We were just up in Lake Arrowhead, and there were pickleball courts—we went, and it was very fun. I mean, it’s like a Ping-Pong table that you stand on. I used to play tennis and blew out my shoulder doing it, but I always kind of missed it. So this is kinda nice, but it’s weird. You have to learn how to temper your strength.
Where do you get your clothes?
If I’m doing anything work-related, I have a suit and tie on. I get my British styling from Anderson & Sheppard, and then I get my Italian styling from Isaia. And then for my American styling, I go to Ralph Lauren. I’ve been buying from Ralph Lauren my whole life.
How would you describe your look?
Fun banker! [Laughs] I like traditional suits in general, but then I like to spice things up with fun pocket squares and that kind of thing.
How would others describe your look?
On my tombstone will be written, “Um, why are you all dressed up?”
What apps do you use the most?
The New York Times, The Washington Post. Yahoo Weather I use all the time. And Instagram—that’s the one I look at the most.
What do you do that’s still analog?
I write in a notebook. When I was in Paris a few years ago, Dunhill was selling this leather folder with a snap on it, which came with a really high-quality notebook inside. So now I’ve got a bunch of refills for that. And I still write letters. I recently had an exchange with then Prince Charles, now King Charles. I got to meet him through a friend of mine… we went and had tea at Highgrove and exchanged gins. Then after that, I wrote him a thank-you note and sent him my cocktail book, and he wrote me back. It was just like, “Oh, my God—I got a handwritten note from. . . you know!”
What do you crave most at the end of the day?
A nice drink and a good meal. I work towards it. If it’s with friends, even better. When I do my movies, we work what we call French hours, which is a 10-hour day, no lunch break, but food is passed around the whole time. But then you’re finished by six o’clock, and you can go have dinner, get a full night’s sleep.
What’s the most impressive dish you cook?
I make a good risotto. I haven’t done it in a while, but I have the patience to sit there and stir it and stir it and keep adding the cheese and the broth. I can get it just al dente and creamy enough. I don’t eat it as much, because it’s not great for you.
What’s your favorite cocktail, and how do you make it?
I’m a martini man. My preferred method is to take a mixing glass with a lot of ice, add a drop of vermouth, gin, and then just stir the hell out of it until it’s cold and put it into a frozen glass. And then a big twist. I do think it’s my superpower. I make great martinis.
How do you get to sleep?
It’s either booze or exhaustion. If I just go to bed normally, I have a real hard time falling asleep and staying asleep, and once I wake up, forget it—game over. You’d think at 60 years old you’d kind of figure it out.
What’s the most recent thing you’ve added to a collection?
It’s this David Yurman bling ring I got, which I just thought was kind of fun. When I’ve gotten something like this, people go, “It’s not you.” And I kinda hate when people do that, ’cause what are we other than the decisions we make? I’m not a big fashion fan, because fashion is very faddish. But style is permanent, you know?
What’s the most recent thing you regret not buying?
It’s a Rolex Submariner that was custom-made. They put a pink ceramic bezel on it, and then the dial was pink, and I thought it was just so cool. And I even got them to discount it a little bit. And then I was like, “I don’t know. . . ” By the time I went back, they had sold it. I was like, “Goddamn it.”
Who is your dealer, and what do they source for you?
There’s a watch dealer, Somlo, in Burlington Arcade in London. I’m really into pocket watches. But I’ve gotten a number of cool old Patek Philippes, an Omega, a Cartier through them, and then I’ve gotten a few wristwatches, like a 1956 Patek that had this basket-weave bracelet—it’s the only watch I have that makes my watch-aficionado friends go, “Holy shit.”
How many watches do you own?
Too many—that’s always the answer. It’s hard to say, but if I had to guess, probably 30. I dunno why watches are such a pleasure, especially for guys, but I think it’s just the mechanical nature of them. When I lecture to film students, I always say, “If you wanna be a director, buy a really nice watch, because you’re gonna be looking at it all day long!”
Drive or be driven?
Drive. It’s funny—I’ve lived in L.A. for 40-plus years and would always complain about the driving. And then the last four years, I’ve been living in London and realized how much I miss driving.
How much do you trust your gut?
A lot. It’s usually about “do something” or “not do something.” And there have been a number of times where I’ve let myself get talked into things, or talked myself into things. And I’ve learned that you’ve really got to trust your gut, because that tells you what your abilities are.
What does success look like to you?
Now it means doing what you love and getting paid for it. Not a lot of people have that, so that’s where I go, like, “Man, you’re successful.” You don’t have to be making tons of money, as long as you’re able to have a good life.
If you could learn a new skill, what would it be?
To play piano. To be able to get a party going with that would be cool.
What’s the last time you completely unplugged?
Honestly, it’s not possible. Sometimes my wife and I will take time off at the end of production, and then we’ll do another vacation at the end of post. But you never relax… you’re thinking, “Is this gonna be successful? Is it gonna bomb?” So I find it really, really hard to unplug.
What’s your favorite hotel?
Probably Claridge’s in London. I just love old traditional things that don’t go off the rails.
What’s your exercise routine, and how often do you do it?
I do a four-mile speed walk pretty much every day, at least six times a week—just ’cause I gotta do something.
What’s worth paying for?
Anything high quality. If you’re gonna do it, just spend a little more money and get what you know is good.
What’s the last piece of advice you gave?
Somebody asked me for marriage advice—I’ve been married now for 29 years. I said, “Love the flaws.” It’s easy to be in love, but we’re all flawed people, and we all eventually drive each other crazy. Just embrace it.
What’s the piece of advice you wish you’d followed?
Avoid the trolls online. I did Ghostbusters, and suddenly this troll army came at me. People had told me, “Don’t engage.” So I didn’t for a year and a half. And then suddenly there was one too many attacks, and in a moment of weakness I just went at ’em. And the minute you do, then you are the villain. So I did not follow the advice to not engage with them, but now that’s the advice I’d give everybody else. Like, just mute ’em.
What kind of music makes you happy?
I like all kinds of music. I like high energy, kind of fun, like the Beastie Boys. I love rock, I love big music, the Ramones. But I can really enjoy traditional jazz, country and western, and classical.