You know it’s 2020 when even Melissa McCarthy’s new comedy centers around artificial intelligence deciding it’s time to destroy the world.
There is a bright side to humanity blindly creating the force that will wreak its havoc. Bringing “Superintelligence” (streaming Thanksgiving Day on HBO Max) to life meant married producers McCarthy and her director/husband Ben Falcone completed major items on their bucket lists – like hanging with Ken Griffey Jr. during the baseball icon’s cameo and shooting with the original “Knight Rider” K.I.T.T. car (voiced by William Daniels).
“And we sat down and had lunch with Elon Musk,” says McCarthy, 50. “Which is not a sentence I thought I was ever going to be able to say.”
McCarthy spoke with USA TODAY about the future horrors she gleaned from Tesla CEO Musk, who has warned that AI is a “fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization” – and reveals who picked up the lunch check.
Elon Musk says ID could doom human civilization. Mark Zuckerberg disagrees. Who’s right?
Question: We need to start with the Elon Musk lunch. When does AI become a dire threat?
Melissa McCarthy: We wanted to talk to him about, “Is this possible?” To our surprise, and slight terror, he was like, “It’s not what if, but when.” It was eye-opening to realize we are doing this dance with technology, friend and foe. It makes our lives better and worse. It’s all up to how we use it, how we program it, even if it is to our own demise, which could possibly be our own fault. I walked out of there just like, “Oh, boy!”
Q: Who ends up paying for lunch? Because technically there’s two of you, one billionaire Elon Musk.
McCarthy: I have a change belt and sat there counting out pennies and nickels, sliding pennies across the table, saying, “This should cover it, Mr. Musk.” He finally said, “I can’t watch this anymore.”
Q: Surely Elon Musk wanted a much darker “Superintelligence” ending with destruction and human enslavement?
McCarthy: I don’t think he gave it enough thought. He has enough going on in his mind and his world. We just got the answers we wanted and were like, “Thanks for the chicken lunch. We’re outta here.”
Q: Did you smash your Alexa with a tennis racquet after that to get the resistance started?
McCarthy: No, but I covered everything more thoroughly than I had. We are definitely being listened to. Now, you mention something or you order one thing, and then the next time you look at your devices suddenly you’re getting ads for the one thing you mentioned. That’s a real doozy.
Q. Going back to your bucket list, you put a $80K Tesla Model X through the paces in “Superintelligence.” Did Elon have to give you the security deposit back or were there noticeable scratches?
McCarthy: None to my knowledge. It was funny. We needed to do certain things like open the car door when it’s moving. Well, there are Tesla safety measures you can’t override. Sometimes it was me manually, like kicking a door open with my foot, with a string under my leg that I’d pull to close the door. We’re dealing with this super-duper technological thing, and I’m sitting in the front seat with like a rope around my hand, shutting and opening my own door. The irony was not lost on me.
Q: I doubt Elon will read this, fortunately. There’s a scene set in a men’s room at the Seattle Mariners’ baseball park. Was that filmed on location?
McCarthy: It wasn’t in Mariners’ park. We were in Atlanta. But the scene was shot in an actual baseball bathroom, if that makes it better for you. I’m just so glad it didn’t have that trough thing. I’ve seen it in bathrooms and it’s a part of the gentlemen species that I never cared to understand.
Q: You called James Corden to be the voice of AI when he was in England, frantically buying clothes for Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan’s wedding after an airline luggage mishap. So he was weak?
McCarthy: Yes, I got him when he was distracted. That’s that’s my advice to anyone trying to get Corden. He was perfect for if it. If it was the end of the world, who would still put a lovely spin on it? I can’t imagine anyone else doing it. But he and a friend were literally running around because his friend’s luggage got lost. So the day before the royal wedding, he’s like, “My friend is running up and down the street trying to find proper attire” and he’s like, “I’ll do it.” I said, “Well, I can send the script to you.” And he said, “I don’t care what it is. I’ll do it.” So I was like, “I’ll take it! I recorded you.”
Q: This is your fourth collaboration with your husband, Mr. Falcone. What’s your secret to 15 years of marital success?
McCarthy: Marry the nicest person you’ve ever met and hopefully he or she is weird and funny and super-talented. It’s worked out. Every day we’re going to work on a movie, we’re just like, “Can you believe this is happening?” It shocks us every single time. We will never get used to it. We met writing and doing sketch comedy at Los Angeles’ Groundlings Theatre, wearing stupid wigs and trying to make each other laugh. Luckily, we’re still doing that.
Q: When you’re flying to Australia to shoot this movie and get on the plane together, do people give you looks after your famed “Bridesmaids” air marshal scene?
McCarthy: People always clock Ben. They’re like, “It’s the air marshal!” And then we always get the weird, “Did you guys get married after that movie?” And I’m like, we were already married for like a hundred years before that.