Melissa McCarthy Takes on a Dramatic Role as a Master Forger in Can You Ever Forgive Me?


Finally, a role for Melissa McCarthy that does her talent for drama justice.

In Marielle Heller’s forthcoming biopic, Can You Ever Forgive Me?—premiered exclusively at Entertainment Weekly—McCarthy plays Lee Israel, noted celebrity biographer and journalist who eventually turned to the art of literary forgery once her career stalled. If you haven’t heard of Israel, that’s part of the reason Heller decided to make this film.

Heller’s story focuses on a dark period of Israel’s life in 1991; beset by unpaid bills, a sick cat, a slight alcohol problem, and the inability to make work that her editors were interested in, Israel found a way to make a buck by forging letters and other documents from deceased famous writers and selling them as rare, undiscovered artifacts.

It’s a savvy scam that worked so well for Israel that she went undetected for two years, hawking letters and artfully-executed forgeries. “She took a lot of pride in the forgeries that she did, and in many ways saw them as some of her greatest work,” Heller told EW. Most notable about this adaptation is Heller’s intention to showcase the kind of woman Lee was during her brief crime spree—“People didn’t really give her much thought,” Heller said. “[She was] a middle-aged woman you’d probably pass on the street and not really give a second thought.”

In the trailer, McCarthy’s manic, comic energy that served her so well for other roles in slapdash comedies like Spy and Bridesmaid works. Ironic, though, is the following note: when this adaptation was announced in 2015, Julianne Moore was originally cast as Lee. It’s unclear as to why she eventually left the project, but I like to think it’s because McCarthy was the better choice all along.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? hits theaters October 19. This role could potentially take McCarthy into the land of Oscars.

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