Melissa McCarthy Will Do Anything for a Laugh

07/05/2013 at 08:00 AM EDT

Melissa McCarthy: All about The Heat Scene-Stealer in PEOPLE Magazine
Melissa McCarthy
Gilbert Carrasquillo/FilmMagic
The Melissa McCarthy who showed up to the Boston set of The Heat last summer with her two young daughters in tow could have passed for a friendly out-of-towner. Polite. Unassuming, even.

"A sweet midwestern mom," as costar Michael McDonald puts it. But then the cameras starting rolling – and McCarthy morphed into a "beast," says castmate Bill Burr.

The same woman who "doesn't even swear in real life," notes Heat director Paul Feig, "gets into character and suddenly the F-words start pouring out."

Wildly uninhibited, profanely funny and unafraid to use "everything in her toolbox," as Feig puts it, to get a laugh, McCarthy now finds herself in that most exclusive of showbiz stratospheres: an Oscar-nominated, Emmy-winning superstar with a hit sitcom (CBS's Mike & Molly) and a big-screen summer smash (The Heat, costarring Sandra Bullock, which raked in $40 million during its opening weekend).

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