Melissa McCarthy "whored" her way into her hit new film Can You Ever Forgive Me? after it fell apart with her husband among the leads.

The actress, who takes on the role of writer-turned-letter forger Lee Israel in the film, first read the script when it was handed to her husband Ben Falcone. He was attached to star as Israel's partner in crime Jack Hock, opposite screenwriter Nicole Holofcener.

"I read it and I came out and weirdly stood in front of him on our porch hyperventilating," Melissa explains. "He thought I didn't like it but I guess it was kind of a weird reaction so I said, 'You're part of this wonderful movie'."

Julianne Moore eventually took on the role of Israel, with Holofcener as director, but the project fell apart after the Oscar winner quit the film six days before production began.

McCarthy then set about reviving the film with director Marielle Heller after Holofcener stepped down, explaining Moore's exit was "traumatic" and "terrible".

"When the film wasn't gonna happen I couldn't let it go, and I was so smitten with her (Israel)... I love Lee and I love Jack. I feel like it's my story. I stole this from my husband. He had the movie and I kept saying, 'Who's gonna do this? Somebody has to tell this story'.

"Then I whored my way into it! It's a little story about humanity and people tethered and struggling which is not always the easiest thing to sell. This is the kind of movie where it means something. It's like a dream."

But making the film left Melissa with some big regrets - she never met Israel, even though they both hung out at the same New York City hotspots.

"I was mad at myself for not knowing who Lee was, because I was there," she adds. "Those were my years (in New York City), so why didn't I know who she was. I would've tried so hard at Julius' (Lee's favourite bar) and I always wonder, because I was there, was I next to Lee and did Lee hate my guts? I was probably chatting a mile a minute and I'm sure she would not have liked me, but I would've spent years trying to win her over."