Kristen Wiig is taking the road less traveled, and after a bumpy start, it's starting to show signs of life.
Most former “Saturday Night Live” standouts either head to Hollywood to make as many studio comedies as they can or try to fashion a comedy series on TV. Wiig exploded – and earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay – in Paul Fieg's blockbuster “Bridesmaids,” but for the most part she's been exploring her range in indies such as “Girl Most Likely,” “Hateship Loveship” and “Welcome to Me.” Whether or not it's a deliberate strategy, it's paid off with Craig Johnson's “The Skeleton Twins.”
The dramedy reunited Wiig with her former “SNL” co-star Bill Hader as siblings who, after years of semi-estrangement, need each other more than ever. The duo earned raves for their performances, but neither has made a significant mark on the awards season this year. The good news is that “Skeleton Twins” was a solid art house hit for Roadside Attractions and is finally hitting Blu-ray, DVD and online download for those who missed it.
Wiig's career also keeps percolating in unexpected ways. She returns to Park City in January with two highly anticipated films, “Nasty Baby” and “The Diary of a Teenage Girl.” She also has a role in Ridley Scott's “The Martian” and is currently working on a new screenplay with her “Bridesmaids” collaborator Annie Mumolo, which she's planning on directing. Yep, Wiig is stepping behind the camera, which is sort of exciting, isn't it?
Earlier this month Wiig took some time to talk about “Skeleton Twins,” “The Martian” and more, which you can enjoy in the Q&A below.
HitFix: Hey Kristen. How are you doing this morning?
Kristen Wiig: Hi Gregory. I'm really good. How are you?
Good. Thank you. So, this is the week when they normally announce the new Sundance slate for the upcoming year, which is almost a year to the day to when you guys found out 'Skeleton Twins' was going to Sundance last year. What has this sort of journey been like for this movie?
Well, that's the fun of doing these kind of smaller movies is you really don't know what's going to happen with them and you just sort of have to find the right group of people that's going to believe in it and all have the same vision for the project. And we just got really lucky. Craig [Johnson], the director and Craig and Marcus, the writers, they just wrote a really good script and it's been really exciting to do something at such a low budget with no time and for people to like it. You never know what to expect.
Does that mean you were relieved about how well it did at the art house box office?
Yeah. I mean when you do a movie you do it because you like it and because you think it's going to be something special. And when you're shooting it you never have that perspective of It's going to be this or it's going to be that; it's never what you think it's going to be, whether people don't see it or people do see it. And this one we all had a really sort of bonding experience making the movie and like I said you kind of hope for the best. And I was just really excited that it did well.
What about your character Maggie spoke to you when you read the script?
The script as a whole was just really interesting and unpredictable and I love stories about flawed people that are trying to find their way because I think that's something everyone can relate to. And I liked that Milo's character was unfulfilled and depressed really because he didn't get what he thought he wanted out of life and my character is kind of the opposite where she was unfulfilled and depressed because she did get what she thought she wanted and then realized it wasn't what she wanted. I just think that's an interesting concept to have someone that has this life on paper where it's perfect but she's still not happy.
I know one of you guys was obviously on board first, but was it Bill or you?
I know you've been asked this many times before but did you have any trepidation based on your “SNL” association about working together on this?
I wouldn't say trepidation, I would say it was a conversation that we had because the public perception of that whole thing we didn't want to affect the tone of the movie or how they were going to see the movie. But ultimately it is such a different thing and we just kind of thought, “Well, we're not going to let that stop us from doing this,” but it was definitely something that we talked about.
When I saw “The Skeleton Twins” way back at Sundance one of the things that shocked me was that Craig was able to pull off that musical number in the middle of the movie. Was it always in the script or added on set?
No, it was in the script but it's just a very short sort of action that [a song] played and Bill was trying to get me off the couch and to join him. We weren't really sure what it was going to be until we got there and then we just started playing music and Bill was kind of dancing around and we kind of figured out where we were going to be. We shot it just a couple of times.
So that moment when Luke [Wilson] comes in, was that sort of improved as well or was that in the script?
God, I don't remember. I think it was always in there. I mean it was definitely planned for him to come in. I don't know if it was specifically in the script but I love that part when he is sort of like nodding at Bill and then gives us our time, you know, eating something.
People do bring up that scene a lot and I think it's kind of a relief in the film and a release because there's a lot of heavy stuff around it that I don't think people were expecting. And it's hard to really portray the tone in like a trailer or poster or anything so I think a lot of people didn't really know what to expect. That scene I know is definitely a little bit of an exhale moment for people.
I want to take a few minutes to ask you about the movies you've been starring in recently because “Skeleton Twins” seems to be an example of just the different challenges you've taken with your career since you left “SNL” a couple of years ago. And, correct me if I'm wrong, it appears that you have no fear, you're willing to sort of do anything. Is that a fair assumption?
I think doing different projects and having no fear are two different things. You definitely have fear. I mean you have to if you're doing something that you've never done before. I mean maybe fear ain't the right word but whenever there's a sense of not knowing if you're going to be able to do a good job or do something, there's always going to be a little nervousness, maybe is a better word. But I'm always, every project I do, I'm a little scared. Because I think that's why we do what we do. I think if we're not a little bit nervous then we're just always in our comfort zone. I don't know. That doesn't seem fun to me.
But you are supposed to be in Ridley Scott's “The Martian,” correct or is that upcoming?
Yeah. Well, they're shooting it now but I finished my stuff already.
That's the most hard-core sci-fi film you've done to date.
Oh yeah. I was terrified.
I know they want to keep a lot of things secret but can you tell me anything about your role in it?
This is the first I've ever been asked about it and I'm not sure what can be said and not said. But I will say this, meeting him I was definitely in awe and nervous when I met him because he's one of the greats. I've been a fan of his my whole life so that first day on set was definitely a little nerve-racking for me.
Was this a role you went after or did they approach your reps about it?
I don't know. I mean I don't really know the details of it. I know that they called me to say that Ridley wanted to meet with me about this part. And then I met with him and found out that I got it. So I don't really know the ins and outs of what went on behind closed doors.
I also know you did the comedy “Masterminds,” which sound slightly crazy.
Yes it is. Zack Galifianakis plays David Ghantt, the guy who's story it is, and robbing an armored truck. And Jared Hess, who did “Napoleon Dynamite,” directed. I'm really excited about it. It's really an amazing cast, almost done, and I'm just really excited [for people to see it].
That's awesome. Do you have anything that you have upcoming besides that or are you shooting anything else now?
I have a movie coming out in April called “Welcome to Me” that I'm really excited about that Shira Piven directed. And I think it's coming out in April. It's about a woman who”s got bipolar disorder and she wins the lottery and she uses her money to buy airtime on a local TV show and has a talk show. It's kind of a loaded description but there's a lot going on.
Many people forget you're an Oscar-nominated screenwriter [for “Bridesmaids”]. Are you working on any new scripts?
Yeah. My writing partner and I, Annie Mumolo, we did “Birdesmaids” together, she and I are writing right now what I'm going to be directing next year. So that's what I'm focusing on right now.
Well, congratulations on that. That's exciting!
Thanks. I'm really excited. It's so fun to work with her again.
Are you nervous about directing for the first time? Or are you chomping at the bit to get out there and just do it?
I'm all of those things. I think it's going to be really challenging. I've wanted to do it for so long and the fact that I can do it with something that I've written I think is going to be helpful and fun and I don't know, I'm just really excited about it.
“The Skeleton Twins” is now available on DVD, Blu-ray and digital download.