Where have you been? That’s the question Kristen Wiig keeps getting asked. It’s been over two years since her raunchy all-female comedy Bridesmaids became a cultural phenomenon, grossing more than $288 million worldwide and vaulting the animated Saturday Night Live alum to the top of the Hollywood food chain. And, while her partner-in-Fritz Bernaise Melissa McCarthy has gone on to topline two hit comedies—Identity Thief and The Heat—Wiig sightings have, with the exception of a tiny role in the indie dramedy Friends With Kids and a hosting stint on SNL, been relatively scarce.
“Come December, they’re going to get sick of me!” says Wiig of her supposed “hiatus.” “I’ve been working—it’s just the timing of when everything comes out. Anchorman 2 and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty come out within a few days of each other in December, and I started filming Walter Mitty a year and a half ago, and Anchorman 2 two months ago.” She pauses. “It’s all out of my control.”
The other thing people have been chirping about is how Wiig passed on a sequel to Bridesmaids. News of the nixing spread to every corner of the Internet, with bloggers and commenters expressing bewilderment at the decision. But with so many moviegoers and critics fed up with banal sequels, why the fuss?
“I think the more interesting question is why people are so obsessed with the fact that we’re not,” says Wiig. “When something does well at the box office, people assume that there’s going to be a second one, so when you don’t, it doesn’t make sense to them. But I approach things in my career a different way, and creatively, it’s just not something I’m interested in doing. That’s kind of it, and should be it.”
Her first lead role since that massive blockbuster is in the indie comedy Girl Most Likely. Directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, the team behind American Splendor, the film stars Wiig as Imogene, a struggling playwright who stages a suicide to win back her rich ex-boyfriend, who recently blindsided her with walking papers. The ruse doesn’t go as planned, and Imogene lands in the hospital and then in the custody of her New Age mother, played by Annette Bening, who brings the 30-something back to their childhood home on the Jersey Shore.
Wiig, who also served as a producer on the film, used her post-Bridesmaids industry clout to green-light this tiny film—a move that confounded many fans, who expected her to use her newly minted A-list status to topline a broad comedy, as McCarthy did. But Wiig doesn’t seemy interested in the industry’s perception of her as a business commodity.
“It’s so funny,” she says. “People just expect you to do big things always—meaning big studio movies. I don’t really think of movies as big or small. Personally, even as a moviegoer, I tend to watch smaller films. And ultimately, it’s just the script. I got this script before we even shot Bridesmaids and loved it, and the writer and I started putting the movie together, got the financiers, got the directors.”
Another thing she had a say in was the casting process, and the filmmakers managed to wrangle a nice one, including Bening as the flighty mother, Matt Dillon as mom’s (alleged) CIA agent live-in boyfriend, and Glee’s Darren Criss as Wiig’s younger flame. The relationship between Bening and Wiig, the daughter coming to terms with her embarrassing New Age mother who has a penchant for spank-happy sex, is central to the film, and while Wiig says her Rochester, New York, upbringing was “relatively normal,” she still experienced the occasional humiliation courtesy of mom.
“I remember in high school, it was one of the first times I had a boyfriend and we had been dating for about a year,” recalls Wiig. “I had him over to the house and I was upstairs, and I started hearing choir music. I realized she was playing him a tape of me singing in the junior choir of my church when I was 7! I remember being like, ‘Mom! What are you doing?!’”
Although Imogene is dumped by her high-society ex, it’s clear he isn’t right for her. But then she meets Lee (Criss), a 20-something Yale grad who had been renting out her old bedroom in their family home on the shore. Despite the age difference, he seems to complement her perfectly, and you never get the sense that Imogene is a “cougar.”
“Personally, I just don’t ever really think about age when it comes to relationships, and you can’t really help who you fall in love with,” says Wiig. “I think every guy I’ve ever dated has been younger than me. None of them have been Darren’s age, but I just don’t really think about it, and I have no idea why! I’ll meet someone, find out how old they are later, and be like, ‘Really?’ I just don’t know why.”
In the film, New York magazine had named Imogene one of city’s most promising playwrights when she was in her early 20s, and the gal is loaded with talent, but she can’t seem to bring herself to show her work to the public. Wiig, similarly, didn’t make her screenwriting debut until she was 37 with Bridesmaids, which she co-wrote with pal Annie Mumulo. Because of the pressure of that film’s success, she says, she can relate to her character’s sense of apprehension.
“As far as trepidation goes, it probably exists more now because of the success of that movie,” she says. “There are more expectations, and once you do something that’s perceived in a positive way, people are like, ‘OK, well, now what?’ So you do feel that pressure, and you do know that people are going to compare the next thing you do to the thing you did last, so you can’t really think about it.”
In addition to a pair of blockbuster comedies out at Christmas, Anchorman 2 and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Wiig has wrapped filming two indie dramas, The Skeleton Twins, opposite SNL pal Bill Hader, and Hateship, Loveship, another low-budget drama co-starring Guy Pearce and Hailee Steinfeld that will premiere at the Toronto Film Festival.
“It’s been great,” says Wiig of life post-Bridesmaids. “I’m very happy right now, working, and trying to take time to write. The thing I’m writing right now by myself isn’t even a comedy, so who knows what people are going to think about that.”