Capone keeps time with Kristen Wiig to chat about MACGRUBER, PAUL, and her upcoming Apatow-produced project!!!
Published at: May 17, 2010, 11:51 a.m. CST by Capone
Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
No woman has made me laugh as hard in the past five years as Kristen Wiig. You could begin and end the conversation based solely on the "Saturday Night Live" characters she's created since 2005 (she remains my favorite cast member), but in a series of small and memorable film roles, beginning with the disapproving television exec part in KNOCKED UP, Wiig has built up a nice arsenal of movie characters as well. Check out what she accomplished in films like THE BROTHERS SOLOMON, WALK HARD, SEMI-PRO, GHOST TOWN, ADVENTURELAND, EXRACT, or DATE NIGHT.
But it was her turn in the Drew Barrymore-directed WHIP IT that Wiig showed us something new: a flair for more serious acting, in a couple of great scenes opposite Ellen Page. And based on the film's description, another 2010 release--ALL GOOD THINGS, opposite Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst and Frank Langella--Wiig might continue this more serious trend.
However, before we start casting her as Lady Macbeth, Wiig reprises her "SNL" character Vicki St. Elmo, the faithful companion of Will Forte in MACGRUBER. The thing that separates this film from the many other SNL-inspired features is that MACGRUBER isn't even a proper sketch. We know virtually nothing about him or Vicki, so the writers--Forte, John Solomon, and director/Lonely Islander Jorma Taccone--basically had to start from scratch. The results are some fine, hard-R-rated comedy that goes places I never expected it to. It strikes the perfect levels of depravity, weirdness, and action, and Wiig is, as always, fantastic. Enjoy my talk with Kristen Wiig, which took place the day after the MACGRUBER world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in March.
Kristen Wiig: Do people ever say “Sure is” when you say “Ain’t It Cool”?
Capone: Do they ever say that?
KW: Yeah, like when you say “Ain’t it Cool?” People are like “Sure is…”
Capone: Oh, like it's a question. It's more of a statement, so hopefully they just feel cool that we’ve shown interest in them. "Are you deeming us cool?” “I guess we will find out.”
KW: [laughs] That’s a lot of pressure.
Capone: If we don't put that pressure on people, who will? I was really lucky last year to get to spend some time talking with Drew Barrymore, and it was a terrible interview on my part, because we spent most of it talking about you and how good you are in WHIP IT. Watching you in that film completely changed my impressions of what you were capable of, and I thought you were capable of quite a lot before I saw that film.
KW: Thank you so much! That's so nice to hear.
Capone: That’s certainly one of the most fleshed-out character you’ve had to play in a film, and I was sort of fixated on it for a while. I know I’m not the only one that thought that, but it was cool to see you do something like that, and I hope you get to do more.
KW: I hope I do, too. I really do.
Capone: Is that where you would like to go, where you get to do something more than just pop in, be funny, and then pop out?
KW: I’d like to have the opportunity to do a lot more dramatic stuff, for sure.
Capone: You and Will are part of one of the strongest casts SNL has had in years. Is there any intention of leaving? Every time I ask everyone is like “No, this is what I’ve wanted to do ever since I was young.”
KW: Yeah, well I at some point I guess you have to leave the nest, but I have a few more years there, and yeah, I’ll be around for a little bit. It’s going to be a hard place to leave.
Capone: Yeah. Obviously with this film you join a proud tradition of sidekicks, both male and female. Are there any in particular that you always just sort have liked?
KW: Yeah, I’m trying to think… Mini Me is a pretty good sidekick. Gosh, I don’t know.
Capone: With sidekicks a lot of time you are wondering, “Why are they there?" They are actually making things more difficult for the person they are apparently assisting.
KW: [laughs] That's so funny.
Capone: Besides knowing how to tell time, what is Vicki's purpose, and how did she get into that circle with MacGruber?
KW: I don’t know. Someone asked me what my character did the other day, and I really didn’t know what to say. I’m like “I guess she keeps time, and maybe behind the scene she plans things?” I don’t know. [Laughs] I feel like if you didn’t have a sidekick in a movie, the main character would solve the problem quicker, and then the movie would be really short, so they need the sidekick to drag it out.
Capone: That’s true, and to talk to also, to actually explain things.
KW: Exactly, otherwise they would be talking to themselves, and that would mean they would be crazy.
Capone: It’s funny that a movie came out of something that wasn’t even a full sketch. These aren’t characters that you have a tiny bit of backstory. Did you have a hand in fleshing out what these characters were going to become in this movie? There's a lot of fleshing to be done.
KW: Yeah, there really is. They kind of could go anywhere they wanted, because like you said they haven’t established anything at all on the sketch, so I knew that the movie was going to take place sort of later than the sketches were, and I guess assuming when you are watching the sketch, you’re not really sure what era it’s in, because they look a little bit '80s, but…
Capone: I had always assumed late '80s, yeah.
KW: Yeah, so this movie in the present day, and I know that they wanted Vicki to sort of have left the game and started a new life. I didn’t know she was going to be a singer-songwriter. That was just something that they came up with that they thought would be funny which is great, because they thought about “What would be a fun character for a lady to play?” They gave me some really funny things to do, like the singing and dressing up like MacGruber and all of that stuff.
Capone: She has a more modern look with the hair…maybe not so much with the clothes. Again, did you have any say in how she was going to be presented?
KW: I think the only thing I might have mentioned was like maybe a Farrah Fawcett-type hairdo.
Capone: That’s exactly what it looked like. It’s not that modern, is it? [Laughs]
KW: Yeah, it kind of fits in with the whole Heather Locklear when she was on…
Capone: "T.J. Hooker."
KW: Yeah. "T.J. Hooker," right? That was sort of what I was going for, that sort of late-'80s sidekick.
Capone: That’s a good sidekick. That’s an excellent role model for female sidekickery.
KW: [laughs] “Sidekickery!”
Capone: Right. I’ve got to ask about the sex scene. I don’t know how long you have known Will [Forte], and I know you two work very closely week after week. But it doesn’t matter, because that sex scene must have been so uncomfortable.
KW: It wasn’t really. I mean, if anything when we had to kiss in the kitchen, that might have been a little like, “Okay, we are friends and we are kissing.” But the sex scene was so out there and so in comedy land that it wasn’t really awkward. It was uncomfortable only that it was really hot in the room, and he was dripping sweat all over me and I had to like wipe off with a towel, but other than that it was actually really funny. It was fun.
Capone: Is that your first on-screen sex scene?
KW: Yes, it was.
Capone: That’s a landmark for most actors, isn’t it?
KW: It is. I’ve never done like a real one, because this one was kind of like a jokey one, but we played it real.
Capone: It was funny. I don’t know if I would call it jokey though.
KW: Not jokey, but it wasn’t in a serious drama is what I mean.
Capone: True, although it was very serious.
KW: Oh it really was. It was very sensual.
Capone: The noises… Did you do the classic closed-set sex scene like a lot of others do?
KW: Not really, because I think by then he had already been naked in front of everybody, and I was under the sheets, so we just kind of shot it.
Capone: Sure. I don’t mean to fixate on this, but it’s what I had nightmares about last night, so I needed to get it out of my head.
KW: [Laughs] Uh oh, we didn’t mean to do that.
Capone: It was really just the noises.
KW: Yeah, the grunting.
Capone: When you set about creating a new character on SNL, where do you begin? Do you begin with a voice? Do you begin with a look or personality? I don’t want to use the word “process,” but what do you usually start with?
KW: I can’t say that it’s started in the same place for every single character. If I had to pick one for most of the time, it would be the voice or the kind of person that it is and sort of how they talk and then sort of go into how they look after that. But a lot of it is just hanging out with writers and your friends and other cast mates and joking around, and then all of a sudden you are like “We should write that.” Sometimes that’s just how it happens, or you overhear someone say something in public, or you see someone that inspires you to do something. It kind of comes from everywhere.
Capone: It does seem like a lot of the characters you play, it's the voice that I remember so much, and I always assume that you heard somebody talk like that.
KW: Sometimes, yeah.
Capone: I guess it’s mimicry, but it’s just perfect. Do you have a character that you have created that you think might be worthy of filmdom?
KW: Oh my Gosh. Everyone has been asking me this. I don’t know. I can’t think of…
Capone: So you should have an answer then.
KW: [laughs] I know. I can’t think of any character of mine that I do that anyone would want to see for two hours in a row. Not trying to put my characters down, but I don’t know. I don’t know if people would flock to the theater to see that. What do you think?
Capone: I don’t have an answer. There are so many. I remember reading a behind-the-scenes article a few years ago--maybe in Rolling Stone--that made it seem that everyone on the staff was jut writing for you. Now there are a lot more women on the show. That’s got to make you feel good.
KW: Oh no, I love having these ladies on the show.
Capone: They are great. It’s one of the strongest female casts since the first one.
KW: I agree. I think Abby [Elliot] and Jenny [Slate] and Nasim [Pedrad] are all awesome and I think that they are going to do great things on the show and they are all so nice, which helps.
Capone: And they are all very cute.
KW: They are! They are!
Capone: The one a character that you did last season or maybe it was just last year that just cracked me up just watching it. I still watch it and it’s so funny and so subtle in a lot of ways, and you’ve only done her once and there’s not reason to bring her back, but it was on the Weekend Update when you played the woman who had that medical condition where she couldn’t stop having orgasms.
KW: Oh yeah. Oh my gosh, I can't believe you remembered that.
Capone: The faces and the noises you were making, that just… It seems like Update is a constant exercise in seeing who can make Seth [Meyers] laugh, and that's exactly what he was doing.
KW: Thank you so much. I don’t want to be mistaken, but I feel he wrote that. I could be wrong. I’m not sure, so maybe don’t quote me on that, but I can’t remember.
Capone: He did not write what you were doing, though. He might have written it, but he didn’t write what you were accomplishing with that.
I should have said this right off the bat, but MACGRUBER is really funny. I’d say it’s even in the top-three, SNL-inspired films and that’s including THE BLUES BROTHERS and WAYNE’S WORLD. I think people last night seemed genuinely surprised by how much they liked it.
KW: Yeah, I think that people didn’t really know what to expect and when people don’t know what to expect, sometimes they don’t expect a lot.
Capone: Sometimes their expectations are negative.
KW: Right. And sometimes they’re wrong, yeah.
Capone: Yeah, what's also interesting is that this film is only the second SNL-generated film that’s rated R.
Capone: And it really embraces that.
KW: It really does, and I remember even Lorne [Michaels] saying that when they started writing it. He was just like “If they do it, they should really just do it.”
Capone: So he was in favor of that?
KW: Oh yeah. I can’t speak for him. I know he wasn’t opposed to it, but yeah he kind of said “If you are going to do it, you've got to go for it,” because this character kind of screams for that, I think.
Capone: It never even occurred to me initially when I heard that it was being done that it would be R rated, because obviously you all get away with a lot on the show, but it’s not usually R-rated stuff.
KW: Yeah, they wrote an amazing script.
Capone: What other film things do you have? I know you had PAUL, which I’m super excited to see.
KW: I’m so excited and I haven’t seen a bit of it.
Capone: Is it a fairly big part? I don’t really know what your role is.
KW: That one is, yeah.
Capone: That’s what I thought.
KW: She’s technically the female lead, I guess.
Capone: I’ve been following Simon [Pegg] talking about you on Twitter about how awesome you are as he goes through the footage. [Laughs]
KW: That’s sweet. He’s great. Simon and Nick [Frost] are unbelievable people.
Capone: What do you get to do in that? I know that’s a really great story. What is it you get to do exactly?
KW: The kind of meet me on their travels after they’ve met an alien that’s trying to escape from the government, and I end up accidentally seeing the alien, but I’m like a super-Christian, don’t-believe-in-aliens-or-any-of-that-stuff kind of person. So it kind of rocks my whole world, and my character goes through quite a big change and starts traveling with them.
Capone: I know that going to Comic-Con is a part of the story. Did you get to be a part of those scenes?
KW: Well I don’t want to ruin it, but yes we did.
Capone: Do you know yet if they are bringing the film to the real Comic-Con this summer and doing a panel?
KW: I think they are. I’ve heard rumors of that, yeah. As far as I know they are, but I don’t know for sure.
Capone: I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t.
KW: Yeah, I can’t imagine it either. It would be the perfect place to do it.
Capone: Yeah, did they ask you if you would come, or do you know?
KW: I don’t know if it’s in that stage of going, but if they go I’m sure we will all get to go.
Capone: Awesome. I’ll probably see you there. Do you have any summer work that you are planning at this point?
KW: We are hopefully shooting this movie that my writing partner, Annie Mumolo, and I wrote and Paul Feig is directing and Judd Apatow is producing.
Capone: That's right. I did hear that Paul and Judd were working together [the two co-created "Freaks and Geeks,"], that’s right.
KW: Yeah, so that’s going this summer.
Capone: What’s that called?
KW: It doesn’t have a title yet. We are still trying to figure out the title, but my writing partner, Annie, is someone that I wrote with at The Groundlings for years and years, and we wrote it together, so I’m pretty excited about it.
Capone: Can you give us an idea of what it's about?
KW: It is sort of about… I don’t want to say it’s a female comedy, because I think guys will like it too, but it’s really about someone’s life that my character really starts to look at her life when her best friend gets engaged and sort of leaves her a little bit. I don’t want to call it a wedding movie, but it has to do with friends going in different directions and the comedy that ensues with that. [laughs]
Capone: With Judd Apatow involved, is it more of that sort of naturalistic, reality-based humor?
KW: Oh yeah, definitely reality based. That’s the kind of stuff that I like to write and go see, and I think he’s really good at that.
Capone: Like I said, you are really good in those. It’s funny, the last few films you've been in, I’ve managed to interview the directors--Drew, Greg Mottola, Mike Judge--and we always get sidetracked on you. Like with EXTRACT, Mike Judge came to Chicago and we did a big screening of the film, and we talked about how your role is not a jokey part; it’s actually kind of a tragic part.
KW: Yeah, it’s good. I don’t want to do jokey stuff.
Capone: I love that movie so much.
KW: It’s a great movie, and Mike Judge is extremely talented. I’ve been a fan of his for years, so I was really lucky to be in that movie.
Capone: I’m sure you get variations on this question a lot of times, but the differences in terms of the muscles you get to flex in a movie versus live TV, what are some of the differences there?
KW: Definitely the performing and the type of material on SNL is much more, well, it’s sketch comedy. It’s a different genre than the film work I’ve done. Obviously in film, you get to do as many takes as you want, and in live TV you really can’t. It’s almost a completely different set of muscles, I think. Sketch comedy also is… you know, you’re wearing wigs and the crazier you are the better and I find, with film roles for me, I gravitate more towards grounded stuff, so I kind of want to do the gamut of it. I like to consider myself an actor and not a comedian, but I don’t know how the world sees me. [laughs]
Capone: It’s certainly starting to see you that way for sure.
KW: I hope so.
Capone: Like I said WHIP IT forced an adjustment in thinking about what you are capable of.
KW: I appreciate that. That’s very nice for me to hear.
Capone: Has there been a character you have created for SNL that as soon as you preformed it you thought, “Yeah, we’re never going to do that again.”
KW: [laughs] Oh yeah. That happens all of the time.
Capone: Any particularly memorable times when you felt that way?
KW: I’ve done one character a couple of times at a read-through table that… It went well, but I don’t know if they would ever use it. I’m playing like an old Italian man, sort of like a "Sopranos" guy that kind of has slicked back hair and big Martin Scorsese glasses, but it’s never made it to air. They haven’t let me try that one.
Capone: Any that have made it further?
KW: Well there was a sketch I did, my character’s name was Trina. I did it with Steve Martin and with Gerard Butler where I say “Thomas.” His name is Thomas and the first time I did it I was like “Yeah, so Thomas…”
Capone: Oh sure, you were at a party in one of the sketches and you just kept repeating the name.
KW: [high-pitched voice] Right. "Thomas. Thomas." The first time I did it, I was like “Oh there’s no way this is going to go.” That was silent, but then it made it to air and I was like “Alright…”. And then the two guys, Kent and James, that I wrote it with, they were like, “Should we do another one?” I was like, “Why would we do another one? There’s no way anyone wants to see that again.” They were like “Let’s just write it,” so we wrote it, and then it made the show and then it went on the air again and I was like “I don't…Okay…” [Laughs] And it did go better the second time we did it, but the whole time I was like, “There’s no way. This is so crazy. She’s just saying 'Thomas!'''
You can just never tell, and there are other things that you think are going to go great and then they just don’t. That’s one thing that I really love about my job, but at the same time it’s so frustrating sometimes how you just have no idea what’s going to work. Something can be the funniest thing at the read-through table and then on air it’s just dead. You can’t predict what people are going to like.
Capone: It’s funny, the documentary [the James Franco-directed SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, which follows an entire episode's creation from start to finish] that’s here and came up during the Q&A and you probably knew it was here anyway, but…
KW: Did you see it?
Capone: No, I’m seeing it Friday, but I’ve heard great things from so many people who have seen it. And all I can think of is “I would like to see this for every episode.” I would like to see how those other episodes are created. Everyone has got to be completely different.
KW: Yeah, I have not seen it and I probably won't see it only because I don’t like watching myself, but I’ve heard that it’s great and I hear that it’s getting good buzz and stuff which is cool.
Capone: It was so wonderful to meet you.
KW: It was nice to meet you, too. I appreciate all the kind words, really. Thank you very much.
Capone: Thanks a lot.
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