News Column

Nothing's exactly likely for Kristen Wiig

July 19, 2013

YellowBrix

July 19--During Kristen Wiig's final minutes as a "Saturday Night Live" regular, Mick Jagger serenaded her with "She's a Rainbow" and the rest of the cast lined up for a farewell dance with her.

"When I got onstage, I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I'm leaving,' " she says. Although the episode aired in May 2012, she didn't watch the lump-in-the-throat moment herself until November.

Graduating from late-night TV was inevitable for the versatile comic actress after the success of the 2011 comedy "Bridesmaids." The movie earned star and cowriter Wiig a best original screenplay Oscar nomination, made $169 million domestically and convinced Hollywood that female-driven comedies could be just as lucrative as male-dominated ones.

At the moment, Wiig has two projects at the box office. She's the voice of Lucy, the not-so-monstrous Gru's love interest, in "Despicable Me 2," which has earned more than $240 million in about two weeks. And her latest film, the quirky small comedy "Girl Most Likely," opens Friday.

In the latter, she plays Imogene, a struggling playwright whose status-seeking New York life crumbles when her job prospects and relationship evaporate. She lands back home in New Jersey with her flamboyant mother (Annette Bening), shy brother (Christopher Fitzgerald), Mom's mysterious spy boyfriend (Matt Dillon) and a handsome young renter who has taken over Imogene's former bedroom (University of Michigan grad Darren Criss).

For the woman who reveled in complete comic transformation on "SNL" as the Target Lady, troublemaking schoolgirl Gilly, small-hands singing sister Dooneese and bizarre braggart Penelope, the film offers a chance to play the subdued center of sanity in a raging storm of Jersey shore eccentricity.

Wiig says she read the script before "Bridesmaids" started filming and loved Michelle Morgan's writing and the complexities of the lead character.

"I liked in the beginning what a mess (Imogene) is," she says. "She's very into society and how she's perceived. She's a little dismissive of her past and almost embarrassed of her life in New Jersey and her family. On paper, that can seem very unlikable, but the way that Michelle wrote it, it was funny and there was something relatable to it. You kind of felt sorry for her and knew where she was coming from, that she was just really lost."

For much of the story, Imogene struggles to put the pieces of her life back together while clad in leftover T-shirts and shorts from her circa-1990s youth.

"Yeah, she is a little sad," says Wiig with a laugh. "That wardrobe helped."

Wiig seems as calm and pleasantly guarded in conversation as her "SNL" characters are uninhibitedly bizarre. When she guested on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" this week, she spent one segment pretending to be basketball great Michael Jordan (while wearing a lame bald cap) and another letting Fallon do most of the talking.

She sounds as if she's still getting used to being a movie star and calls the "Bridesmaids" premiere the most surreal moment of that successful ride.

"It really hits home when you pull up to the theater and see the title on the marquee and the carpet's out and people are there and you're thinking: 'Oh my gosh. It's being released. This is happening.' "

She admits she's still adjusting to her "SNL" departure. "It was the place you went every day," she recalls. "It was your second home. Sometimes, it felt like your first home."

This summer, she'll be in Los Angeles shooting "Welcome to Me," a drama with comedic moments, as she describes it, about a woman who wins the lottery and spends her prize on creating her own cable talk show.

She'll also appear opposite Ben Stiller in "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" and Will Ferrell in "Anchorman: The Legend Continues." And she plays Patty Hearst in an upcoming episode of Comedy Central's "Drunk History."

Wiig would love to work with any and all of the women from "Bridesmaids again," just not in a sequel. "We have a very special bond," she says.

But she insists there's no Team Kristen planning her next high-powered move at a boardroom table somewhere.

"No, oh God, no," she says with a laugh. "There really is not a big-picture strategy. I'm a pretty much day-by-day, go-with-your-gut person. All the projects are just very separate. I don't think, 'Oh, I want to do a movie right now' or 'I want to do this kind of movie.' "

Wiig is most likely to keep things simple. "I read scripts, and if something hits me I investigate it further or whatever," she says. "But I don't have a big master plan."

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