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Wondercon

A Chat With Kristen Wiig and Wendi McLendon-Covey

Box Office Prophets – May 2011

By Ryan Mazie

Never the bride, but always the bridesmaid. Applied to Hollywood, this saying would perfectly fit the career of Kristen Wiig. Although she has been in 14 movies in five years, Wiig has always played the role of co-star. However, it is now time for the Saturday Night Live star player to prove her box office clout in her first lead role with Bridesmaids. She also co-wrote and co-produced the film, which is sealed with the Judd Apatow raunchy stamp of approval. Bridesmaids is Wiig’s first chance to show that she can command audiences on the silver screen as well as on their TV sets.

Wiig plays Annie, a hapless, jobless, and man-less, baker who views being selected as her best friend’s (SNL alum Maya Rudolph) maid of honor as an opportunity to turn her life around. Yet, Annie keeps hitting new lows as the personality-clashing group of bridesmaids sends her friendship and sanity into a tailspin.

In Boston to promote the film, Wiig speaks in a roundtable interview with BOP alongside co-star Wendi McLendon-Covey. Recognized from her lead role on Reno 911!, McLendon-Covey plays bridesmaid Rita, a harried and vulgar mother of two.
In the interview, the two co-stars talk about wedding movies, working on a set with a predominantly female cast, improv, and Kristen Wiig’s career highlight.

You both have great ad-libbing skills, so how much of the movie is scripted?

Wendi McLendon-Covey: We filmed all of the scenes as scripted, but then there were some scenes that lent themselves to more improv; so we made sure we got the coverage of the scripted version and then they would just let us go. Definitely at the opening engagement party scene where you see all of us for the first time, there was lots of improv for that.

Kristen Wiig: We are being introduced to our characters, so you know, we had done a lot of rehearsal and they had an opportunity to figure out who their characters were, where they were from. So when we meet them at the engagement party, Paul [Feig] was just so great saying, “Just talk.” And it was so much fun to watch all the ladies do their stuff.

The funny thing about the party is that between the whole group of bridesmaids, you have every type of personality.

KW: I mean, we definitely wanted to have each person be different, but not in the way in that you would question how all of these people were in the same room together. Also, after meeting the girls and having them do a lot of improv in the auditions and rehearsal, we rehearsed for a couple weeks…

WMC: I’d say six weeks. And the audition material we were given was not in the film, so we all read the same scenes. It was just who’s gonna do it what way. And then we would make their characters up depending on what their take was on the material.

KW: Yeah, exactly. It just sort of worked out (laughs).

WMC: Where else but a wedding would you put these idiots together? Parties are notorious for putting together a mélange of people who would never be friends.

KW: That might be one of the reasons why there are a lot of movies about weddings. You could put any person you want in the same room (laughs).

That is true about the amount of wedding movies out there, but this one is far more raunchy, just with how the women talk and act. What was the motive behind that?

KW: I feel like when we started writing it, we never saw it as a wedding movie. In the earlier drafts for the first three years, there wasn’t even a wedding in it at the end. We didn’t really set out to make it different from other movies or make any statement about those movies. It’s kind of like you were saying, the wedding is just a backdrop in the way. We just wanted to write a fun script where our friends could come in and play and write something that had a lot of women in it…

WMC: But without being a chick-flick. But so many movies are “Who talks that way?” Nobody I know. We aren’t a bunch of Victorian ladies who speak in code for things. We are very real. We talk about sex and then we talk about our feelings afterwards (laughs). But this is how people are.

KW: Yeah, we drink, we have a good time, we swear.

WMC: All men don’t love sports. Women don’t go shoe-shopping every day and men don’t go to the Super Bowl every day (laughs).

Kristen, we recently saw you in Paul, which had a very male cast compared to Bridesmaids. So how was that environment for you?

KW: Uhmmm, it was very, I don’t know how to answer that. I would say that being on a predominantly female set is rare. Not just in reference to Paul, but besides Whip It, I guess for me, every movie I’ve done has been mostly guys. And Whip It is another example of a movie that has mostly women in it. I hope that it’s not a rare thing for the future to have a comedy or any movie have a lot of women in it. So many people are saying that [Bridesmaids] is this different thing because of that, which is sad to me, to see a poster with six ladies on it as being rare, because there are so many amazing funny women out there who should have the opportunity to do more things like this.

Are you writing anymore female-lead films?

KW: I am finishing up the [Saturday Night Live] season now and we will have to wait for this one to come out, and I am writing something now that is an adaptation of a novel, so there are not that many characters in it.

Where you ever told while writing the script to incorporate more male characters?

KW: Not really. No. That also wasn’t a conscious decision. I know after the fact, people analyze the movie and think a lot of things are deliberate, but we just wrote the script and hoped for the best.

Kristen, you and Maya Rudolph obviously have great chemistry. You riff off of each other really well. Is there any competition to make one another laugh and break out of character?

KW: We did a lot of laughing. We weren’t intentionally trying to make each other laugh, but I remember the scene at the shower where we have the really serious fight and start talking about her bleaching her asshole, that was totally improvised. We were yelling at each other and were kind of looking at each other like, “Are you gonna laugh, because I am going to start laughing,” and then the scene was over and we just started laughing. It was like, “What were we talking about? Could we try that again?”

Maya and I instantly clicked together when I started working with her and we definitely have a second language with each other.

WMC: They cannot not be funny. So in between takes, for me it was just entertaining to sit by and eavesdrop on their conversations, because everything they say is funny. They’ll start talking in different voices, start singing, a dance number might break out (laughs). Those disjointed conversations that you can have with someone you are really close to, no one else can follow them, but those two are…I want a web series from you!

KW: That’s what’s next!

When was the first time someone told you “Hey, you are pretty funny, you should go into comedy”?

KW: I remember going to a birthday party when I was little and someone told me I was weird. I do remember that and it traumatized me, now I realized it’s a compliment. I really don’t remember. I mean, the Groundlings was the first place I found my voice in that way.

WMC: I remember in the first grade, this big, mean girl decided that we were going to be friends. I was real small, sickly pale, and I had this big bully friend. She was really mean, and I figured out the way to make her not be mean, was to make her laugh. So I used it as a protective device.

KW: Like when she was mean to other people?

WMC: No, when she was mean to me. Like to protect my own self. And to avoid getting a spanking. I had to jolly my Mom out of it.

KW: I wish you had video of that.

WMC: I’m sure I was so annoying. I felt like I was Bobby Hill on King of the Hill (laughs). How funny he thinks he is … it’s sad.

Kristen, coming from a sketch comedy background, do you enjoy playing these sustained characters?

KW: It’s so hard to compare, because they are just really two completely different worlds. Sketch characters last for three minutes, they are usually broader, especially with SNL. It’s live and so fast. After the commercial you are playing a completely different person, and with this, it was like, “We are shooting this one again?” (laughs). You get many more opportunities to do the same scene over and over which is also good so it is two different muscles.

From doing sketch comedy to a feature-length film, do you find yourself having to change your comedy style?

KW: I think what is funny is funny and depending on what type of character you play, you just have to get in that zone.

WMC: I think you do change it a little, though, because a sketch is just three minutes long.

KW: It’s like joke, joke, joke, joke, joke.

WMC: You have to be big and broad and get the point across and goodbye. For this you have got to be–

KW: Stretch it out (laughs).

WMC: You have to be more subtle for the reality of it. What was the shoot? Fifty days?

KW: Fifty-one.

WMC: So she has to live with the character of Annie for 51 days. And she is kind of a sad-sack (laughs). Poor Annie’s life is falling apart as we know, so that’s kind of how you have to spend the majority of your day for 51 days as being that person of (gives grave look).

Bridesmaids is late actress Jill Clayburgh’s last film. What was it like working with her?

KW: Oh, that was beyond an honor. She is so funny in the movie. I think there were maybe two or three scenes that got cut with her. She was remarkable. It was a highlight of your career.

Now Kristen, I have to ask you this question, because this will be my only chance to ever ask it. But what was it like to motorboat Helen Mirren on last week’s Saturday Night Live?

KW: Uhm, it was warm. It was – yeah, something I can brag about at dinner parties.

WMC: Now wasn’t that the highlight of your career?

KW: Yes, that was the highlight of my career. That was the highlight.