Since starring in Bridesmaids and exiting Saturday Night Live as possibly the funniest female cast member in the show’s hallowed history, Kristen Wiig has marched to the beat of her own drummer. Rather then cash in on a Bridemaids sequel or starring in conventional high-concept studio comedies, she branched out and made a series of indies, some known (Friends With Kids, The Skeleton Twins) and some not (Hateship Loveship).
This fall, she was part of the ensemble cast in The Martian and next summer, she’ll be one of the new Ghostbusters. But in director Sebastian Silva’s Nasty Baby, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and opens in theaters on Oct. 23, she’s surprising audiences again with her role as Polly, a single Brooklyn woman who wants to have a baby with her gay artist friend, Freddy (Silva). He’s perfectly willing, but it turns out that he’s not physically able, due to a low sperm count. No problem; they quickly turn to Freddy’s partner, Mo (TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe) for his paternal contribution, but he’s more cautious about the proposal. Meanwhile, the trio is menaced by a neighborhood man (Reg E. Cathey) with potential psychological issues, and his erratic behavior puts major stress on them as they try to start their new family.
The film is full of surprises and Silva, who directed Crystal Fairy and Magical Cactus and Magic Magic, has said that the Toronto International Film Festival rejected Nasty Baby unless he changed the film’s last-act tonal reversal. He was wise to stick to his guns.
Wiig was drawn to working with Silva, and in a conversation with EW, the star discussed making the film on the cheap in Brooklyn, why she chooses the projects that she does, and the imposing challenge of rebooting Ghostbusters.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The film, from the opening scene at the climbing-wall gym (above), feels so organic, just people talking and reacting truthfully. It didn’t feel scripted and rehearsed at all.
KRISTEN WIIG: It wasn’t scripted or rehearsed. The movie was like a 22 page outline, and we kind of discussed what the scene was going to be before we would do it. Going into it knowing it was going to be an improvised film was really something that was very interesting to me. Because I’d never really done any improv in a dramatic sense and it really is quite different. You have to obviously really know who your character is and how they feel about things and their perspective. It really forces you to become that character, just that little bit more, I found.
Was there a natural impulse to play the improv larger or funnier because of your comedy background?
No. Because I knew that’s not what the movie was. When you’re improvising in a comedy, you are still a character and you still have to get that information across, but there’s that added element of creating funny lines off of the top of your head and making jokes. This was not like that. This is just having a conversation as a character with other characters in the movie and creating the scene. It just felt different.
What specifically got you hooked and made you want to do this?
It was Sebastian. I think he’s an incredible filmmaker. I really admire people who do things that are a little off-center in the world of film. It always seems so strange to me that for an artform, there are so many guidelines for what needs to happen by page what and how you’re supposed to feel by minute 45. I’m really proud of this film because there’s such a twist in the second part of the third act. It’s not where it’s supposed to happen. People’s reactions to that is kind of like, “Oh, this is weird.” And for me, I just feel like if things are different and weird — and I mean weird in the sense of being not normal — that’s so great. I don’t want to go see the same movie over and over again. I don’t want to see the same structure all the time, and I think he’s kind of proving that you can tell a story different ways, and that you can watch a movie that you think is one thing and it turns into something else. Because that’s life.
You mentioned how you’re not really interested in repeating yourself, and I’m interested in your professional outlook after Bridesmaids. I imagine that there’s some pressure to do more of the same. Did you have to make a conscious effort to kind of put the breaks on and figure out what exactly you wanted to do with that success? Is it hard to say no when people are backing the metaphorical Brinks trucks up to your door?
It’s not hard to say no to things that you don’t feel passionate about. For me, after Bridesmaids, it wasn’t this deliberate sort of crossing my arms: I’m not doing this any more, I want to do this. I just gravitate towards different things and after that movie, I was like, “Okay, well, that’s done. We did that. And hey, why don’t I try this?” For me, it’s funny that the question is why do you do things that are different rather than asking someone why would they do things that are the same. I love doing comedies, I love doing dramas, I love doing really small films, I’ve enjoyed doing bigger films. It’s just like a feeling you get. It’s not as planned out as people think. I mean, there definitely was a time where I wanted to do more dramatic stuff; that was a conscious choice. But as far as the types of things that I’ve done, it’s just sort of like, I don’t know, you live your day, you get sent material, and you respond to it or you don’t. I find that I know right away if I want to do something, and if it’s not a complete gut feeling of yes I want to do it, then I say no.
So you don’t feel like industry pressure, like, “C’mon you’re Kristen Wiig, This is perfect for you!”
I don’t feel the pressure, no, but I recognize that in the world of Hollywood, it’s abnormal to not just say yes to say yes. I know that after you do something that’s successful, people assume you’re going to do something and it’s not always the case. I don’t know. I don’t really think about it all that much.
Something huge like The Martian, is it the same skill set?
The environment is different, but ultimately, if you close your eyes to everything else when you’re not shooting, it’s you and other actors on a set with lights and a camera and someone says, “Action,” and you try to be your best. That’s true with everything. Some movies you get more takes. Some movies are three-camera. Some movies have better food.
Ridley’s kind of famous for his director’s cuts that come out 10, 25 years later. Part of me’s looking forward to the three-and-half hour version of The Martian because I know there’s more story to all the supporting characters, from Chiwetel Ejiofor to Donald Glover to yourself. Was there tons of stuff you filmed that he had to cull down?
There were a couple things I remember being cut out, but nothing really big that stands out in my mind.
I’ll be fired from my job if I don’t throw you the token Ghostbusters question…
[Laughs] I always feel so bad when people ask me because I have nothing to offer. I don’t know what to say!
Well, I’m interested in when this machine started to rev up, when a Ghostbusters script comes your way, or your agent talks about Ghostbusters, do you have any reservations about taking this on? What was your decision making process that got you onboard?
I mean, it’s not that complicated of an answer. It’s actually kind of boring. Paul [Feig] was involved so that was the first thing that intrigued me. Then I read the script, and and he and Katie Dippold just wrote a really smart, funny story. I just thought all the characters were great. The nods to the first two [movies] are so subtle and respectful and funny. I really fell in love with the script. And of course, I wanted to work with Paul again and Melissa, and I loved Kate and Leslie. They’ve all become my family from shooting this movie. We had an amazing time. It was so fun.