I'm in Beverly Hills for a screening of Kristen Wiig's new film The Skeleton Twins, and I've arrived early and hungry. I walk down Wilshire Boulevard -- with Amy Winehouse's "Tears Dry On Their Own" playing in my head -- and happen upon a swanky restaurant/bar, just in time for their happy hour specials. I order Jameson and appetizers as I talk with a striking hostess, who glides up to the bar in a tiny black dress.
Before I know it, I'm running late. I rush up Wilshire and settle into my seat for the screening.
Kristen Wiig is one of the most talented comedic actresses in the business, but I have no idea what The Skeleton Twins is about, only that it stars Wiig and the fantastic Bill Hader. I figure I'm in for 90 minutes of fun, zany laughs, and my mind drifts to other things: Alexa Chung, American Apparel billboards, Starbuck's red holiday takeout cups, Joe Cocker's "Just Like Always," and having another Jameson with the hostess in the tiny black dress. I wonder if there's time to go back for one more?
The Skeleton Twins begins.
It's not what I'm expecting, and I'm instantly impressed. There are many laughs, but, unlike Wiig's sidesplitting work on Saturday Night Live and in films such as Bridesmaids, it's not a farcical production. The Skeleton Twins, which opens in theaters on September 12, beautifully tells the story of two estranged, emotionally wounded twins (Wiig and Hader) who reunite -- after botched suicide attempts -- to repair their damaged relationship. It's a moving film, with Wiig turning in a powerful dramatic performance, conveying an outwardly content wife's self-destructive inner feelings. (There's also an amazing lip sync sequence to Starship's 1987 power ballad "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" that I'd like to watch about 5 more times.)
The film ends.
Now, I'm at the Beverly Hills Four Seasons, sitting in a room with Kristen Wiig. Since Bridesmaids, she's become a bankable Hollywood commodity. Bill Murray suggested she star in an all-female Ghostbusters remake. Did Kristen ever expect to become this famous?
"When you're trying to be an actor, you don't ever think you're going to end up here," Wiig says, modestly referring to her stature in the entertainment world. "I feel so lucky. I started at The Groundlings. I did little shows in backyards and garages. You hope you can make a living doing something like this, but it's always a surprise. You never expect it. I feel very lucky. I did just hear that Bill Murray mentioned my name. That's nice, because Bill Murray is a hero of mine. If he mentions my name, I'm happy about that."
Kristen and Bill Hader are very good friends. Did having a close, real-life relationship help make their onscreen relationship more believable?
"It absolutely helped," she says. "Bill and I have been friends for almost 10 years. It helps to have someone there that you're really close to, especially someone that's supposed to play your sibling and to do some of those more difficult scenes as well as the comedic scenes. It helps to know each other the way that we do. We know how the other person works and reacts. It just made it so much easier to do our own jobs, and it was also great for me to watch."
Improvising can enhance onscreen authenticity. Did Kristen and Bill Hader improvise in The Skeleton Twins to authenticate their characters or did they stick to the script?
"So much of it was on the page," Wiig explains. "There wasn't a lot of improv. Reading the script, you knew exactly who they were. A lot of times you have to ask a lot of questions about where a character is coming from in a certain situation. I just felt like I knew both of these characters so well. It was in the script. It was all there."
The Skeleton Twins is difficult to categorize. It deals with dark subjects like depression and suicide, but also contains a steady flow of laughs. How does Kristen hope the film will be labeled?
"As long as they don't call it just a comedy and as long as they don't call it just a drama," she says. "It's heavy subject matter with a lot of comedic moments."
I return home, and procrastinate at my desk. I try to work on this Kristen Wiig piece, but it's 90 degrees in Los Angeles and I don't feel like writing. I walk to a nearby café where the sublime and hilarious Melissa McCarthy is sitting with friends. I wonder if Melissa McCarthy could also deliver a strong dramatic performance? I'd bet she could. Brilliant comedic artists -- Robin Williams, Jim Carrey, Adam Sandler, Steve Carell, Bill Murray -- tend to deliver the goods dramatically as well. I think about Adam Sandler in Punch Drunk Love and Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting, and then my mind drifts to other things: Trader Joe's dark chocolate, Vitamin D3, Sofia Coppola, kettlebell swings, J.D. Salinger's "Franny and Zooey," my "Check Engine" light, and the swanky restaurant/bar hostess in the tiny black dress.
I finally begin writing, but again get distracted, examining the napkin on which the hostess in the tiny black dress gave me her cell number. As I contemplate the brutal nature of the LA dating scene, I find the only note I scribbled down about Kristen Wiig and her performance in The Skeleton Twins: "There is nothing sexier than extreme talent."