Editor’s Note: This post from the SXSW Film Festival is presented in partnership with Time Warner Cable Movies On Demand in support of Indie Film Month. Today’s pick, “Welcome to Me,” is available now On Demand. Need help finding a movie to watch? Let TWC find the best fit for your mood here.
Kristen Wiig is very busy. So busy that when Indiewire was told we could only get 10 minutes with her to discuss “Welcome to Me,” her latest indie to hit theaters and VOD, we took what we could get with a smile.
This year alone, the “Saturday Night Live” alum stars in a whopping five films. Three of these — “Welcome to Me,” “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” and “Nasty Baby” — have already screened at various festivals (“Welcome to Me” is out now, the other two are awaiting release), while the remaining two — “Masterminds” and “The Martian” — are studio pictures set to open before the end of the year. On top of promoting all five this year, Wiig is busy making more for the coming year, including the female-led “Ghostbusters” revamp, which reunites her with her “Bridesmaids” director Paul Feig, and “Zoolander 2.” And in July, you can catch her on Netflix’s eight-episode series prequel to “Wet Hot American Summer.”
Of all her projects this year, “Welcome to Me” is likely the one to feature her standout performance. In the dark comedy, written by Eliot Laurence and directed by Shira Piven (“Fully Loaded”), Wiig plays Alice Klieg, a mentally unstable woman who wins the Mega-Millions lottery, goes off her meds and decides to use her fortune to launch her own TV talk show. Wringing laughs out of a character who’s mentally ill is dicey, but Wiig somehow pulls it off by staying sincere to Alice. The feat has garnered Wiig some of the strongest reviews of her career since the film’s premiere at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival.
You have a lot going on this year. What do you say no to, I’m just curious?
[laughs] You can never control when things come out. A lot of the stuff you shoot years ago, and it takes — for instance, “The Martian,” that we shot a long time ago, and “Masterminds” we just shot last summer, and it’s…yeah.
Do you find it overwhelming? The timing of everything?
I want to make sure that they are spaced out properly, because I don’t want people to get sick of me, and you just have no control over it. It’s so weird. I could work every day for a year and nothing comes out, and then all of a sudden things come out at the same time.
I’m not sick of you, which says something.
Not yet. [laughs]
But you’re obviously in demand. What about a project has to chiefly appeal to you for you to want to take it on? Your career path post-“Bridesmaids” hasn’t been a predictable one.
It’s such a simple answer and it’s so boring —
— it’s just the script.
Really, that’s all that it comes down to?
I mean that’s not all that it comes down to, but if someone says, “Oh there’s this script, it’s Martin Scorcese,” I’ll be like, “I really don’t need to read it. I’m in.” [laughs] Obviously, the director is a part of it too. This one in particular, I read it and it was like page three, I was like, “I’m in” I love the script, I love the writer, I love the character, and the whole story and all the other characters. I just love character-driven material, especially ones that are just so specific, and Eliot [Laurence] is such a good writer.
Did you see Alice in clearly defined terms when you first read the material? Because she’s a hard one to pin down.
She is. I know, when people are like “Describe your character,” I’m like “I can’t.”
I liked to ask Eliot a lot of questions when we were doing things. I’m a writer too, so I understand that when you’re writing something and you’re creating these people you have such a connection to them. You know them, and in your mind you know what they look like and how they stand and how they move and how they would dress. I really wanted to get as much as I could out of Eliot as, like, even when she just looks at stuff. I just wanted to get it right because I loved her so much, and I wanted to put in what I got from it, but I really wanted to collaborate with him and Shira [Piven] to honor the script as much as possible. I don’t know if that makes sense, but yeah.
About honoring the script, did you also feel a necessity to honor her mental illness?
Oh, yeah. I mean that was the first thing we talked about was the tone of the movie. Because this movie, making fun of her or laughing at her to me is a totally different and frankly uninteresting story. I think relating to her and being able to laugh, just because she sometimes does things that are funny, to me is more interesting. We were very sensitive to the fact that she has this illness and that that’s just part of who she is. That’s not why we’re laughing or why we’re crying, it’s just part of who she is. I just wanted to respect that and be educated about it. If she’s funny it’s because she did something funny, not because she’s got this illness.
Did that make you more protective of her in a way? Especially when screening the film with audiences, like in Toronto.
Yeah, it’s funny because I’ve done a couple other films where there are scenes that I thought weren’t that funny, and people laugh and I was kind of like, “Oh gosh.” And I did feel like I was watching someone laugh at someone I know. The comedic stuff: you never know what people are going to laugh at ever. That’s what makes even just being on “SNL” exciting. You just never know what people are going to respond to, and you’re always surprised. It’s never what you think, and they laugh at things you don’t think they’re going to laugh at, it’s just the way it goes. Of course with this there were things that I wasn’t sure people were going to laugh at, but I think this was a little more obvious as to what was funny. I was really nervous in the scene in the hotel room when I’m having that breakdown, I was really scared people were going to laugh. [laughs]
Did they laugh in Toronto during that scene?
I mean, they didn’t laugh. It’s not a funny scene at all, but again it’s me and it’s happened before. I think I just will always have a little bit of that nervousness.
Well, one of those scenes that can elicit either laughter or outright shock is the scene where you go full frontal in the casino. The press in Toronto really ran with that scene following the film’s premiere. Did it occur to you before making the movie that the scene would garner so much press?
I mean, you definitely know it’s going to be talked about, because it’s nudity. [laughs] And it’s just not that common. But it was something when I read it, I knew, okay if I do this movie I have to do this scene. I was not about to say, “I want to do it but let’s change this.” The vulnerability of her and her walking through the casino naked, and me as a performer just doing the part, we’re kind of connected. I was like, “Well if I’m going to do this, if Alice is going to do this, then I’m going to do this with her.” I don’t know if that makes sense, but I just knew that I had to do it. I was scared for the obvious reasons, because I’m an actor, and I’m a woman and I’m naked. People are going to talk about that. People are going to talk about my body and people are going to talk about what I look like, and that’s just the nature of the world. But for me, after I did it the first time it was so incredibly freeing. I was like, “Wow, I’m naked! Here I am, fuck it!” [laughs]
I was explaining it to my dad and I was like “It’s not sexual!” Like that makes it any better. [laughs]
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