From "Knocked Up" and "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," to "Date Night" and, most recently, "Paul," there's no question Kristen Wiig has more than had her fair share of movie roles.
But as many times as she appeared in front of the camera, the "Saturday Night Live" star admits the adjustment from creating live comedy to making films is still a tricky one. "When you do a skit on 'SNL,' it takes about two or three seconds to hear whether people think it's funny or not, and it's done," Wiig explained in a recent interview.
"You know it's a good show as you're doing it." "But with movies, you could be shooting a scene for four days and laughing your ass off along the way, but still don't know whether it will work with audiences," Wiig added. "You have to sit with a full theater in previews to find out if it's funny or not. Sometimes it isn't and it gets cut from the movie. You just never know entirely.
"If the reaction to the previews for Wiig's new film is any indication, "Bridesmaids" entirely works. In fact, the bawdy R-rated comedy romp is already being compared by many to the comic genius of "The Hangover," the 2009 blockbuster that is also the most successful R-rated comedy of all time. Opening in theaters Friday, Wiig stars as Annie, a lovelorn thirtysomething whose life unravels when her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) gets engaged and anoints her maid of honor. Suddenly a participant in a set of bizarre pre-wedding rituals with a group colorful bridesmaids (Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper, Melissa McCarthy), Annie goes completely off the rails when Lillian's other bridesmaid and best friend wannabe, Helen (Rose Byrne), attempts to upstage Annie at every turn.
A Groundlings Reunion
"Bridesmaids" is largely grounded in the comedic prowess of several alumni from Los Angeles' famed Groundlings improvisational troupe, including Wiig, Rudolph ("SNL"), McLendon-Covey ("Reno 911") and McCarthy ("Mike & Molly").
"I can honestly say that I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for The Groundlings," Wiig said, humbly. "To have the some people from there in the movie was so huge for me." And as a bonus, "Bridesmaids" became a family reunion of sorts since many of the cast members' careers have gone in so many different directions since their time with the group. "People just assume that because you've done work together before that you live in the same house, or that Maya and Kristen live so close that they borrow a cup of sugar from each other all the time," joked McLendon-Covey.
"But the truth is, you go a long time without seeing people. Ten years ago, Kristen and I went to Melissa's house for a wedding shower, and that's also where we met Maya for the first time. It was a Groundlings Girls wedding shower, and the four of us just happened to be there. The crazy thing is, here we are again 10 years later doing a movie about bridesmaids."
Letting Others Shine
While "Bridesmaids" marks Wiig's big-screen screenwriting debut (she co-wrote the screenplay with yet another Groundlings alum, Annie Mumolo), she made it a point not to be too strict over the enforcement of the script -- especially given the company she was in.
"We all knew that we would still serve the story and not venture away from what Kristen and Annie wrote," McLendon-Covey said. "We're all trained to let the other person have their moment. When it's not appropriate to speak, we know enough to shut up and let the other person shine."
Besides, one of the producers of "Bridesmaids" is comedy maestro is Judd Apatow -- and when you're on one of his films, Wiig said, there better be a lot of extra celluloid on hand.
"Judd is a big fan of keeping the camera rolling, and I'm with him -- I say go as far as you want," Wiig explained. "One of the reasons we hired the people that we did was because they were such great improvisers."
Wiig said the method for utilizing their uniquely talented cast was relatively straightforward: once the framework for the scenes was laid out with a read-through of the script on the set, the actors (herself included) were turned loose.
"We'd watch everyone go crazy, say whatever they want and go to places we didn't even think about," Wiig recalled. "We wanted to take these characters we created, and make them much more well-rounded, intricate and really funny."
One of the places Wiig and company didn't think about going, initially, was the film's food poisoning scene (to be more specific, the bridesmaids each have some very extreme physical reactions to some bad food), since it was added after filming began. A gut-busting scene, so to speak, it requires most of the cast members to either vomit or suffer from explosive -- well, you get the picture.
"When I found out about that scene, I thought, 'Oh, gosh, I don't know about this,' but it was fun doing it," enthused McLendon-Covey, who was required to barf on cue. "I definitely had a good time filming that day."
"Bridesmaids" also stars "Mad Men" stud Jon Hamm as Annie's loathsome sex buddy, and Irish actor Chris O'Dowd (the affable Simple Simon in the under-appreciated British comedy "Pirate Radio"), who plays a highway patrolman who catches the eye of the aimless Annie.Wiig believes the rugged O'Dowd is exactly the sort of guy's guy that male audience members will easily relate to: one more reason -- in addition to the film's raunchy laughs -- why she feels "Bridesmaids" is a movie that's every bit as fun for men as it is women.
"It is definitely not a chick flick," Wiig beamed.