It's been a little while since mainstream audiences have seen Kristen Wiig. After the breakout success of 2011's "Bridesmaids," Wiig has kept something of a low profile, starring in a string of lesser-seen independent features ("Friends With Kids," "Revenge for Jolly!" and "Girl Most Likely"), while putting in a wonderfully nutty supporting role in this year's "Arrested Development" revival on Netflix, and contributing a vocal performance to the smash animated hit "Despicable Me 2."
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But Wiig is back, in a big way.
Wiig costars in two major studio movies -- the hotly anticipated sequel "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues" (once again starring Will Ferrell and directed by Adam McKay) and the movie that we're here to talk about, "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," an ambitious, gorgeously photographed remake of the 1947 Danny Kaye movie, that stars (and is directed by) Ben Stiller.
We got to sit down with Wiig to talk about "Walter Mitty," her offbeat career choices since finding big-time box office success, and who cracked her up the most during her "Saturday Night Live" days.
Moviefone: So, what drew you to "Walter Mitty"?
Kristen Wiig: I had spoken to Ben about it when he hosted "SNL," which is where we met. He brought up that he wanted to talk to me about a project. So he sent over a script, and it was written by Steve Conrad, who I think is a genius. I've been a fan of his for a long time. I loved the script. And I met with Ben shortly after and he talked about the character and what he thought the movie would be and what the feel of it was and the tone of it. We talked about other cast he was thinking of and even the music. It just sounded amazing and like the kind of movie I would want to go see.
Did you ever worry about it?
But there are so many things going on, tonally.
Yes... I mean, you always wonder about your own performance, but as far as the movie, I felt very safe and taken care of knowing Ben was directing.
A lot of the movie rests on you without you being in a lot of it. What surprised you?
[Laughs] It's always great to watch the scenes you weren't there for and so much of this movie is Ben on his journey, going through Iceland and Greenland. You read on the page "Walter is skateboarding through these hills" but when you see it and how majestic it is. I got emotional the first time I saw it. He made a really beautiful film.
You had this great success with "Bridesmaids" and you've made some interesting, more dramatic decisions since. Is that the direction you're going to be going in?
I guess I don't really consciously think about the direction I'm going in as far as a thought-out strategy. I kind of just go by and I read something that I connect with and that could be two scripts a year, it could be five or six. You never really know. I never set out and say, "I want to do something dramatic." It just sort of happens as the material comes in and I just try to be choosy.
And you're continuing to write things?
I wanted to talk to you about another really amazing project you were a part of this year, which is the "Arrested Development" series.
What was that like?
It wasn't even a pitch. I just knew it was coming back, and when Mitch Hurwitz reached out I didn't even know what it was but I said yes right away. It's always daunting playing a younger version of someone who is already in the cast and so funny. Jessica is so unbelievable. I wanted to do a good job. I just think it's one of the best TV shows of all time.
Working with Stiller, who has worked as both an actor and director for so long, do you have aspirations to direct?
Yeah, that's what I'd like to start focusing on later this year. Maybe something someone else has written. Maybe something I have written. I'm not sure. I'm starting to look at stuff now. But that's been an ambition for a long time.
Is there a specific genre you're looking to tackle?
No, it's just going to have to be the right material. It being my first thing, it'll probably be something smaller. I'm not going to be directing the next "Hunger Games." I don't think they're going to come to me!
Looking back on your career at "SNL," who made you crack up the most?
I hate this question! Because it's like choosing between my own children. Towards the end of my last year, it was hard to get through sketches in general because we were bonding and having so much fun. I came in with Bill [Hader] and Jason [Sudeikis] and Andy [Samberg], and we're sort of a class. We'll have that very special bond that people have with other cast members they come in with because you start at the same time and you learn at the same time. So anything those guys did, obviously. But I can't think of a specific person.
You're in "Anchorman 2" and also "Welcome to Me." Was McKay there when you were at "SNL"?
So what's that bond like between you, Will Ferrell, and McKay?
I mean, it's hard to describe. Will is Will and everything he does makes me laugh. We have a very similar sense of humor. We just get along really well and find the same things funny. And McKay is one of the funniest people I have ever met. When we were shooting "Anchorman" and there was an opportunity to improvise, I'd rather him shout things out because whatever he would say would be funnier than what I could come up with.
Was it daunting, in the same way that joining "Arrested Development" was daunting, joining this cast?
Oh, of course. The original "Anchorman" is one of the funniest comedies of all time. I remember the first day of shooting they were all there in their costumes and I couldn't believe I was there, standing in my frizzy wig, thinking, Oh, god. I hope I don't f*ck this up.
"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" opens Christmas day.