A late bloomer, who shot to fame in the thirties after making a name for herself in Saturday Night Live, is now hot property in Hollywood.
It's better late than never for comedy actress Kristen Wiig
The phenomenal success of Bridesmaids has made Kristen Wiig hot property in Hollywood. But you might be forgiven for wondering who, exactly, she is. The 37-year-old, whose first film role was in 2007's Knocked Up, has seemingly sneaked up on audiences over the past few years.
Unusually, given how actresses seem to be getting younger with each passing year, Wiig was 30 before she landed her first acting gig, appearing on the little-known The Joe Schmo Show on Spike TV. Her talent was immediately obvious and by 2005 she had landed a job on Saturday Night Live.
One of the advantages of having success later in life is that Wiig had to graduate from the school of hard knocks. She lived in many cities, growing up in Pennsylvania before moving to Arizona where she took her first acting classes. She then got in her car and drove to Los Angeles where she joined The Groundings, a comedy club based in the city. To support herself she took a number of random jobs, but no matter how bad her day-job was, Wiig would always end the day blowing off steam at the comedy club. Her working life became a source for her comedy.
Clearly a master of observation, the comedian has put all these experiences to good use when acting on stage and in her nascent movie career that until Bridesmaids was most notable for appearances in MacGruber and Paul.
Given all of these comedic turns, it's surprising that when I interviewed her in a London hotel earlier this year she told me: "I don't know if I even consider myself a comedian really, I mean, I do comedic acting in some films and dramatic in others."
It's the mixture of comedy and drama that has made Bridesmaids such a hit. The box-office success and comic sensibility have led to many critics calling Bridesmaids the female TheHangover: "That's been going around," says Wiig. "I personally don't see it like that but people are describing it that way. I think because it's a movie with a mostly female cast and a little on the wild side, I guess, the characters are flawed, how real women are and maybe because it's about a wedding as well."
Wiig does more than act in the film: she wrote the screenplay with Annie Mumolo, a fellow graduate of Groundings: "I wrote Bridesmaids with my friend Annie and it's basically two best friends from childhood, one of them gets engaged, and the other one - myself - feels a little left behind because she's got this great life and new friends and one of which is in the wedding, we kind of butt heads and it's really about friendship and letting go and new friends and old friends and planning the wedding."
Her friendship with Mumolo has lasted 10 years, half of which they have been writing Bridesmaids. The genesis of the project came when Judd Apatow - the director of The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, in which Wiig had a scene-stealing turn - asked Wiig if she would write a project that she would star in herself. So she called Mumolo, who came up with the original concept, and they started writing.
She insists that writing a female-orientated comedy wasn't a stipulation set by Apatow, who has mostly been responsible for the concept of "bromance" entering popular cinematic vernacular. She says of her own sensibility: "I'm not what you would call a fangirl, if that's the female version. Of course I grew up watching Star Wars and I saw Battlestar Galactica when I was young, but I was never obsessed with it."
Currently living in New York City, the actress can now cherry-pick from her choice of projects. She's completed six seasons of Saturday Night Live and after Bridesmaids can be seen in Friends With Kids. In Bridesmaids, the Mad Men star John Hamm plays a rich Lothario who makes Wiig's life a misery and Friends With Kids sees them reunited in a film directed by Hamm's real-life partner Jennifer Westfeldt. The film is an observational comedy about a couple who start feeling left out when all their friends start having children.
* Kaleem Aftab