After breaking out in Bridesmaids and graduating from Saturday Night Live, the actress proves that funny is in fashion.
Kristen Wiig would like you to know that she looks fabulous for 72 (“73 in August”). And it’s true—she could totally pass for a woman in her 30s. Sitting in New York’s Greenwich Hotel, Wiig is wearing a black minidress, a matching jacket, and flat Repetto boots that make her feet look “freakishly small.” Her hair is back to a reddish color after a stint on the dark side, and following two months in Los Angeles she has something resembling a tan. “Sometimes I tan a little,” she says, “but I’m not like tan.” Then she orders a glass of red wine.
I first met Wiig (provenance of name, Norway; upbringing of person, Rochester, New York) at a movie premiere in 2009. She was then four years into Saturday Night Live, and its undisputed star. We saw each other again at an SNL party, and she was the warmest person there. “A barbecue place, right?” she recalls. “Basically a barn.”
It was two years before Bridesmaids, which she cowrote (with Annie Mumolo) and starred in, and which made almost $300 million at the box office, prompting both a belated realization that “female” comedies could make money and an instant demand for a sequel. It was a proposal that Wiig, despite being offered the world, immediately rejected. “It wasn’t a hard decision,” she says. “We knew during the first one, this was it. We would have made a lot of money if there was a second one, but that’s not my goal in my creative life.”
Her pragmatism may stem somewhat from the fact that she was a full-fledged grown-up when stardom hit. Wiig studied art at a college in Tucson, and was about to take a job at a plastic surgeon’s office before “freaking out” and packing up to join the celebrated Groundlings improv company in L.A. She started on SNL in 2005 and instantly imprinted herself—or, rather, nuttier, older, slightly mutant versions of herself—on the public’s consciousness. “For five minutes you’re playing this crazy person who no one wants to be around,” she explains. “Crazy” could apply to just about any one of her cult characters, from Lillia (“Don’t make me sing”) to the Target Lady to Michele Bachmann. “It’s very rewarding and exhilarating because you get to step out of the bullshit.
“I think the universe did me a favor, getting into it when I did,” she continues. “If I had been younger, I would not have been ready. If I had gotten SNL 10 years earlier, it wouldn’t have been good.”
But it was good—very good. SNL, which farewelled Wiig last year to a serenade of “She’s a Rainbow” and a dance with Mick Jagger, clearly misses her terribly. On a recent episode hosted by Justin Timberlake, he was inducted into the “Five Timers Club” with a cocktail called the Kristen Wiig—which was, yes, a cocktail with a wig. Ask Wiig what this drink would be in actuality and the recipe is this: “A bucket of dreams. Oh, you mean like liquid? The base would be dry shampoo. Cacao bits. Two straws, just to hope someone splits it with you. And it’s served with lipstick on the rim already, so you don’t have to worry about it.”
Wiig misses the cast members as much as they miss her. “When I was on SNL, Saturday night was my favorite night,” she says. “Now that I’m not on the show, it makes me sad. I don’t cry, though. Well, there’s a lot of solitary weeping because I’m a sensitive actress.” She chuckles. “But it is really hard to watch. Because I know that when the sketch is over, everyone is running around, changing costumes, and at like 2 A.M., everyone’s hanging out at the party. It’s been one of the hardest things to let go of, it really has.”
But onward. In July, Wiig, whose onscreen characters often serve up a bit of melancholy with the humor, stars in Girl Most Likely as a playwright who fakes a suicide attempt to win back an ex-boyfriend but ends up in the custody of her gambling-addict mother (Annette Bening). Then it’s to the flip side, playing Ben Stiller’s beloved in the drama The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, out this Christmas. Also in December comes the long-gestating (and hugely anticipated) Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, with Will Ferrell. “I am so excited about that,” Wiig says. “I don’t know why this is happening to me.”
Anyone who watched Wiig and Ferrell’s hilarious riff when they presented at the Golden Globes does. The two have a manic magic together, the result of little preparation (“we knew we would have no idea what the films were”) and a lot of improvisation. “Right before we went on, Will was like, ‘This is either gonna go over great or it’s going to be a huge turd.’?” It was, of course, the former.
With all this success come mobility, choices, and, naturally, challenges. Wiig is still getting used to having people stare at her on the street. “When people first started recognizing me, they always gave me a second look because they didn’t really know what I looked like. For a long time it was my job to be an unattractive older woman or a creepy-looking child.” Now, thanks to the paparazzi, going to the deli to “buy Scotch tape in pajamas” is not an option. She laughs at a New York Post “Page Six” item about a Wiig sighting at JFK airport in “massive (bleep)-me” Christian Louboutins. “I did have fuck-me boots on,” she says solemnly. “But I wasn’t dressed to the nines.”
Being a celebrated woman can be its own adventure, especially when it comes to dating. “Some guys are more comfortable with it than others,” says Wiig. “I think it has to do with how I react to things and how comfortable they are with the weird reality of being with someone who’s in the public eye. You just have to have the conversation about it.”
Wiig, who describes her personal life as a “closed door,” says, “Once you open it, you can’t close it again, and you don’t want things in your life to be affected by the unpredictability and craziness of this business, because there’s no control over what happens.” Her ideal: “Having a constant. Something reliable. When people find that, they’re very lucky.”
Yet she is making her own luck—following her gut and being loosely prolific, from directing a short film she wrote, writing another script, drawing (her typical girl sketch has jaunty That Girl hair, even though she fancies growing hers “down to my ass—like Crystal Gayle”), and guest-starring in the new season of Arrested Development.
Which means, of course, more red carpets. When Wiig first started doing press, she would often hear the refrain, “Oh, you’re a normal person! You’re not wearing turtlenecks and sweatshirts with Christmas trees on them.” She laughs. “But I do…in the winter.” She rattles off her favorite designers: “Lanvin, Marc Jacobs, Stella McCartney, Céline, Alexander McQueen. Oh, Rick Owens! Those Rick Owens dresses are insane. Victoria Beckham!” Wiig takes another sip of wine. “But could you say at the end of this article that I was topless the entire time?”
© 2013 Laura Brown, HARPER’S BAZAAR.