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Why Has Everyone From 'Bridesmaids' Landed Big New Gigs Except Its Leading Lady Kristen Wiig?

by Oliver Lyttelton
June 16, 2011 9:28 AM
16 Comments
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Did The 'Game-Changing' Comedy Really Change Anything?



As we've already discussed at length, "Bridesmaids" is not only one of the best films of the year so far, but also a big, giant hit. Already the third-biggest grosser in the Judd Apatow stable, it's had hugely impressive legs, dropping fractionally week-on-week and is heading to at least a $150 million domestic gross, and possibly even more. And, as is usual with hits, most of those involved have gotten big career boosts: Apatow is back on top after a string of under-performers, breakout star Melissa McCarthy has lined up two "Bridesmaids" reunions, one with writer Annie Mumolo, the other with director Paul Feig and star Jon Hamm, romantic lead Chris O'Dowd bagged a gig in the "Knocked Up" sequel/spin-off, and Ellie Kemper joined the cast of "21 Jump Street."

But something's a little off here. These announcements have all arrived in the five weeks since the movie opened, but not a peep has been heard from the film's lead, "Saturday Night Live" veteran Kristen Wiig, who not only starred, but also served as a co-writer and co-producer on the project. Not long after her scene-stealing turn in "Knocked Up," producer Apatow approached Wiig with the idea, Wiig in turn took it to her old friend, Mumolo, and the pair worked on the script together bicoastally over a series of years. It's a film that wouldn't exist without her, and yet she doesn't seem to be getting the boost, despite virtually every review, including the handful of negative ones, praising her performance to the skies. How come?

Wiig, who's also coming off a strong performance in the moderate hit "Paul," was in the running to join Sacha Baron Cohen in "The Dictator" before "Bridesmaids" landed, but lost out to Anna Faris. Earlier in the year, she told us that she hoped to be shooting dark comedy "Imogene," from "Cinema Verite" team Shari Spring Berman and Robert Pulcini this summer, but there's been no further news (though we're hoping this is the calm before the storm on that front). While she hadn't then yet begun her adaptation of Monica Drake's novel "Clown Girl," which she optioned a while back, and considering she's been on the "Bridesmaids" publicity train ever since, she probably hasn't gotten much further on it.

But there's been no news on a Wiig project, either old or new, since "Bridesmaids" which feels off: for the most part, when a Jonah Hill or a Seth Rogen or a Russell Brand have a hit, they seem to have offers coming out of their eyeballs. And virtually everyone else involved seems to have done well off the film immediately: the director, the producer, the co-writer, the surprise break-out stars (McCarthy and Hamm), even some of the supporting players, like Kemper and O'Dowd. But no Wiig.

Some might put it down to her long-running TV commitment, but that doesn't quite scan: while no cast shake-ups have been announced yet, it's widely expected that both Wiig and Jason Sudeikis will leave "Saturday Night Live" shortly, considering their blossoming movie careers. Even if Wiig does stay for one final season (or even a half-season, as Amy Poehler did), she still has three months remaining of her hiatus before she has to be back at SNL. And TV conflicts haven't stopped "Bridesmaids" co-star Melissa McCarthy, who stars in the hit "Mike & Molly," from lining up film roles.

It could simply be that she's recuperating: the exhausting press tour for "Bridesmaids" (and "Paul" before that), combined with the weekly SNL gig can't have been easy for her. And maybe a big-screen remake of "Cagney & Lacey" teaming Wiig and Anna Faris, or something, will be announced this evening, and we'll look like fussy pricks (but when is that not the case?). But really, we suspect that it comes to down to a lack of material. It seems ridiculous to say it about someone as talented as Wiig, but at 38, she's the wrong side of 30 for the tastes of most Hollywood executives ( Ellie Kemper is 31, but plays younger, hence her casting as Channing Tatum's love interest in "21 Jump Street"), and exists in the weird no man's land of female roles between 'girlfriend' and 'mom.'

Generally speaking, if actresses want a decent role, they have to generate it themselves -- which is what Wiig did for "Bridesmaids" and looks to continue to do, or else hope that an older male star like Baron Cohen or Simon Pegg (who's never carried a hit the size of Wiig's film, but has no problem getting work), is happy to have an age-appropriate, faintly three-dimensional love interest. But without a benefactor like Apatow -- who we hope continues to support his female cast as much as he has the likes of Seth Rogen and Jason Segel -- she may still struggle to get darker projects like "Imogene" and "Clown Girl" made, let alone something as brutal as Rogen's "Observe and Report" or as expensive as Danny McBride's "Your Highness." For all the big talk and chest-puffing op-eds the media ran on the idea of "Bridesmaids" being a game-changer, as far as female-driven comedies go, we're not yet convinced that it's succeeded in opening the doors that should have been opened long ago. At least not yet.

In fact, aside from Kemper and McCarthy, few of the film's female cast seem to have been able to capitalize on the film's success so immediately. With Maya Rudolph, it's understandable: she's currently pregnant with her third child with director Paul Thomas Anderson and she'll be appearing in the fall alongside Christina Applegate and Will Arnett in the hotly tipped parenting sitcom "Up All Night," so she doesn't have much room for a movie project even if the offers were coming in. But Wendi McLendon-Covey and Rose Byrne, as strong in the film as anyone else, don't have anything lined up, either, and it's a little confusing.

It's particularly baffling in the case of Byrne, considering she hasn't just had one big hit in the first half of this year, she's had three, with "Insidious" and "X-Men First Class" joining the Apatow comedy. While she was perhaps initially dismissed as just a pretty face after "Troy," she's proven herself to be a hugely talented and versatile actress, particularly showing a surprising flair for comedy after stealing the show with a hilarious turn in last year's "Get Him to the Greek." And yet, more or often than not, she's stuck in thankless girlfriend/wife roles, like those in "Knowing" or 'X-Men,' whereas at the very least she should be going up for the same kind of parts as Anne Hathaway, for instance.

Maybe we're being alarmist (probably so), but we know that we'd be dying to get any of these actresses cast in a project tout suite if we had the money and the power, and we can't understand why they don't have a line of suitors, when a charisma vacuum like, say, Garrett Hedlund is mentioned for every possible male lead going. Fingers crossed, they'll all get plenty of substantial roles without going back to the well for any "Bridesmaids" sequels.

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16 Comments

  • SNL_KILLER | June 19, 2011 7:09 AMReply

    Wiig doesn't have any projects lined up because most men can't stand her. She ruins most skits on SNL and was overly depressing in Bridesmaids. Judd's rewrite of her overly melodramatic script is the only reason why the comedy was a success in the first place. Wiig is only good in small doses and why she worked in Knocked Up or can be sporadically funny in SNL.

  • Simon Sez | June 17, 2011 12:57 PMReply

    LOL, it so true about how Hollywood is too busy plagarising, copying sequaling other successful movies that they don't realise how much audiences love originality and creativity. When they wrap their heads around this idea then the industry will improve be better for all.

  • LA2000 | June 17, 2011 10:18 AMReply

    You call "Bridesmaids" a game changer, and then wonder why she doesn't have another project lined up right away. Well, that's because it changed the game. And when the game gets changed, it takes a minute for Hollywood writers to pivot from that "Inception" knock off they were writing (because that was last years "game changer") to the myriad of Kristen Wiig "Bridesmaids" knock offs they will surely crank out in the next 12 months before that "game" gets changed yet again.

    Give it a year, and not only will Wiig's dance card be full, but we will have a handful of freshly spawned, brand spanking new "Kristen Wiig- types" who will be available to step into the projects she doesn't want.

    For the moment, you can bet she is reading a lot of Tina Fey's leftovers.

  • Edward Davis | June 17, 2011 5:36 AMReply

    It's not like Oli is MAD about it, he's just "hey, why is she not reaping these benefits?"

    (also, why does Imogene not have like a full green light with an awesome cast might be the better question -- though yeah, that might be right around the corner if we're all lucky.

    The piece is pretty much a love letter to these actresses with mild concern. Not sure why everyone's so angsty.

  • Nik Grape | June 17, 2011 5:31 AMReply

    Wiig has "Friends with Kids" next, there was an article about it here.

    And i'm sure she's just biding her time, like all the others have said.

    Nothing to worry about.

  • Celia | June 17, 2011 1:26 AMReply

    Wiig's probably taking a note of of Zach Galiafinakis' mistake book. Don't overkill your schtick within the space of 12 months. Smart woman.

  • DuluozGray | June 16, 2011 11:07 AMReply

    It helps if you guys get your facts straight. Apatow did not come up with the idea for Bridesmaids, Wiig did. The script was either finished or close to finished when he approached her and she told him about it. He "loved" it and then proceeded to have his crew do an uncredited rewrite, which was almost a page one rewrite from what I hear. Wiig is hardly a comic genius. More like the Damon and Affleck of female screenwriters who get credit for shit they didn't really write.

  • RT | June 16, 2011 10:04 AMReply

    Actually for Rose, Damages season 4 production is completed they finished on June 8th. However, she's also been on the Bridesmaids press junket since then so with little time for a movie she's probably opting for vacation.

  • sp | June 16, 2011 10:02 AMReply

    I do believe Kristen Wiig is just being picky, but one breakout hit doesn't make an actor ( or actress ) a blockbuster movie star.

    Rose Byrne is definitely versatile , and she deserves more. Interestingly, Byrne badly wanted Anne Hathaway's role in " Brokeback Mountain ".

  • Ben | June 16, 2011 10:01 AMReply

    What on earth are you talking about? How do you know Kristen Wiig isn't writing another script for herself at this very moment? Do you expect her to just jump at whatever dumb Hollywood offer falls into her lap? You're simply using clueless speculation to create a problem that probably doesn't even exist.

    As for Rose Byrne, she hasn't had a moment's rest this year. When she wasn't doing non-stop publicity for her THREE big movies (Insidious, Bridesmaids, X-Men First Class) she was working 18+ hours a day alongside Glenn Close on the amazing show "Damages" from January to June. The very busy actress will finally be taking a much needed break by visiting her family in Australia for a few weeks before heading right back to New York to shoot (until January) the next season of her tv show. Please tell me what MORE you think Byrne could be doing in order to keep her supposedly stalled career going. Perhaps she could ask the "Damages" producers to use a puppet for most of her scenes so she can run off and do yet another movie. Would that satisfy you?

  • Laura T | June 16, 2011 9:57 AMReply

    Well for Rose Byrne, she is commited to Damages her TV series and they start production for Season 5 in August. So it would be hard for her to commit to a large movie project right now. Maybe a 60 day shoot indie or a small co-star role.

  • julie K | June 16, 2011 9:53 AMReply

    It could be simply that Miss Wigg is waiting for a good script.. I know she has a few personal projects she wants to work on... So now that she can do what she wants, let's cheers her, rather then assume she's not offered anything.

    Reality, if I were MIss Wigg, I would be picky, I read a lot of scripts.. If most of the projects I've read are any indication as to what an actress has to look forward to, I would never work again.

    When is Hollywood and especially the indies, going to be a bit pickier as to what they make....?

  • shea | June 16, 2011 9:48 AMReply

    there's a ton of just, pure genius screenplays revolving around 38 year old women, right? and those evil studio execs are conspiring to make sure they never get made !

  • Eneko Ruiz | June 16, 2011 9:46 AMReply

    A very interesting article and topic to disscus. As always, it seems that everything change to stay in the same way. Hollywood is always afraid of everything different, even if the difference is only to be a woman comedian.

    Rose Byrne is probably just finishing the shooting of the fourth season of Damages, by the way. Kristen Wiig is not good for SNL anymore, and SNL is no good for Kristen Wiig. She has stated she is going to be there for one more season, but the show is only hurting her and her image (her characters are already boring) and she can do much better. Anyway, if Friends with Kids works, she would have another success under his belt. She is doing much better than Jason Sudeikis, who is working a lot but without getting box-office love.

  • shea | June 16, 2011 9:46 AMReply

    great, now in addition to hearing about who is "circling" roles and who is on the "shortlist" instead of just actual casting news, now when an actor doesn't have something publicly announced during a 5 week period it's a cause for concern?

    I'm not a fan of her schtick but she's obviously huge right now, can probably do anything she wants, if anything she can now take some time to be selective - she doesn't have to sign on to something right away to maintain momentum, can actually take the time to figure out what her next step is.

    But I guess it's cool to bring up women's ages and pregnancies and speculate on how they affect their movie role choices.

  • Mr Anonymous | June 16, 2011 9:44 AMReply

    Honestly, before Bridemaids i only knew of Kristen Wiig for her role in Paul and before that i remember her from Adventureland. I think there's another movie i've seen with her inbetween Adventureland and Paul but can't remember. I only recently found out she was a regular cast member of SNL! Didn't even know she was on that show but we don't get SNL here in the UK.

    From a UK perspective i don't know much about her apart from what i've already mentioned and neither will anyone else until Bridesmaids appears on our shores.

    As for Rose Byrne she's currently filming the 4th season of her show Damages with Glenn Close.

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