Though immensely private, comic genius Kristen Wiig has taken on a series of raw, revealing dramatic roles that may profoundly alter the way the world appreciates her huge talent, and she’s opening up about all that and more in the August issue of ELLE. Wiig spoke candidly with writer Ivan Solotaroff about delving into the dramatically dark characters she embodies in her latest films —The Skeleton Twins, which hits theaters on September 19, and Welcome to Me—her formative pre-SNL years (she was neither cheerleader nor theater nerd), the “meditative” and “therapeutic” effects of teaching herself guitar and writing songs, and one of her latest pursuits: trying her hand at directing.
Considering Kristen Wiig’s talent for creating original, out-of-this-world characters, only one shoot location could do her justice: Grey Gardens, the legendary East Hampton, New York, estate made iconic by the 1975 documentary of the same name, where socialites Edith and Edie Beale lived—and donned whimsical outfits daily—for 25 years, rarely leaving the grounds. Wiig’s ELLE feature marks the estate's debut as a fashion shoot location, and also, the first time Grey Gardens has been shot at all since that original documentary.
Wiig understands being categorized. “It’s not necessarily a bad thing. You have to have some sort of context for a person to register in your brain, and I was introduced to the world as a cast member of 'SNL.' But I’ve always wanted to do dramatic stuff, to write and direct, do a lot of different things. Comedy is where my heart lies, but there’s also something really satisfying about being able to step away with a small crew, become a character and get to know her for a few months at a time.”
I’m still surprised by Wiig’s sheer self-exposure in these roles: A few The Skeleton Twins scenes are the emotional equivalent of full-frontal nudity. I’m even more surprised to learn that’s a step she will, in fact, take in the upcoming Welcome to Me, in which she plays a woman with borderline personality disorder who wins the lottery, quits her meds, and starts a TV talk show. “I’d never read a character like that. I got to a scene where it read, ‘She’s fully naked,’ and I remember thinking: If I do this movie, I have to do this scene because it’s really important to this script.”
The full pictorial and interview can be found exclusively in ELLE’s August issue, available digitally and on newsstands in select cities starting July 15, and nationwide on July 22.