To celebrate the release of the excellent THE SKELETON TWINS starring Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, we’ve got an exclusive interview with the latter to share you with as he talks more about the movie, improv and that remarkably entertaining Lip Sync moment. There’s a lot to this film though and on many different levels, check out Dan’s 4-star review by clicking here.
For those who don’t know, the film is based around twins Maggie (Wiig) and Milo (Hader), who lead separate lives on opposite sides of the country. When both feel that they’re at the end of their ropes, an unexpected reunion forces them to confront how their lives went so wrong. It’s equally understated and says a lot about everything we all think about in our lives, through changes and more. Enjoy…
Q. International audiences probably know you best from Saturday Night Live and in movies like Superbad. How did this more dramatic role come into your life?
A. I went to my agents and said, “I’d like to do a drama.” They said, “Maybe the best thing to do is a table read because it’s hard for us to try to get you [dramatic] work because no one knows you’re capable of doing it.” So, I went to a table read that [casting director] Avy Kaufman put together for this other movie that was trying to get funding. At the table read were Kate Winslet, Bradley Cooper, Greta Gerwig, Paul Dano and I. And I’d never been in that kind of company before. But Avy said, “Hey, you did all right.” And then she happened to be casting The Skeleton Twins and I got sent the script. I read it and, from the first scene in the movie where Milo is trying to attempt suicide, I knew it was not the usual thing I get sent. So I was really intrigued.
Q. On SNL you played the flamboyant, over-the-top gay character “Stefon.” How did you go about preparing to play this more nuanced gay role?
A. The only thing that those two characters have in common is that they’re gay. [And] with sketch comedy, it’s a quick sketch of a character. But this was a lot of fun, being able to work on the back-story and just really delving into the character. What it really got down to was working with all these other great artists, like the costume designer. Because Milo had slit his wrists, he would wear these cool wristbands [that hide] his scars. The costume director came up with that. And then working with the production designer on what his apartment would look like. And talking to friends of mine. [There] was a guy I was kind of friends with in high school who had tried to attempt suicide his freshmen year of college. I called him and [asked], “What was going on?” And he gave me some really interesting insight into it. And I tried to put that into the movie.
Q. The Skeleton Twins reunites you with co-star Kristen Wiig, who plays your twin sister, Maggie. Was she already signed on?
A. She got involved later. I was involved for two years while they tried to get the money for it. And then she came on in 2012. There was another actress but she had to drop out. And then it was Kristen, which was awesome.
Q. The script won Best Screenplay at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, so you were starting out with great material. Was Craig Johnson open to letting you and Kristen break from the script and improvise?
A. If you talk to him, he’ll say, “Oh, there’s a ton of improvising.” But if you talk to Kristen and [me], we’re like, “God, it wasn’t a lot of improvising.” Because we’ve been on those Apatow movies where you improvise the entire movie. I mean, there’s a script and there’s direction but you’re improvising a ton.
Q. Was there a particular scene in this film that was heavily improvised?
A. The only scene that was completely improvised was when we’re on nitrous [oxide] in the dentist’s office. [Craig] was like, “You’re on nitrous. Here are some props. Go.” Then we started fucking around. But there were little [improvised] moments here and there.
Q. Did you improv during any of the film’s more serious moments?
A. When Kristen says, “You should have cut deeper” in the backyard, I had more lines. [But] I didn’t say anything on one take and that’s what they used. Because how do you respond to that?
Q. On set, who’s more likely to crack the other one up, you or Kristen?
A. I break easier. I break very easily. [But] to be honest, the person who broke us both was Luke Wilson when he was talking about turtles swimming in a stream. That was all improvised and that was all Luke Wilson.
Q. The “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” lip-sync scene is a lot of people’s favorite in the movie. What was it like rehearsing and shooting that?
A. We didn’t have a lot of time. It was just the first half of a day and Craig said, “All right, here’s the space, you both know the song.” I had listened to the song pretty much every day on the way to set so I’d know how to lip-sync to it. And then Craig’s only direction was, “Bill, get her off the couch.” And he told Kristen, “Whatever you do, do not let him get you to join in.”
Q. You’ve received great reviews for your performance in this. Do you pay attention to them?
A. When I was at SNL, it was so weird because you had this immediate feedback. At the after-party, everybody would be on their phones seeing what Entertainment Weekly and everyone else said about the show because they’d post it pretty fast. And it’s really nice when they’re nice and it sucks when they’re not. Being at SNL was helpful because you have a huge call us from getting the shit kicked out of you from people online. But because this was such a new thing for me, I was very careful about reading the reviews. I’ve never gone to Rotten Tomatoes to see what people thought of it because, once you get wrapped into that, it could turn into a weird rabbit hole.
Q. Going forward, would you like keep taking on more dramatic roles or go back to doing comedy?
A. It’s never an either/or thing. I like all kinds of movies. I’d like to try to do a bit of everything. The next film I’m in is TRAINWRECK, the Amy Schumer/Judd Apatow movie and that’s very much a comedy and I’m the romantic lead, which is a new thing for me. So, it’s [about] trying to keep it interesting and trying different things.
THE SKELETON TWINS is out this week to buy on DVD. Head here to be in with a chance of winning a copy.