Regarding his new film, “The Skeleton Twins,” Bill Hader is the first to
admit “I don’t get offered guys this serious or complex.”
The 36 year-old Tulsa native has been known for comedy — pretty much
exclusively — thanks to a career that began at LA’s branch of Second City,
exploded on “Saturday Night Live” and which every big screen turn — in
“Superbad,” “Adventureland” and “Tropic Thunder” — only underlined.
But “Skeleton” pairs him with former “Saturday Night Live” cast mate Kristen
Wiig as two siblings so depressed that when we meet them, each is trying to
commit suicide — him by slashing his wrists in Los Angeles, her about to gobble
a fist full of pills in their hometown of Nyack, New York.
Milo is an aspiring writer and actor who has failed to make it big in Los
Angeles. A gay man, he’s also failed to find love. His sister Maggie is married,
but living a lie, which causes her to obsessively cheat on her upbeat, outdoorsy
husband (Luke Wilson). Milo’s almost-successful suicide attempt means Maggie has
to bring him home.
It’s “a love story between a brother and sister,” Hader says, and since he
and Wiig were “like siblings” during their years together on SNL, “Craig Johnson
(their writer-director) was smart enough to see that and let us fall into a
rhythm…He exploited this relationship we already have.”
In one scene in particular — set in the dentist’s office where Maggie is a
hygienist with access to nitrous oxide — the director’s instruction was the
simplest it ever got.
“He said, ‘Make each other laugh. I don’t care what you do, just get each
But much of “The Skeleton Twins” isn’t about finding laughs. It’s about
depression and troubling memories of family history. Hader describes Maggie and
Milo as “mirror images” who don’t realize their own flaws, people “who only have
each other to lean on.”
And it’s about two comic actors playing variations of characters they’ve
played before, only this time, playing their pathos.
“The two costars elevate the film beyond formula,” Entertainment Weekly
noted. “Their onscreen rapport is infectious and believable.”
How did the players know it was working? They could feel it on the set. Like
true brother-and-sister, Wiig and Hader knew where to land the blows in an
argument. Brothers and sisters know how to draw blood in a family fight,
especially in one memorable no-holds-barred scene in Maggie’s Nyack back
“Maggie says, ‘You should have cut DEEPER,’ and it just stunned me,” Hader
recalls. “I think I had a line or two I was supposed to say, more dialogue. But
I just stopped. I couldn’t believe she’d said that and couldn’t think of
anything else to say, being in the moment in a scene that ugly and raw.
“Kristen got upset and said, ‘I can’t do this any more.'”
“And our sound guy, Anton, cried during that scene. ‘You guys are being so
MEAN to each other!'”
Hader laughs at what he now realizes was the supreme compliment a film actor
can get — moving the crew to tears. But at the time, he did what has always
come most naturally, what he went back to doing for his next film, the Judd
Apatow comedy “Train Wreck.” Hader comforted Anton with a laugh.<
“Awww, buddy. We didn’t mean it!”