Saturday Night Live cast members seem to have a set trajectory, or at least the good ones. They excel on the show, become household names, get too big for it, and then move on to bigger and better things. Within those bigger and better things, a great dramatic performance has become a near ubiquitous feature that marks any acceptable post-SNL career.
We can’t be anything but thankful for this, because we’ve been granted with so many incredible films starring SNL alumni.
He may have jumped back into drama with Spanglish (2004), Funny People (2009), and Men, Women & Children (2014) (as well as some confusing type of drama with Click (2006)), but before all that, Sandler blew us away with his performance in Paul Thomas Anderson’s masterpiece Punch Drunk Love (2002). With his first true foray into “serious” territory, even Roger Ebert was moved, saying Sandler had displayed, “unexpected depths as an actor.” While Sandler has largely returned to his SNL roots with his more recent films, his performance in Punch Drunk still gives him some serious dramatic street cred.
After more than proving himself post-SNL by writing, producing, and acting in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997), it was just one year later that he laid his drama cards on the table with Mark Christopher’s highly underrated 54 (1998). Meyer’s plays famed club owner Steve Rubel, with a serious performance that was unanimously well reviewed, although the film didn’t fair so well. We not only highly recommend the film, but even if you’ve seen it or think you’ve seen it, you have to check out the recent 54: The Director’s Cut (dubbed “55” by many), which has been re-edited and reworked from the butchered studio cut that was originally released (with a restored 44 minutes of unseen footage). It truly brings Meyer’s dramatic performance to the next level, even though outside of the added sequences, not a single shot of his original performance was changed from the initially released version.
We now take his dramatic side for granted, but before Broken Flowers (2005), before he became a mainstay in nearly every Wes Anderson production, and before he had mastered the bitter old man we now see transiently passing through every few films (doesn’t it sometimes seem like he just walks around Hollywood backlots and somehow accidentally becomes a character with his recent roles? Like he’s giving drive by performances or something? Did he even know he was in Aloha (2015)?), he created a sensation with Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation (2003), winning a Golden Globe and receiving an Oscar nomination, as well as presenting the world with a prototypical example of comedian turned dramatic actor.
There are so many worth mentioning:
- Steve Martin mixed it up his well established comedy career with indie drama Shop Girl (2005)
- Will Ferrell played it for laughs, but also found his serious side, with Stranger Than Fiction (2006)
- Eddie Murphy got himself a Golden Globe win and Oscar nomination with Dreamgirls (2006)
- Maya Rudolph got a jump on things with Away We Go (2009) while not yet being away form SNL
- Andy Samberg dipped his toe into dramatic waters with dramedy Celeste & Jesse Forever (2012)
- Will Forte swung for the serious fences with Nebraska (2013) (made extra dramatic by the film’s back and white starkness)
- Jenny Slate said a big f*** you to her former employer by way of a successful dramatic transition with Obvious Child (2014)
- Bill Hader co-starred with another SNL alum (more on that in a second) in drama Skeleton Twins (2014)
- Chris Rock wrote, directed, and starred in Top Five (2014), about a comedian trying to be taken seriously as a dramatic actor (damn, we should have opened the article with this one)
- Robert Downey Jr., who has such a well established dramatic career that no one even remembers nor cares that he was once briefly an SNL cast member.
So out of all of these, who’s the best?
Well, we don’t know, but there’s one SNL alum who’s certainly making it clear that they mean “serious” business…
She’s doubling down and taking some serious steps to establish herself as “the” SNLer to go dramatic. Releases such as Girl Most Likely (2012), The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013), Hateship Loveship (2013), Skeleton Twins (2014), Welcome to Me (2014), Nasty Baby (2015), The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015) — and despite all these, it’s with her upcoming film that she’s taking “comedian turned real actor” to new heights, with — Ridley Scott’s The Martian (2015).
All we have to go off of so far is the trailer, but even so we can already tell she’s going to hit it out of the park with some excellent serious dramatic moments. Let’s break them down and explore her dramatic range.
1. A Dramatic Shot
Her first shot in the trailer is super dramatic. She’s looking at something off screen intently and clenching her hands while slightly widening her eyes. The shots fades out and leaves you thinking, “Wow, that was dramatic.”
2. A Serious Dramatic Shot
In her second shot in the trailer she starts by looking dramatically looking at something off screen, and then dramatically turns her head to dramatically look at something else off screen (possibly the same thing she’s dramatically looking at in her first shot in the trailer?), and then she shifts her body a little and possibly crosses her arms in a very serious way, showing you she’s able to do all types of variations on looking serious. This shot also fades out and leaves you thinking, “That was seriously dramatic.”
3. An Even More Serious Dramatic Shot
Wiig’s third and final shot in the trailer displays her full dramatic range. It’s totally different from the other shots because this time another person’s in it. Jeff Daniels stands in the foreground, motionless, as wig stands in the background, slightly out of focus. Instead of simply dramatically looking off screen, or starting by dramatically looking off screen and then dramatically looking somewhere else off screen, here she starts by dramatically looking off screen and then dramatically looking down, with her hands in prayer, and going full on serious dramatic like nothing we’ve ever seen. This shot doesn’t fade out, but we’re still left thinking, “That was even more seriously dramatic.”
There you have it. Wigg is clearly the most seriously dramatic SNL alum.
The Martian (2015) will be released October 2, 2015, but until then enjoy the entire trailer, with seriously brooding dramatic Kristen Wiig.
And if you want to relive all of Kristen Wiig’s dramatic moments back-to-back, enjoy this GIF. What’s she looking at?!
Let us know in the comments why you think Kristen Wiig is the best SNL cast member to go dramatic.