Universal Considering 'Bridesmaids' Sequel Without Kristen Wiig (Exclusive)

 Universal Pictures/Courtesy of Everett Collection

This article first appeared in the Jan. 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

By every measure, Bridesmaids was a huge success story of 2011. The ensemble comedy, produced for about $32 million, grossed $288 million worldwide for hit-hungry Universal, made film stars out of Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy, and landed Golden Globe, SAG and PGA nominations, positioning it as a best-picture Oscar contender.

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The mystery is why Universal has made so little progress on launching a Bridesmaids 2 -- and why the star of the film is refusing to do a reprise. "We aren't working on that," Wiig, who co-wrote the film with Annie Mumolo, tells The Hollywood Reporter. "Annie and I aren't planning a sequel. We are writing something else."

One factor may be that something went awry between Wiig and Universal. Sources say that some of the six principal cast members (Wiig, McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Ellie Kemper) were underwhelmed with the $100,000 bonus each received -- the sum struck some as low given the film's outsized success. Asked by THR whether she was offended by the dollar figure, Wiig declined comment.

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With Wiig balking, Universal chief Ron Meyer took her to dinner in New York to see whether he could change her mind. He likely dangled an eight-figure payday before her, but the 38-year-old star held firm.

Instead, she has pursued smaller dramas: In addition to the Mumolo project, the Saturday Night Live actress next appears in the March dramedy Friends With Kids; stars opposite Annette Bening in the indie Imogene, which she also is producing; and this summer plans to shoot the drama The Comedian opposite Robert De Niro for director Sean Penn. She also is adapting the dramatic novel Clown Girl, which she hopes to direct.

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Universal sources say the studio is willing to pursue another Bridesmaids without Wiig. "We are over the moon with the success of Bridesmaids, and if we do a sequel we want to get it right," a Universal rep tells THR. "We are talking to filmmakers now about concepts, and if the right one emerges, we'll move forward." The studio rep declines to elaborate on what elements it would deem essential -- whether, for example, original director Paul Feig would be involved -- but Universal is focused on McCarthy as a key player to get a sequel rolling. Among the projects the Emmy-winning actress has attached herself to is the Universal comedy ID Theft with Jason Bateman, and sources say other projects are brewing.  

Universal has shown a willingness to move ahead on a big franchise without the original stars. The studio is in production on Bourne Legacy, a fourth Bourne film but the first without Matt Damon. The Fast & Furious franchise has endured a host of cast comings-and-goings, with April's Fast Five generating a franchise-best $626 million worldwide.

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But it's not clear that producer Judd Apatow, who scored the biggest hit of his career with Bridesmaids, is equally reconciled to the idea of proceeding with a different team. "The key is we have to come up with an idea that is as good or better than the first one," Apatow tells THR in a statement. "We don't want to do it unless it can be great. I don't think anyone has had the brain space to think about it yet. Hopefully that can begin this year."

He declines to address talent questions, but a source close to the situation says, "I don't think [Judd] would proceed without Kristen and Annie's full participation."

If a Wiig-less concept gains traction (or she can be convinced to return), Universal could potentially have a low-budget, high-return franchise on the order of Warner Bros.' The Hangover or Paramount's Paranormal Activity. But it took only two years for Warners to get another Hangover, and a third is in the works. Bridesmaids 2, however, seems destined for a long wait at the altar.

Borys Kit contributed to this report.

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