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(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Jacob Pechenik, Stephanie Langhoff and Jennifer Lee at the premiere of "The Skeleton Twins," part of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the Sundance Film Festival, Saturday January 18, 2014 at the Library Center Theatre in Park City.
Sundance Q-and-A: ‘SNL’ stars cross to drama in ‘The Skeleton Twins’

Craig Johnson, director and co-writer of "The Skeleton Twins," wants to make one thing very clear: The character Bill Hader plays in his comedy-drama is nothing like Stefon, the flamboyant club-hopping hipster Hader portrayed on "Saturday Night Live."

"The only thing they share is being gay," Johnson said Saturday during a Q-and-A session after the movie’s premiere at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.

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Hader plays Milo, a failing actor who tries to commit suicide -- which leads to a call to his twin sister, Maggie, who’s played by Hader’s longtime "SNL" colleague Kristen Wiig. (Wiig missed the trip to Park City, Johnson said, after coming down with strep throat.)

Hader’s fine handling of a dramatic role got noticed not only by the filmmakers, but by a fellow actor: Kevin Pollak, who was in the audience and complimented Hader during the Q-and-A.

Co-executive producer Mark Duplass compared Hader to Jonah Hill in "Cyrus," which Duplass directed with his brother Jay. Mark Duplass called Hader’s casting "a chance for a comedic actor to take more of a dramatic turn. It’s going to change the way you look at Bill Hader."

"The Skeleton Twins" shows that the well-honed chemistry Hader and Wiig developed on "SNL" is still potent. The movie’s showstopper is a lip-synch duet between Milo and Maggie to Starship’s "Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now."

Acquiring the rights to the ‘80s power ballad took up "a lot of our music budget," Johnson said, adding that he worked with Hader and Wiig to choreograph appropriate moves.

The key, though, was the moment’s drama. "It was dramatic, and as long as there is tension in the scene, that was more important than the dance moves," Johnson said.

-- Sean P. Means

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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