About five years ago hardly any moviegoer has heard of Rebel Wilson. A minor, but very memorable role in the smash hit Bridesmaids brought her onto the Hollywood scene in 2011 and just one year later, she got her major breakthrough as outrageous and often inappropriate Fat Amy in Pitch Perfect, a hilarious, spirited movie that made a cappella cool, Anna Kendrick a billboard sensation with her rendition of "Cups" and Rebel Wilson a bona fide comedy star.
Prior to the release of the much-awaited sequel (which is every bit as fun as its predecessor), we had the opportunity to interview the wildly talented Australian actress and got her talking about difficult stunt work, women in comedies, Pitch Perfect 3 (!) and the hardships of working on network television. Enjoy!
Filmfutter: What did you think, when you found out there would be a second film?
Rebel Wilson: I was very happy. Cha-ching, cha-ching! (laughs) No, it is not all about the money. We had so much fun making the first one and we all became friends, so it was a no-brainer to come back and film another one. But there were a lot of expectations that came with the success of the first film. We felt the responsibility to deliver a worthy, funny follow-up.
FF: Fat Amy is a huge fan-favorite. Do you get a lot of your character’s lines quoted back at you in real life?
RW: Yeah, I do. “Horizontal running”, “mermaid dancing”, “don’t put me down for cardio”, my crystal meth joke. Because I love doing different jokes over several takes, I sometimes don’t even remember saying them because it was just a one-off, but then they make it into the movie and everyone starts remembering them.
FF: Is it annoying, when people constantly quote those lines to you or is it flattering?
RW: It’s very flattering, especially when it’s jokes that I came up with spontaneously and people repeat them. It shows that you’re on the right track.
FF: How much did you get to improvise in this film?
RW: Only two of us have been given complete free reign, myself and Adam DeVine, who plays Bumper. The other girls, even though they are experienced actresses, they are not professional comediennes and we don’t have the writer on the set. The majority of the time, they just stick to the script or they are trying to react to what we are saying. Especially poor Brittany (Snow) – I would always go at her and make jokes about her red hair and they don’t know what to say back, which I’m sure causes them trouble on some days. But sometimes they surprise you and come up with something that is really clever and witty. The script is always so funny anyway. I just like to keep things fresh and spontaneous.
FF: How did you discover that you have a talent for making people laugh?
RW: When I started, I thought I was going to be a serious actress like Dame Judi Dench. In my very first professional play with the Sidney Theatre Company, I thought I was playing a serious role. When I came on stage, people just started laughing. I got very offended and the more I tried to be serious and deliver my lines, the more people laughed. Almost from that one performance I realized that I have something that people like to laugh at, so I went with that. My trick to comedy ever since then was to try to play things for real as much as possible, but exaggerate certain elements, so it becomes comic.
FF: A lot of your humor is making fun of yourself. Does it ever hurt?
RW: No, not at all. I am always the first to make fun of myself because I feel that it then gives me a license to make fun of other people. Some actresses would be very offended if they had been offered the role of Fat Amy. I just look at it strategically, exploring the comic opportunities. To me it was the character that was the funniest, so I wanted to play her. I am a lot more sensible in real life than the characters I play. People are often shocked to find out that I have two degrees from university because I often play stupid characters. (laughs)
FF: Would you still say that you are similar to Fat Amy?
RW: Quite similar, yes, just a bit more sensible and less wild.
FF: You are a fan of American reality TV, right?
RW: Yeah. One of the reasons I watched these shows was to learn the accent. I didn’t think I would be playing Australians in movies, but now Rose Byrne is doing it a lot more and Chris Hemsworth also often uses his real voice. It didn’t use to be like that before, you had to be really American (imitates an over-the-top American accent). I do still love reality TV and I watch a lot of it. I have this favorite called “Dance Moms”, I love “Survivor”. I also used to watch “Here comes Honey Boo-Boo” (laughs). It actually reminded me a bit of my family, not in terms of what happened later, but in that they would also eat disgusting food. We weren’t very privileged in our upbringing.
FF: Was it difficult for a girl from Australia to break into the Hollywood system?
RW: My agency, WME, saw an Australian musical television series that I wrote, produced and starred in (“Bogan Pride”), signed me and I was incredibly lucky to be cast in Bridesmaids within three months. Compared to a lot of actors waiting for a break, it happened really quickly to me.
FF: As far as women in Hollywood are concerned, in comedy in particular, do you think there have been big strides in recent years and that women are finally getting more recognition in comedic roles?
RW: I mean, women have obviously always been doing comedy, although historically it is more acceptable to laugh at a guy than at a girl, so it can be harder for women, especially in stand-up. I was very lucky that my first job in America was in Bridesmaids. The huge success of that film launched the renaissance of female ensemble movies and now a lot is being developed in that direction and a lot of female screenwriters are being hired, whereas before it was 90% male screenwriters for comedies.
FF: You used to have a sitcom, “Super Fun Night” that was unfortunately cancelled after one season. What was your television experience like?
RW: I didn’t anticipate how difficult it would be to be the writer, producer and star on a network show in America because you do seven pages a day, which is a lot and on the weekends I was writing the next week’s episode. You get no time off. I have no idea how Tina Fey has done this for seven years on “30 Rock”. I had never worked in that system before and I was censored a lot. A lot of my favourite stuff was cut. It was cool, though. On the set of the third Night at the Museum, I actually spoke a lot to Robin Williams about how difficult it is to get interesting comedy out on network TV. He had a network TV show against mine (“The Crazy Ones”) at the time. It was a good experience, but if I did it again, I know what I would have done differently.
FF: Like going to cable?
RW: Yeah…I am actually getting a lot of cable offers, but at the moment movies are so much more fun, so I am writing and developing them.
FF: Elizabeth Banks also has great comedic talent and with Pitch Perfect 2 she transitioned to directing. Is that something that you aspire to one day or are you perfectly happy being an actress?
RW: I have been asked, but I don’t think I ever would. Writing is cool because it is a different side of your brain than acting, but I don’t think I want to be the captain of the ship. I love working for other people. Acting and writing is enough.
FF: Do you enjoy playing leading roles or supporting roles more?
RW: I am headlining most of the projects that are being developed with me right now, but when you are first coming up you just take whatever roles you can get. The characters that I like to play are usually the more eccentric side characters. So it has been interesting recently to develop movies, in which you are the lead.
FF: Barack Obama makes an appearance in the film, per archive footage. Did you really meet him?
RW: I have been to the White House Correspondents Dinner, but it’s not like we sat down and chatted. I know they are big fans of the movie. Michelle Obama sent me a letter after the first one and she invited us to perform at the White House, which unfortunately didn’t work out.
FF: What performance was the most challenging for you in the film?
RW: The aerial stunts were very challenging to the point that I didn’t think I would be able to do them. The death-drop move, where you swing yourself up and then drop was pretty hard. I don’t have any natural skills in that department. I do have good flexibility, which they tested before they agreed to do that part of the movie. I have trained for five weeks and done a lot of stretching. There will be a little documentary on the DVD about it.
FF: You have already signed on another sequel to Pitch Perfect, which will most likely happen if the second film is successful. Do you know if anyone else from the cast is supposed to come back?
RW: I have no idea, honestly. I am very flattered that they offered me a new contract. The new girls, Hailee (Steinfeld) and Chrissie (Fit), have been signed for two movies, but I don’t know about the other girls. I guess they’ll see how the fans react to this movie and then hopefully come up with a great premise for the third one.
FF: Where would you personally like to take Fat Amy in the franchise?
RW: I would like her to build an Australian team to go against America. (laughs) We were joking that we would enter intergalactic championships…
FF: Because that is the only way to progress from world championship, right?
RW: Exactly, how do you get bigger than that? Or we could do the world championship again. We should watch The Mighty Ducks 3 and see what they did. You know, there are a lot of structural similarities between Pitch Perfect and The Mighty Ducks.
FF: What do you have coming up next?
RW: I am in the new movie with Sacha Baron Cohen, called Grimsby, where I play his wife. It is very attention-seeking, I’ve got some very graphic content in that one. Sacha’s actual wife, Isla Fisher, also stars in it. We have some great scenes together. Penélope Cruz plays the villain and it was really cool to work with her. Then I have got Kung Fu Panda 3 coming up. After the press tour for Pitch Perfect 2, I’ll be filming How to Be Single with a German director, Christian Ditter and with Dakota Johnson from Fifty Shades of Grey.
FF: All of those are comedies. Do you plan to pursue dramatic roles in future as well?
RW: I am looking for a dramatic project, but it has to be really dramatic. I can’t do a half-hearted one, it’d confuse people. I have been looking for a very serious movie, but I haven’t found one yet.
FF: Thank you very much for your interview and good luck with your films!
by Arthur Awanesjan
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