It’s been three years since the world was first introduced to the Barden Bellas in the surprise hit Pitch Perfect, and since then they’ve gone on to become the first all-female group to win a national title. But after a scandal threatens to derail their last year at Barden, the three-time defending champs must redeem their legacy by winning the World Championships of A Cappella in Copenhagen, Denmark.
At the press day for Pitch Perfect 2, actress turned director Elizabeth Banks and co-stars Rebel Wilson (“Fat Amy”), Brittany Snow (“Chloe”), Hailee Steinfeld (“Emily”), Skylar Astin (“Jesse”), Ben Platt (“Benji”), Birgitte Hjort Sørensen (“Kommissar”) and Flula Borg (“Pieter Krämer”) talked about how the success of the first film made it a little easier to get music this time, that no musical performances were cut from the film (but there will be one extra song on the DVD), the two-week boot camp the cast went through, raising the stakes of the stunts, the logistics of shooting the World Championship, having a collaborative freedom on set, just how big of fans the Green Bay Packers are, character romances, and the future of Pitch Perfect. From the interview, we’ve compiled a list of 25 things you should know about what went into Pitch Perfect 2 and the future of the franchise.
Elizabeth Banks had been offered films to direct, prior to her full-length feature debut Pitch Perfect 2. “I went to set, every day, with a true attitude of gratitude,” said Banks. “I really was grateful for the work of the crew and the cast, in making the vision that I had for the movie come true. I wanted to lead by example. I tried to be really serious about the work, but also leave a lot of room for play. We are pretending for a living. It should have a sense of playfulness about it.”
- Because of the visibility and prominence of the first film, it was a little bit easier to get the music for the second film. They ended up getting almost every song they wanted, in the end, and combined classics with current music. Said Banks, “It’s all really deliberate. Music is a universal language, but not everybody knows Miley Cyrus. We really wanted to feature as many genres, fun songs, classics, and sing-a-longs that we could have in the movie. One of the themes of the film is legacy. The girls are joining a long legacy of singing. Thematically, it made sense to put in classics, but also speak to the future with our original song.”
- All of the musical numbers that were shot are in the movie. None were cut out because they were such big days. But, there is an extra song on the DVD that they are not revealing.
The cast went through a two-week boot camp to learn the choreography, but also to get the stamina to do the performance numbers, over and over again.
- In the first movie, there was never any subplot that something was going on between Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) and Bumper (Adam Devine). Being two improvisers, they we would just make up little stuff between them to try to get it in the movie, which then developed into Kay Cannon (the screenwriter) writing the love storyline for the second movie.
- The make-out sequence with Fat Amy and Bumper had to be cut down because they noticed, after filming it, that Rebel Wilson’s pants were actually a bit see-thru and you could see her underwear through them. The scene actually went on for about seven minutes, but then most of that ended up having to get cut out.
- Because the stunts were on a whole other level for the sequel, Rebel Wilson said that she had to learn the aerial stunt sequence herself, or it would have been cut from the film. “I trained for five weeks with my coach, who’s been in a large number of Cirque du Soleil shows in Las Vegas. I didn’t think I’d be able to do it, but if I couldn’t do it, they couldn’t get a stunt double that’s my size that does it. They’re all skinny minnies. It was either I do it, or that wouldn’t be the opening of the movie. So, I chose to do it, even though I’m afraid of heights and not that flexible. I went for it, but it took five weeks. You have to bend your back in really strange ways and hang from your butt. It’s really tricky. Even if you just try hanging upside down, to hold it for more than 45 seconds, you really do have to train for it.”
Birgitte Hjort S rensen and Flula Borg are part of the villainous Das Sound Machine in the film, and they knew that it was a big film to enter due to the expectations after the success of the first film. But as the villains, their function was so clear that they found it easy to step into. “Playing a bad guy is very, very fun,” said Borg.
- They didn’t actually get to go to Copenhagen for the World Championships. The outdoor finale was actually shot over a week, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 110-degree heat. They had to do the four-minute routine about a hundred times, and they would bring in handheld industrial fans, after the routine, to cool down the cast.
- All of the musical numbers required a lot of takes, but the World Championship was the most difficult. Each day that they did it, the crowd would get bigger, until there were over 3,000 extras, who turned out for free to see the Barden Bellas perform. People flew from all across the country, and also came from as far as New Zealand, just to see them.
They argued about having the World Championship take place outdoors because they were worried about the weather and there being rain every day, but Banks fought for it because she thought it would look cool. It was hurricane season, but Banks was hopeful that it would work itself out.
- According to Brittany Snow, the sisterhood of the Barden Bellas has bled over into the real lives of the actresses. “One of my best friends and my roommate is Kelley Jakle, who I actually met on the first movie. That is the epitome of working on a movie and being sisters, and she is somebody who I will be friends with, forever.”
- This film marks the first time that Hailee Steinfeld has sung live for a movie, and her debut for the Bellas was her first time signing on set. “She was amazing!,” said Snow. “She has an amazing voice. I was completely shocked. I just had no idea that she could sing like that. And then, getting to hear her live was amazing. It’s very soulful. For being so young, she’s got a lot of heart in there.”
- This time around, co-star Elizabeth Banks was also the director and really gave the cast the freedom to try things out, even if they didn’t work. Snow said, “She knew that the more time that was given for improv, the more little things there would be that could get picked up, along the way. There was a lot more improv on this one. A lot of it doesn’t make it, but sometimes it does. We felt safe with each other because we knew each other better, so there was a collaborative atmosphere, this time around. There was on the first one too, but we knew each other’s comedy so well, we really had a chance to play.”
When asked about what kind of a director Elizabeth Banks is, S rensen said “Elizabeth is a very clear director. She knows what she wants, which makes it very easy to be an actor on her set because she will tell you what is working and what is not. She’s very comfortable in the role, but she also allowed a lot of freedom. As an actor, it’s always wonderful when you can actually be a part of the creative process, and not just fulfill somebody else’s vision. So, I felt like it was the perfect combination of guidance and freedom.” And Borg added, “I think it helps that she comes from acting, as well. She knows how to communicate to us, very clearly. She’d just say, ‘Do it better. Stop sucking.’”
- During a camping sequence, the Bellas break out into “Torn” by Natalie Imbruglia, which was an improvised moment from Brittany Snow. “Rebel went on an improv for a really long time, and then I decided to sing ‘Torn.’ I went up to Liz [Banks] afterward and said, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t think you’re going to buy that song.’ And she said, ‘Oh, no, we might.’ And they did, and it was fun that they made it in there. We sang that song, in its entirety, probably about 20 times. It’s always a good go-to song to bring the girls together. That was really fun.”
- In regard to storylines that ended up getting cut, Skylar Astin said that there was a storyline that was shot between Jesse and Beca that they did not end up going with. “That is a telling evolution of Jesse. I don’t want to say what it is because maybe they’ll use it another time, but I will say that Jesse became successful in what he was trying to do, in the first film.” He went on to say that it was not a love triangle, but that there was definitely a little bit of a life decision that was in there way and that provided conflict. Instead, they just decided to have Jesse be Beca’s support system in this film. But, he does hope that it will either make it to the DVD, or to a future film.
When talking about the evolution of Benji, Ben Platt said, “Because Benji is just such a character in the first film, who is this very heightened guy, with the magic thing and the Star Wars In this film, it was about discovering what he’s like, as a real fleshed out person. Of course, he still has his quirks, but that’s not the entirety of his character. He’s also a guy who likes a girl and wants to impress her.”
- Ben Platt was excited for Benji to have a romance with Emily, and said Hailee Steinfeld was a pro about it all. “It’s nice because you get to see him be a real guy and grow up, as a real man. It’s nice to see a character who’s not your average square-jawed leading man. It’s wonderful.”
- It was very difficult to keep a straight face and not break into laughter in the scenes with David Cross. He was just throwing out so many hilarious things that it was hard to find useable footage.
- None of the cast had any idea what big fans of the first film the Green Bay Packers were, and they had so much fun working with them on the big underground riff-off scene. Said Steinfeld, “I wasn’t in the first movie, but I didn’t realize that a group of the manliest men in the world were such fans of Pitch Perfect. It was shocking. They would go into their trailers, in between set-ups, and come back and show us videos of them doing full-on numbers from the first movie.”
They didn’t have to try too hard to get people for cameos in the film. Snoop Dogg’s daughter is such a gigantic Pitch Perfect fan that he wanted to do the film to be cool to her. Robin Roberts is also a big fan.
- Clearly, the actors have all enjoyed being a part of the Pitch Perfect films and would gladly return for more. Snow said, “I would love to do Pitch Perfect 3. I was joking that Chloe might be 40 years old when she comes back, but she’s still gonna be a Bella. I would do Pitch Perfect 8.”
- When asked if she would be interested in directing another Pitch Perfect film or even a Fat Amy spin-off, Banks said, “We don’t know what the future holds. We’re really focused on putting out Pitch Perfect 2. I think that what we found for this film was that it was really important for us to find a story that felt very organic and authentic to this group of women and to the world that we created in the first film, and really build on that story and the relationships that we established in that movie. We want to put this movie out and let fans embrace it, and then see what the future holds. Our goal is to have those intentions in mind – to be organic and authentic.”
- In talking about what songs they’d still like to get to do, in future Pitch Perfect films, Skylar Astin voted for Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” while Ben Platt would like to do some Sam Smith.
Pitch Perfect 2 opens in theaters on May 15th.