The hilarious new comedy Pitch Perfect, from director Jason Moore (Broadway’s Avenue Q) and screenwriter Kay Cannon (New Girl, 30 Rock), tells the story of Beca (Anna Kendrick), a young woman who dreams of being a music producer, but who instead finds herself at Barden University in an all-female a cappella singing group. With both new takes on old favorites and hits of right now, The Bellas fight to climb their way to the top of the cutthroat world of college music competitions. The film also stars Rebel Wilson, Skylar Astin, Adam Devine, Anna Camp, Brittany Snow, John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks.
At the film’s press junket, the incredibly funny Aussie actress Rebel Wilson, who plays the super-confident Fat Amy, talked about how getting the role in Bridesmaids (her first American job) changed things for her, how she sang the Lady Gaga song “Edge of Glory” for her Pitch Perfect audition, that she got to do a lot of improvising on set, just how outrageous things got between her and co-star Adam Devine (who plays the self-obsessed lead singer of rival group The Treblemakers), and her favorite song to sing in the film. She also talked about how she went from being a junior handler at dog shows in Australia to an actress, some crazy experiences she had in the theater (one of which included her actually falling off of the roof, in Fiddler on the Roof), how she’s just starting to be able to enjoy all of her current success, and that she’s developing a TV show for ABC, called Super Fun Night. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
Question: How did getting the role in Bridesmaids change things for you?
REBEL WILSON: Bridesmaids was my first job here. I was so close to getting a couple of movies, and I’m so glad that it was Bridesmaids that was the first one. I went in and improvised for them, with Kristen Wiig, for an hour in a room. Judd Apatow said, “Tell Kristen about your love life. Go!,” and I said, “But, I’ve prepared the script.” And I just kept going for an hour while they filmed it all. I went for Melissa McCarthy’s role, but I was a bit too young for that. But, they really liked my audition, and so they added me as the roommate. There was never a female roommate in the script. They just added it in because they liked my audition. And then, of course, when that movie came out last year, it was just like, “Bang!” I booked five movies within a week or two, and Pitch Perfect was one of them. I was the first person to be cast in Pitch Perfect. Because it was such a specific role, I was cast months before anyone else. (Screenwriter) Kay [Cannon] actually Facebooked me and she said, “Hey, I’ve written this script.” Sometimes on Facebook, you’re like, “Is this serious?!” But, she said she’d really like me to read the script and consider Fat Amy. I had actually played a character in Australia called Fat Mandy, so I was like, “Yeah, I have experience! I could totally do that!” And then, when I read the script, I was like, “This is so funny!,” and I knew I had to do it.
Did you have to sing for the audition?
WILSON: Yeah, so I sang Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory” for Jason Moore, and I did my own body percussion. You sing the melody over the top of your own beat, so I did that. I learned that when I played basketball in high school and we used to do chants with our own beat, just on the court. I was like, “If I’ve gotta sing a cappella, at least I’ll have my own little beat that I can groove to.” Anna Kendrick does something similar in the movie with the cups. So, Jason was like, “Yeah, you can be in the movie!” I just had a feeling about it. Even though it technically was a small movie, I just had a feeling it was going to be really popular and super fun.
Was there much improvising during filming?
WILSON: Yeah! Adam Devine, who plays opposite me, is a great improviser as well, so when we were on set together, they had hours and hours of footage of us, just saying shit to each other. It was good. But, Kay had written such a good character. Originally, I was going to be American in the movie, but then we had four weeks of rehearsals before we shot the film and, when I do American movies, I’m American the whole time. But, because we were singing and dancing for 10 hours a day, I couldn’t keep it up. I slipped and started talking [in my own accent], and Jason heard me and was like, “I want you to use your real voice in the movie.” I was like, “No, I don’t want to do my own voice. I want to be an actor and do acting!” But, he was like, “No, I’ve got a feeling that it’s going to be good.” So, when I was on set, I’d just improvise stuff to make it all fit in.
Did you and Adam Devine ever get really mean with each other?
WILSON: It’s not in the movie, but Adam touched my breast in an improvisation. Normally, if you’re going to touch another actor, you tell them before, but we were just going crazy. So then, I actually touched [his crotch]. I said a joke, and then [touched him]. He was like, “Woah!,” because he didn’t expect that. It was like 4 am, in the morning, and it was freezing cold. We had to entertain ourselves, and I like to keep it fresh for each take. With that take, we did go a little far, but it was all good. We were still having fun.
Which was your favorite song to sing in the movie?
WILSON: I liked it when I got to do the solo in “Turn the Beat Around.” That note I sing is really high, and I had to hold it for a really long time.
Did you grow up doing theater?
WILSON: No, I wasn’t a child actor, or anything. My family was in dog showing with Beagles, so that’s what I was forced to do. So, I was forced to be a junior handler, which is kind of like Toddlers & Tiaras ‘cause you are dressed up in little outfits, and you run around with the dogs and show them. The weird thing is that you win not very much money. You win $50 or a plastic jug, but you don’t win that good of stuff, and yet you have to get up really early and bring all the dogs and equipment to the dog show. I love watching Toddlers & Tiaras ‘cause I’m like, “That was kind of like my life, but with dogs.”
Have you seen Best in Show?
WILSON: Yeah, and when I saw that, I was like, “This is like my life!” I said, “This is a really accurate documentary.” Some people are like, “Oh, that’s so wild!” I grew up with people who act like that, but just the Australian version of it. They were like that. They were so weird and so obsessed with their dogs and wore weird stuff. Sometimes people ask me, “Where do you get some of your characters from?,” and they’re from my crazy upbringing.
How did you get into acting, then?
WILSON: I remember, when I was in high school, I did do some high school musicals. I did Grease, and we did Fiddler on the Roof. My story from that is that I fell from the roof, doing Fiddler on the Roof, and almost killed myself. It was very bad. It was a miracle I didn’t die. I sprained all my ribs and my wrist. My love for musical theater was so strong that I came back the next night and performed. I was Fruma-Sarah, which wasn’t a main character. She was the grandma who comes down from Heaven, which is why I was on the roof. I came out of a coffin and the coffin was supposed to land on stage, but there were some technical difficulties. No one told me the coffin hadn’t landed, and I just jumped out on my cue and I was two stories high. You couldn’t really tell, when you were inside the coffin, if you were on the ground or not, so I just jumped out and went straight down. The whole audience had one of those really deadly silences. And then, I became notorious at my school for that.
But then, when I finished high school, I was a youth ambassador for Australia. I just didn’t think I would be an actor, or anything. I got malaria, really badly. During that time, when I was in intensive care, I had this hallucination that I was an actress and that I was really, really good. It was so strong that when I came out of hospital, I started saying, “I’m going to be an actress. I’m going to go back to Australia and do it.” People thought I was crazy. They thought the disease had really affected me and made me crazy mad. And I said, “No, I’ve just got a feeling I could be really good.” My whole family was like, “No, no one is going to pick you for movies.” But I was like, “One day, they will!” So, I enrolled in a theater school in Australia, called The Australian Theatre for Young People, where Nicole Kidman and Toni Collette and lots of our great actresses and actors went.
One of the first things that I was in, at that theater school, was a musical. I remember, very clearly, that I was in the chorus and they made me stand right at the back of the stage because I pulled focus. They kept saying, “People just look at you. You’re not a lead role. They can’t look at you.” So, I was forced to stand at the back of the stage, in the darkness. Sometimes I even had to turn around and face away because, for some reason, and I don’t know what it is, they said I pulled focus and that I was distracting from the real people playing the real characters. And then, I remember that I cried. I was just trying to give really good energy and be really passionate when I sang. It’s funny how it happens. Weirdly, that weird skill then makes you become famous and popular.
Since you’ve been working non-stop since Bridesmaids, have you gotten a chance to enjoy success and the perks that come with it?
WILSON: It’s starting to get really crazy! For example, I’ve had no sleep and just flew in from Australia. There are just weird things that happen now. I was at the MTV VMAs, sitting with Rihanna and Katy Perry, and they knew my name. You just don’t think that will happen to you. Also, I work as a writer, as well. Usually, if I’m not acting, I’m working on the development stuff, down at Warner Bros. where I’m working on a TV show.
What is the TV show you’re developing?
WILSON: It’s called Super Fun Night, for ABC. It’s about three girls in New York.
Pitch Perfect opens in limited release on September 28th, and in wide release on October 5th.