An ear for deadpan comedy has propelled a Sydney girl to Hollywood's heights
With perfect comic timing and plenty of bogan pride, a girl from Sydney’s Hills Shire moved to Hollywood and got cast in a little movie called Bridesmaids. Today Rebel Wilson is rising comedy royalty, this month hitting all the right notes in a cappella movie Pitch Perfect.
So Rebel, who is your character in Pitch Perfect?
I play Fat Amy, who is brought into a college all-girl singing group called the Bellas. I’m one of a rag-tag bunch of new girls and we have to work ourselves into an amazing group for this championship.
You’ve always been quite into singing haven’t you? [SBS series] Bogan Pride had song and dance sequences…
I’m a huge musical theatre fan. I love singing show tunes. Our director on Pitch Perfect is Jason Moore: he directed the original production of Avenue Q. I had to go in for Jason and sing a song so I chose Lady Gaga, ‘The Edge of Glory’. I did my own body percussion to show my musicality. And I got cast.
You played Americans in Bachelorette and What to Expect When You’re Expecting but Fat Amy is Australian: the “best singer in Tasmania with teeth”.
I originally auditioned as an American. Then we had a four-week boot camp before we shot the movie to learn all the harmonies and dance moves. And Jason heard me talking in my Australian accent one day and said, “that would be really cool, if Fat Amy was Australian.” It does make the character really stand out compared to the other girls. In a movie with so many kick-ass female roles, it’s great to represent Australia.
We hear the producers wouldn’t let you lose weight – fair enough considering the character is called Fat Amy – but how has the weight loss regimen gone since then?
I finished with Jenny Craig in June. I loved being with them and I lost 15 kilos, which was awesome. I don’t want to be like a size 2 model or anything, I just want to be healthy.
Is it true you got into comedy by accident?
Yeah! When I was in the Australian Theatre for Young People down at the Wharf I didn’t know I had a thing for comedy until the first play I was in with the Sydney Theatre Company [Verballed]. I thought I was playing a serious role. I went onstage and [at] my first line of dialogue the crowd just started laughing. And the more I tried to be serious the more people would laugh. I was like: I should just go with it.
And your desire to act, oddly, was related to a brush with malaria as a teen as a Rotary International Youth Ambassador.
I contracted malaria when I was in rural Mozambique and it was really bad. So many people die from it in Africa. I went to hospital in Johannesburg and I was in intensive care. And I had a full-on hallucination that I was an actress and won an Oscar. And instead of doing an acceptance speech I did an acceptance rap. That hallucination, I saw it as a sign. I thought, yeah, I’m going to give acting a little shot.
What was life like growing up in Kenthurst and around the Hills District?
I was an imaginative child. I believed in Santa till I was 12. We went to a lot of dog shows – every weekend. There were a lot of interesting people around the dog shows. People sometimes ask me where I get my characters. I say, maybe from dog shows.
We hear you get on very well with Conan O’Brien?
Conan, ever since I went on his show as a guest, he’s been such a big supporter. He’s my producer on a [sitcom] I’m doing called Super Fun Night that’s in development with the ABC network. We’re probably going to shoot another pilot before the end of the year. He’s a really smart guy, a really good collaborator.
Pitch Perfect screens from Thu Dec 6.