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.
During a conference at the press day for Pitch Perfect 2, the always charming and hilarious Rebel Wilson talked about returning to the role of Fat Amy, developing her relationship with Adam Devine, making such a physically demanding movie, knowing how to gauge the comedy, shooting the final singing competition for a week, and the importance of putting out a message that everyone should be comfortable in their own skin. She also talked about her desire to work with the Hemsworth brothers (i.e. Liam and Chris), that she’s still looking to remake Private Benjamin but that they need to find the right director first, and voicing the new panda Mei Mei in Kung Fu Panda 3.
Question: You have such a great solo in this.
REBEL WILSON: I had to really hold my core because I was standing up. I didn’t want to fall in the water ‘cause then it would take two hours to reset hair and make-up, and I’d have to do it all again.
What was it like to work with Adam Devine again, and develop the relationship between Fat Amy and Bumper even more?
WILSON: Adam and I have had a long history of making out. Actually, before you’d seen us in Pitch Perfect, I’d had a cameo on his show Workaholics. I didn’t even know him, but the very first scene we did, we made out and he felt me up. Weirdly, we’ve always had this strange chemistry. In the first movie, there was never any subplot that something was going on between us. Of the large ensemble cast, we were just the two that were both writers and improvisers, so we would just always make up this little stuff between us to try to get it in the movie. That developed into Kay Cannon writing the love storyline for us in the second movie, which is really cool. But a fun fact about that make-out sequence is that they noticed, after filming it, that my pants were actually a bit see-thru. So, a lot of the making out and rolling around on the ground had to be cut. We actually went for about seven minutes because we were going for an MTV Award Best Kiss. It’s all about the trophies! And it had to be majorly cut down because you could see my underwear through the see-thru pants.
You had to really up the level of stunts, this time around. What did you do to prepare?
WILSON: It was very physically demanding, this movie. The first one had a lot of high-energy choreography, but this one really was something else. For the aerial stunt sequence in the beginning, 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.
Do you always just know exactly how to gauge how big to go with comedy?
WILSON: I don’t get a lot of, “Go bigger!,” notes. When I first started acting, I was training as a stage actress. And then, when you make the transition to screen, you’ve gotta tone it back a little bit. It’s always a fine balance of getting the right energy. Sometimes the way I deliver jokes is really low-level because it’s really deadpan. Often, the sound guys are like, “Can she do it again, but on a bigger level?,” and I’m like, “No, because that’s not how I deliver jokes.” I don’t know. It’s just a feeling you get. You want to try to be natural when you’re on screen, especially in films, but you’ve also gotta give it some kind of energy, as well.
One of the best scenes in the movie is when you’re rubbing your confidence on Anna Kendrick. You’re obviously very confident, but have you always been that way?
WILSON: No, I was very shy, as a child, bordering on social disorder. I was very intellectual. I was lucky to be good at school work, but that didn’t make me the coolest. I remember reading somewhere where it said, “If you don’t change your personality by age 15, that’s the personality you’re going to be.” I was the girl who would get very red-faced, if I had to answer a question in class, or that kind of thing. And then, I thought, “You know what? I’ve just gotta get over myself. I can be like the other popular girls. I just need to push myself a little bit.” I just started doing debate in high school, or public speaking. I would literally force myself to do it, to get over my shyness. The good thing about being shy, as a child, is that you become very observant. Because you’re not actively participating, you’re sitting back watching everyone, and I think that’s really helped me, as an actress. I’m good at observing people, and then copying them for comic effect.
How was it to do the final singing competition in Copenhagen, Denmark?
WILSON: You know what? We didn’t actually go to Copenhagen for the World Championships. That’s movie magic. We actually were in New Orleans French Quarter to do the scene when we arrived in Denmark, and the outdoor finale was actually shot in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 110-degree heat. We shot a whole week of that, and I lost 10 pounds in sweat, just in that week, because we did the routine about a hundred times, and it was about a four-minute routine. I was sweatin’ like a bush pig that day. It was bad. It was really bad. They had huge industrial fans that were handheld, and they would just come and blow you with them, after the routine, so your make-up wouldn’t go away.
Why is it so important for you to be fit?
WILSON: I am larger than most actresses, but I would never want to promote being unhealthy. But, you have to have so much stamina. When I work, I work 16 hours a day. On Pitch Perfect, we were singing and dancing for 16 hours. It was very physically demanding. So, I actually work out five times a week. I have a personal trainer. If you’re not physically strong, you can’t have that energy on set, all day. There’s so much that we did for the movie that you don’t see. At the camp retreat, there were so many physical stunts that you don’t even see. I think actresses can be all different shapes and sizes, but you have to view it as a profession. As an actor, your body is one of your big tools, so you’ve gotta be fit, in that sense.
Do you have girls come up to you and tell you how much you’ve inspired them?
WILSON: Pitch Perfect has such a great girl power message. We’re 10 girls in a group that are all different sizes, nationalities and backgrounds, and yet we come together to create something really great. I have noticed that I have a lot of young female fans, and I think what they’re tapping into is that Fat Amy and obviously myself are very confident in our own skin. That inspires them. Also, on a personal level, I’m all about what’s up here (in the brain) and not necessarily what’s on the outside. I think that is a really good message, especially for young girls to hear. The fact that someone like me, from the western suburbs of Sydney, could become an actress in movies and not look like regular actresses, gives a lot of hope to other girls who are really creative and not necessarily the standard of what some people consider beauty to be.
You live in Los Angeles now. What’s that transition been like, and do you miss Australia?
WILSON: I do miss Australia and I try to go back, at least, for Christmas because that’s the best time of year in Sydney. But I get so busy now, in America. Between being an actress and a writer, I work every day, but I try to get back there. But I’ve always, always loved America and always wanted to work here. Culturally, I’m very American. I just love L.A. I love that I get to live here.
Do you drive?
WILSON: Oh, yeah, of course! I have to drive. Sydney is just like L.A., where you have to drive everywhere. I just love it. I’ve bought my first property now in L.A., and I’m really making a cool home base there.
Are there any Australians that you would like to work with?
WILSON: I have already tried to work with the Hemsworths, but they’re really busy. I’m like, “Guys, we’re all Australians! Can’t you just not do the other Hunger Games, and do a movie with me?” That’s not even a joke. I have tried! I recently talked to Russell Crowe. I think he’s a really good actor. I’ve made terrible jokes about him, in the past, but he still likes me. I’d love for him to play my dad in something. I think that would be really funny.
Is it a myth that all Australian actors in Hollywood hang out together?
WILSON: We do. Sometimes it will be one Australian actor’s birthday, and you’ll go there and it will be all Australians who are actors there. It’s weird. My main base of friends are all Americans. I left Australia. I can’t just hang out with Australians, all the time. I do find it weird that Australia is a relatively small country, compared to everybody else, and yet per capita, we probably have the most successful actor ratio in our population. It’s weird that we do so well, particularly in Hollywood.
What’s the status of Private Benjamin?
WILSON: That project is still in development and we’re looking for the right director, right now. I know that I’m going to get a lot of heat when this movie comes out and crushes it at the box office, hopefully, so we’re looking to set that up. Finding the right director is so important, especially because that property is such a beloved property. We want to do it right.
You’re doing Kung Fu Panda 3?
WILSON: Yeah, I’m the new panda in that. My character is called Mei Mei. I’m actually doing another session on Wednesday, but most of it is done.
Is Mei Mei an Australian panda?
WILSON: No, it’s American. I have an American accent.
Pitch Perfect 2 opens in theaters on May 15th.