From Bridesmaids To Bachelorette: Why Rebel Wilson Is The Most Interesting Woman In Hollywood
I slid into a booth at the Four Seasons recently to chat with Rebel Wilson, the comedienne and rising scene-stealer of this week's Bachelorette and the upcoming toe-tapper Pitch Perfect, smitten with her work in Bridesmaids, in which she turned a brief turn as Kristen Wiig's terrible British roommate into one of the more indelible comic Hollywood debuts in recent memory. Over the course of our conversation about everything — her dog show past, her law degree, gangsta rap, reality TV, her Bring It On obsession, WWII-era international relations, and why she considered The Grove her "happy place" when she moved from her native Australia to L.A. two years ago — I realized that Rebel Wilson is, indeed, the most interesting woman in Hollywood.
She's so naturally funny she gets laughs even when playing the straight woman, as she does in Leslye Headland's R-rated Bachelorette (in limited release today) opposite the bad-girl trifecta of Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan, and Isla Fisher. In a wicked reversal of fortune it's Wilson's former freak/chubby bride-to-be Becky who's eclipsed her cooler and prettier friends in life — and, even as they inadvertently threaten to ruin her wedding, Becky's naive loyalty underscores the point: Mean girls finish last.
Wilson's knack for memorable characters, honed by years in Australian TV and a stranger-than-fiction upbringing ("I try to do it take the tragic things in my life and make them into comedy") led her to October's college a capella comedy Pitch Perfect, in which she plays as a confident Aussie student who calls herself "Fat Amy." "In the script the character is called 'Fat Amy,' so it's really hard to send it to actresses," joked producer Elizabeth Banks. "Rebel recognized what an iconic character Fat Amy would be."
Next she appears in Chris Colfer's coming-of-age debut Struck By Lightning and Michael Bay's Pain & Gain. Wilson's also set to write, produce, and star in her own ABC sitcom, Super Fun Night, working with Conan O'Brien. "It’s about three girls who live in New York," she explained. "They’re just very nerdy and they really don’t have a social life ... they used to have a thing called Friday Night Fun Night where they stayed indoors and watched DVDs and ate pizza. Super Fun Night is their new concept as they try to become more cool and popular. It’s kind of based on me."
It really feels like you’re in the midst of a big moment in your career, with Bachelorette and Pitch Perfect coming out…
Ahh! It has been pretty good. When I came to America I thought, wouldn’t it be awesome to get into one movie? And then I get cast in Bridesmaids as my first job here and it’s such a huge movie. Even though sometimes to me it doesn’t feel fast, because I have been here two years now, I’ve done eight movies in that time so there are days and weeks where to me it doesn’t feel fast at all. But all my agents, who represent super famous people, are like, ‘Rebel, this is, like, really fast!’ [Laughs] And it has turned out like the dream — I couldn’t have even dreamt that things would go this well.
I don’t know how often you look at your own Wikipedia page or Google yourself, but your bio is the stuff of legend.
Is it? I guess my life is interesting.
Tell me this is all true: Your parents were dog showers?
Like Best in Show?
Exactly like Best In Show. Beagles. And it was so embarrassing, but what I try to do is take the tragic things in my life and make them into comedy. I used to hate the dog show — it was so boring and it was so dorky, but now I look back on it fondly. Every weekend we’d go to the dog shows and show the dogs, but now I’m like, I guess it was an interesting environment to grow up in… it was a weird, competitive environment of this group of people who loved dogs and they’d wear weird outfits and go to weird places out in the country to do these dog shows. [Laughs] But it was an interesting upbringing.
More interesting than most.
It wasn’t like I was a child actor who got pimped out by their mother to do commercials.
You also have the coolest name ever. Did you always love it?
Oh, thank you — but not always. I went to a Christian high school so I went under my middle name. I don’t think they would have accepted me in the school — ‘This is Rebel’… so I have two middle names, Melanie Elizabeth, and I went under those. But Rebel’s way cooler.
Another true fact: Your siblings were on The Amazing Race?
Yes! The first ever Australian series, which is exactly the same as the American one. And they came in last! My sister was on the show five days and vomited five times on camera. It was pretty funny because my family, we love reality shows like The Amazing Race and Survivor, and so when they had the opportunity to go on we were like, ‘Yay, you’re probably going to win!’ And we thought up all of this strategy, but they came in last. They said doing it is so different from watching it on TV. It’s so hard. They get no sleep, no food, it was a really hard experience. [Laughs]
So your real life is almost stranger than fiction. Did you always want to end up here in Hollywood?
As a kid I never thought I’d be an actress. Never, ever, ever, no way. I was really shy — bordering on social disorder shy — and I was really academic. Really good at math, I had weird abilities, so everyone thought I’d be a lawyer because I did really good at school.
Did you want to be a lawyer?
Well, I actually have a law degree. I’ve done that at the same time as acting, which was really hard — I should have quit, but then it took a lot of work to get into that law school after high school so I was like, I may as well do it on the side. So I’d often be filming or doing plays and sometimes I’d have to miss my law exams because I was in a show in Australia, but they said ok, you can come back next week and do the exam, which was cool. I’m like, ‘Um, I’m filming this movie with Nicolas Cage — I kind of can’t come to the exam…’ But I literally had to attend 80% of the classes to get my law degree, so it was really hard. Often I’d fly into law school because I’d be in another state, and have to fly in for a day of law school. It was difficult.
Has that law degree come in handy in your show biz career?
When I first started, I did negotiate a lot of my own contracts. People look at me and they see my funny, stupid characters and they have no idea. Sometimes when I say yeah, I could practice as a lawyer if I wanted to, people are like, “What? Who’d want you as a lawyer?”
I would totally hire you as my lawyer.
I’d be good. I’d crack good jokes, I’d be all friendly with the judge. I think it could work.
How did Bachelorette come to you?
Another girl, Casey Wilson, was actually cast as the bride but she was on a TV show so she couldn’t come to New York and film it. They had all this amazing cast in place already, Kirsten [Dunst] and Lizzy [Caplan] and Isla [Fisher] and James Marsden, and they were looking for a girl to play the bride. Obviously I think they wanted a girl who was bigger, for the “Pig Face” stuff to work, and I read the script and it wasn’t an easy fit, because normally I play the wacky character and not the straight girl. This could kind of be a challenge because Becky has to be the more grounded straight character.
It’s a fun reversal, to see you playing it straight and Kirsten, Lizzy, and Isla running with the jokes.
Yeah! And yet sometimes I think because of my delivery I get a few laughs in the film, but I’m not playing for laughs. It’s not like I’m in a studio comedy where I’m putting all my improvised jokes in. This was based on a play, and it gets very serious in parts. These are real quality actors in this! So I just try to play it quite genuinely.
Theirs is a much different tone to your character; Becky is clearly aware a lot of the time that these girlfriends of hers are real bitches and kind of terrible.
They are mean to her, sometimes! But she’s the fourth wheel in a group of four girls, so she does think they’re cooler than her and wants to hang out with them. But at the point of the movie where the movie starts, she’s got this amazing fiancé and she’s going to have a really good life, and those girls who were probably way cooler than her in high school, the tables have turned — little Becky is now on top of the heap!
The mean girls get a comeuppance.
Yeah — I always think in real life, eventually they do. If you are really mean and super bitchy eventually that’s going to come back to haunt you.
It’s tempting to juxtapose your work in Bachelorette with your performance in Bridesmaids.
Two wedding movies! I was actually in another wedding movie, called A Few Best Men, that comes out in the U.K. this month.
With Xavier Samuel, of Twilight fame.
Yeah, of Twilight fame! He’s very cute, and a really nice guy. And Olivia Newton-John played my mother! In that one I played the sister of the bride. But in Bridesmaids I had nothing to do with the wedding. I was really curious — I think I only had four scenes in Bridesmaids and I was wondering if that would be enough to make an impact. I remember Jonah Hill was in one scene in 40-Year-Old Virgin, and that was enough for people to go, “Oh my god, who is that guy, he’s super hilarious!” But people adored [Bridesmaids] because it was so great and I booked five movies straight off the back of that as soon as it came out.
That was the first time I ever saw you and I remember watching your scenes thinking, is this girl for real? So clearly it was an effective turn.
[Laughs] That’s what happened in Australia! My very first character I was famous for was this Greek drug-dealing gangster girl, and people thought I was that girl. People were scared that there was a girl like that out on the streets! I try to play things convincingly, so I tried to be the British girl that was really annoying and a bit psycho, and try to annoy Kristen Wiig.
What was your experience working in Bachelorette with folks like Kirsten, who’s not necessarily known for comedy?
I mean, Bring It On was hilarious.
Oh my god, I stand corrected. Bring It On was hilarious. Have you seen the musical?
I was going to go with Kiki [Kirsten Dunst] to see Bring It On: The Musical, but she was busy. I bought tickets and everything, but my sister went instead. I didn’t get to go because I said if Kiki’s not going, I’m not going.
I think that is the way to see Bring It On: The Musical — sitting next to Kirsten Dunst.
Yes! I called up and bought the tickets and said to the guy, “It’s actually for me and for an actress, Kirsten Dunst… who was in the original Bring It On. We are coming to see the musical.” And he’s like, “She’s not in the musical. She was in the movie.” I’m like, yeah, I know. I was trying to say this is a big deal, you’ve got the original Torrance coming into this show, but it backfired. [Laughs]
Was it tempting as a Bring It On fan to quote that movie constantly to Kirsten on set?
I harassed her every day. I was like, “Remember when you did this bit, and that bit…” and I asked her all the questions. I’m fascinated by that movie, I just thought it was so good. I don’t watch many movies twice because I have a really good memory so to watch movies again is really boring to me, but Bring It On I’ve seen five or six times and I just love it. One time I was walking in Los Feliz and I saw the girl who plays Missy, Eliza [Dushku], and I didn’t know what to say! I was like, oh my god, what do I do? I should have gone up to her and said, “Remember that bit where you were auditioning for the Toros and they didn’t think you were good and you did the backflips?” [Laughs] I’m the biggest dork.
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