Movie Sneaks

Rebel Wilson scales new heights in 'Pitch Perfect 2'

After a brief foray into TV, Rebel Wilson is back on film in 'Pitch Perfect 2'

There aren't many actresses who'd be excited about playing a character named "Fat Amy." But when Rebel Wilson was offered the role of an a cappella singer who threatens to finish competitors "like a cheesecake" in the "Pitch Perfect" franchise, she didn't think twice.

"I know 95% of actresses wouldn't want to do it, but I thought she was the funniest character," said Wilson, 29. "When you do comedy, you have to use what you've got — whether you've got a big nose, you're super tall, super short or whatever — you've gotta use it because that's all you have."

FULL COVERAGE: Summer Movie Sneaks

Four years after moving to West Hollywood from her native Australia, Wilson looks just as she did when we first saw her in "Bridesmaids" that year — without the Mexican drinking worm tattoo. One thing is different, though. Sitting in the lobby of the Chateau Marmont a few weeks ago, she wore a nice dress, because she'd come from a photo shoot. Otherwise, she said, she would have arrived wearing sweatpants. Always sweatpants. She loves them so much that they're going to be the cornerstone of a plus-size clothing line she's creating with the Torrid label out this fall. "It'll be like, glamorous sweatpants," she said with a laugh. "A few diamantes. They call it athleisure."

After Wilson appeared in 2012's "Pitch Perfect," it seemed her career was primed to take off. Her Fat Amy — initially billed as one of the film's lesser roles alongside Anna Kendrick's lead — ended up as the movie's most quotable character. She was tapped to host the MTV Movie Awards and created ABC's "Super Fun Night," in which she also starred. But the television show was panned by critics and canceled after just one season; Wilson said the rigorous schedule also kept her from accepting roles in the films "Snowpiercer" and "Into the Woods."

"My movie career was really burgeoning, and I had to go away from that for over a year, which was really disappointing," she said. "So now it's awesome, because I think I'm back on track."

Indeed, Wilson has a handful of projects lined up: She recently wrapped production on "Grimsby," a comedy starring Sacha Baron Cohen, as well as "Kung Fu Panda 3," in which she voices a female panda. Plus, she's about to go to New York to start filming "How to Be Single," a romantic comedy about two best friends co-starring Dakota Johnson.

But first, of course, comes "Pitch Perfect 2," out May 15. Wilson has a lot more to do in the sequel, which begins with her front and center, hanging Cirque du Soleil style from the ceiling during a performance with her college a cappella group, the Barden Bellas. The stunt goes awry when Fat Amy accidentally exposes her bottom half to the audience, which includes the president of the United States.

"I stretched every day to be able to do that," Wilson said of the aerial stunt she performed 27 feet above the ground. "I'm afraid of heights, so I said I'd only do it three times. I told them, 'I'll do it three times. I'll crush it, so turn all your cameras on.' And I nailed it."

Before joining the "Pitch Perfect" series, Wilson was no stranger to a cappella. She was part of a group at her suburban Sydney high school — 12 Voice Choir, in which each girl wore "very long velvet skirts and button-up blouses."

"It was supremely dorky," she said. "I went to a Christian school, so we'd sing religious church hymns at weddings and funerals. It was a bit stupid."

She partook in school musicals too, such as "Grease," but never landed the lead role. So performing in "Pitch Perfect" has helped her scratch that musical theater geek itch. Not that everything on the set of the sequel was always in perfect harmony. For one thing, shooting took place in the middle of summer, and Wilson was constantly dripping with sweat and swatting away bugs. And Elizabeth Banks, who makes her directorial debut on the sequel, apparently took little pity on the cast.

"I thought because she's a fellow actress she'd be easier on us, but in a way she was harder on us," Wilson recalled. "She was like, 'You don't need a makeup check.' I was like, 'I do! I'm sweating!' She was a taskmaster."

The budget was also bigger this time around — Wilson estimates triple the $14 million the first was made for — and the cast was more well known. Louisiana locals often showed up to the set and even to the film's wrap party, seeking out Wilson and co-star Kendrick.

What hadn't changed, Wilson said, was the way she felt about herself. She still ate carbs on set, even while her co-stars barely ate lunch.

"Kendrick and Brittany Snow both have waists like that," she said, scrunching her index finger and thumb together. "They're ridiculous. They don't eat much at lunch — put it that way.

"Just because other people are taking Adderall to lose weight — most actresses in town are on that stuff — if I want to eat dessert every night, I'm gonna do that. …I don't want to encourage anyone to be unhealthy, like binge eat or get a whole bag of chips and eat it — eat the whole cheesecake. I'm not promoting that.

"But people shouldn't be so obsessive and try to starve themselves, because they think, 'Oh, that's what you do in Hollywood.' It's not. You don't have to do that. There are plenty of girls who aren't like that."

amy.kaufman@latimes.com

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
57°