If you don’t recognize the name Rebel Wilson, it’s likely you know her face. Since stealing scenes as Kristin Wiig's annoying roommate in the 2011 hit Bridesmaids, the 26-year-old Aussie has become a ubiquitous presence with lively appearances on late-night talk shows and in a slate of films including the recent hit Bachelorette, the raucous Australian comedy A Few Best Men from Priscilla: Queen of the Desert director Stephan Elliott, Chris Colfer's new teen-com Struck by Lightning, and the upcoming Michael Bay–directed action flick Pain & Gain. Wilson has another potential smash on her résumé with Pitch Perfect, Jason Moore’s deliriously entertaining musical comedy about collegiate a cappella competitions (in select theaters today and opening wider next week) in which she plays the self-deprecating but ridiculously confident Fat Amy. Wilson recently sat down with The Advocate to discuss belting Lady Gaga during her audition, kissing girls onstage Down Under, and getting hit on by homeless black men.
The Advocate: Your skillful singing is one of the big surprises in Pitch Perfect. Which song did you use for your audition?
Rebel Wilson: I actually sang Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory” because last year when I auditioned that was a huge, huge hit. And I didn’t really know what the song was about — I should’ve looked into it more. But I just loved the chorus and I knew I could belt it out, so I went in to Jason Moore, and I did my own body percussion just to add that extra little flavor and just belted it out because I knew they really wanted to see whether I could sing or not. And at the end I was so nervous because they just sat there, and then Jason’s like, “You’re a really good singer.” So I was like, “sweet,” and then I got the role.
I’m told that you were the very first actor cast.
Yeah, for some reason I was cast months before they properly started casting the movie. I think because they thought Fat Amy was such a specific character, they needed a bigger girl who was really good at comedy but who could also sing as well. They were looking at me and Adele.
Hold on! You beat out Adele? Did she audition?
I don’t know whether she actually auditioned. You’d have to ask Jason. Obviously, she’s like the world’s most amazing singer, so I knew when I went in there that I had to deliver and prove that I could sing.
So this must have been after Bridesmaids had been released if they were pursuing you.
Yeah, it was soon after Bridesmaids. Even though I only had four scenes in that movie, I did get a lot of attention from my character. Yeah. [Laughs] They had so much footage of myself and Matt Lucas and Kristen Wiig that they could’ve made a whole movie with all of our improvised footage. But the movie was called Bridesmaids — it was not about the roommates.
But there have been reports that you and Matt are working on a spin-off about your characters. Is this true?
Oh, we’d love to do a spin-off of our characters. I think Brynn and Gil would be a really great spin-off. We’re both so busy, though. He’s a huge U.K. comedian and is doing so many shows there, but we live together here in the U.S. We’re real-life roommates now in West Hollywood. He’s great.
I guess because we both were coming to live here permanently. We only met on Bridesmaids, and we became such good friends. I’m the oldest of all my siblings, so I’ve never had like an older brother to look up to, and he’s kind of like that. And he’s been through so much in his career already, so he can give me really good advice, and he’s just the nicest, most generous guy. He said, “Oh, do you want to be roommates for real?” I was so shocked that he asked me, so I was like, “Yeah, sure.” I think he knows I’m quite sensible and responsible even though I do wild crazy things in comedy, but in real life it’s not like I’m going to burn the house down for a laugh. I’m going to be super sensible and pretty fun.
What’s a typical night like for you two when you’re not working?
At the moment we have Sam [Barks], who plays Éponine in the Les Miz movie that’s coming up, over at the house too, so we just sing all the time. Matt taught himself how to play piano two years ago. I’m like, “How did you even do that?” But he did. And he sits and plays, and we sing songs like show tunes, or we just go in the hot tub. That’s how we like to chill.
Do you two ever go out in West Hollywood?
We’re trying to find out all the good places to go to. And we’re just kind of trying them one by one really, like all the cafés and restaurants and different places to hang out.
Do you go out to clubs or bars?
I’ve been so busy that I haven’t, and also sometimes I feel like I’m not cool enough to get in because aren’t people like pretty cool here in Hollywood? Sometimes you know like when you’re leaving our part of Hollywood to go see a movie, you see people lining up at the clubs, and they’re all dressed really fancy. I don’t know whether I’d fit in.
I'm curious because I just happen to know some lesbians who are all but obsessed with you.
You know, I do notice on Twitter that a lot of girls write to me and they either say, “I want to be your best friend,” or they say, “I have a total girl crush on you.” I’m like “Awww.”
Well, I know one woman in particular who has more than just a typical girl crush. So I’m curious if when you do go out if you get hit on by women.
Um, actually I get hit on a lot by African-American homeless men. That seems to be the main demographic I get a lot of attention from, so I’d love it if it turned more around to lesbians. That’d be way, way, way better. But no, I haven’t. Yeah, but maybe I don’t go out that much, that’s why.
Getting back to Pitch Perfect, did you have any singing experience before this?
I’d done musical theater. I’d never done like Broadway. I’ve done musical theater workshops but never the actual production because I was always working in TV or doing movie stuff. So like a little bit but not a huge amount — certainly I didn’t have a huge background in 10-part harmony singing.
Had you ever performed with an a cappella group?
I was in an a cappella group in high school. So if you look at the sheet music of our finale routine in the movie, it is so complicated. Like the actual arrangement is super, super complicated. It was at least 10, 20 times harder than the stuff we used to do in high school in our little group called the 12-Voice Choir. Yeah, this is way cooler and way more sophisticated.
Yeah, in A Few Best Men I play a lesbian character. I played the lesbian sister of the bride who ends up kissing a dude at the end, but she was like a full-on lesbian in that. And I beat out famous Australian lesbians for the role.
I’ve had that soundtrack for months. When will the film be released in the states?
I didn’t know, because it’s been released in like every other country. Last month it was in the U.K., and it came out in Australia in January because it’s got Olivia Newton-John — my favorite.
What was it like working with her and director Stephan Elliott?
It was great. She and Stephan, who’s like a good friend of mine because he did Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, which is like all-time Australian classic, and it’s like the best movie ever. I just love it. As a kid seeing that kinda made me think, Oh, Australians can be funny and do good movies. Matt’s actually good friends with Guy Pearce, who’s one of the stars of that movie. But Olivia! Grease is one of my favorite movies, and so I would just ask her to sing Grease all the time and she would. This is the thing — she would! [Sings “You better shape up”] And we’d do Grease mega-mixes at lunch, and you think, How weird is this? I’m with the actual Sandy doing Grease songs with her. She’s so nice in that way because she knew I loved it, and so she’d be like, “OK, let’s sing a song,” and someone would get on the piano because the hotel we were staying at had a piano, and we would just sing some Grease mega-mixes.
That's an amazing story. Was that the first time you played a lesbian?
I’m trying to think of others. Oh, yeah, I did a play called No Exit, which is a famous Jean-Paul Sartre play. I played the main character, who is a lesbian. But back when I did that play I was really young. I was like 16, and it was really controversial because I had to kiss the other girl in the play, and it was in the round so the audience was so close to us, and the audience members started freaking out. There were other teenage girls in the audience because you could tell what was going to happen, and then people were sitting so close to us they were freaking out about it. I thought it was hilarious.
Actually, it wasn’t Matt’s idea to do the pubic hair, but it was kind of his idea. I said some line referring to masturbation, and that was his idea. Because I’m like, “Matt I just need to say something funny. What should I do?” But then I just thought why not wear a bikini T-shirt and add pubic hair? I thought it could be funny or it could be a career-ender. I spoke to Rihanna and Katy Perry after, and they really laughed. They thought it was super funny. My mum didn’t. Sometimes my mum is very disapproving of my comedy. She thinks I go too far and can be too rude and bring shame on the family, but I try to tell her, “No, Ma, it’s to get attention for the movie.”
Well, that was what everybody was talking about the next morning. It just seemed so reminiscent of Matt’s Little Britain series to me.
That’s interesting. Yeah, I’m going to tell Matt that.
You exert such confidence both in your film performances and on your talk show appearances. Where does that come from?
[Laughs] I don’t know. I think because I had this hallucination that I was going to be an actress and that I was going to be really good, even though the odds are so against you becoming an actress and especially someone who looks like me, who is not real glamorous. I just always thought I’d be good, even at the first. And I was so nervous to get in front of people and whatever, but there was just something inside of me that I just thought, No I will be good. Just keep going and keep trying. And then weirdly now it’s kind of become true, but I think if you just stay true to yourself and just show people who you are, then, hopefully, they’ll like it.