The Rebel yelled in 2012, and Hollywood heard.
That bawdy banshee scream came from Aussie breakout Rebel Wilson, who announced her presence as one of the industry’s next great—and most fearless—comediennes with her scene-stealing performances first in Bridesmaids, and then, recently, in the one-two punch of Bachelorette and Pitch Perfect, in which she plays shamelessly self-aware a capella crooner Fat Amy. (She calls herself that so “twig bitches like you don’t do it behind my back.”)
Riding the wave of Pitch Perfect’s strong box-office performance, Wilson recently sold a comedy pitch to Universal, which she will produce, write, and star in. While she is just now experiencing in her breakout moment in the States, the star has been making them laugh Down Under for years. Here, a field guide to the funniest moments from the rap enthusiast/dog show-ers’ daughter/hilarious actress.
The Bridesmaids Breakout
Melissa McCarthy’s Oscar-nominated oddball Megan in Bridesmaids was almost played by Wilson, who auditioned for the role on her first trip from Australia to Hollywood. After an hour of improvising with Kristen Wiig, producer Judd Apatow decided that even though the part was going to McCarthy, a role would be written into the film expressly for Wilson as one of the Wiig character’s roommates. The rest is for the (“sad, hand-written”) history books.
Pitch Perfect Star
The trailer for Pitch Perfect is just two-and-a-half minutes, and, like a brazen comedy bandit, Wilson steals every second of it in which she appears. It should come as no surprise, then, that the actress’s performance in the film proper is billed as a star-making turn. As Fat Amy, she hones a unique deadpan that’s equal parts sleepy and sharp. (Male suitor: “I have a feeling we should kiss.” Fat Amy: “I sometimes have this feeling I could do crystal meth. But then I think, mmm, better not.”) Ceaselessly confident, a little loopy, and acutely aware, Fat Amy is one of the year’s most original characters.
Bachelorette, a raunchy night-before-the-wedding comedy that makes Bridesmaids look Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, came out a crucial time for Wilson. In the film, she actually plays straightman to Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan, and Kirsten Dunst’s borderline psychotic characters. Wilson’s bride-to-be Becky is vulnerable, insecure, and fully formed, proving the actress’s range. While most comedic performers find themselves pigeon-holed after a run like Bridesmaids and Pitch Perfect, Wilson’s performance in Bachelorette argues for a more diverse film career.
Best in Show
Jennifer Lawrence should watch her back—Rebel Wilson may be the best new talk-show guest on the circuit. Of all her appearances, her most charming—and hilarious—was an interview with Jimmy Kimmel. She recalled her days as one-half of a Kris Kross cover group (her sister was the other member), growing up as the daughter of professional dog show-ers, and recreating the choreography to Bring It On in front of the movie’s star, Kirsten Dunst, while on set for Bachelorette.
One of the Aussie’s selling points to casting agents, surely, is her impressive American accent. How does the actress perfect it? By watching the television series starring people that epitomize English eloquence, impeccable diction, and enviable dialect: Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.
The Edge of Glory
What was it like in the audition room when Wilson auditioned for Pitch Perfect? During an appearance on Jay Leno, Wilson warmed up her “breast voice” (“a lot of people sing from their chest voice,” she says, “and I sing from my breast voice”) and began singing Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory,” which is actually the song she used for her audition. It starts off sweet enough, but Wilson soon begins beatboxing with her chest, flings off her hails, and gives fellow guest Bryan Cranston front-row seats to a performance to remember.
“I did once have a dream that I rapped with you, and the audience just went crazy,” Wilson told Ellen DeGeneres during an appearance on her talk show. Based on their sassy and genuinely impressive spitting during Salt-n-Pepa’s “Shoop,” it’s also a dream we all never knew we had.
Forget Sasha Fierce. Music’s most exciting alter ego is Rebelicious, Rebel Wilson’s fictional rap star alter-ego. “Wassup? My name is Rebelicious aka Lil’ Reb aka Lika-lika-lika-lika-Riblicious,” she says. Her regimen for living the “rap gangster life”: partying all night, sleeping for 48 hours at a time, and mugging women for blinged-out necklaces that say “Bitch.”
Pride of Australia
Bogan Pride was an Australian series created by and starring Rebel Wilson. Before Wilson was cast in Pitch Perfect, the movie’s screenwriter, Kay Cannon, was concerned that she’d be offended by her character’s name, Fat Amy. Cannon must not have been familiar with Bogan Pride, on which Wilson’s character’s name was Jennie Cragg—a pun on the weight-loss dynamo. The series follows Jennie’s quest to win a dance competition in order to pay for her mum’s stomach-stapling surgery and also impress her crush.
Oscar (Fever) Dreams
Wilson’s history of playing oddball characters stretches back to her big break on the Australian series The Wedge, a sketch show on which she played several characters, a fan favorite of which was delusional schoolgirl Lucy. Before landing her first role on the series Pizza, however, Wilson pursued an eclectic array of passions: first mathematics, and then law at the University of South Wales. She traveled to South Africa as a Rotary International Youth Ambassador and contracted malaria. She then won an Oscar… in a hallucinatory vision during the illness, leading her to pursue a career in acting.
After training at the Australian Theatre for Young People, Wilson won a scholarship to train with the famed Second City improv group in New York. Those finely tuned improvisational skills are on display in the Australian improv series Thank God You’re Here, on which she made numerous appearances. In this sketch, she plays the beard of a closeted gay prince, meeting the king and queen for the first time. It does not go well. Bikini waxes, smoking crack, and the worm dance are involved.
Lightning Strikes Again
Wilson’s next film role looks to be yet another eccentric scene-stealer. In Struck by Lightning, she plays Chris Colfer’s (Glee) best friend, an intrepid, if sometimes clueless, high school journalist-turned-blackmailer. It’s no small feat that Wilson, once again, is the highlight of the film’s trailer. The film’s cast includes the likes of Allison Janney, Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks, and The Office’s Angela Kinsey.