She's a Rebel with applause

ANDREW TAYLOR
Last updated 10:44 03/12/2012

Fairfax's Andrew Taylor sat down to talk to Rebel Wilson about her new movie 'Pitch Perfect'.

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It would be easy to hate Rebel Wilson if she was a willowy blonde with immaculate style. In a few years, she has seemingly conquered Hollywood, most notably in the Judd Apatow film Bridesmaids, in which she almost stole the limelight from the film's stars, Kristen Wiig and Oscar-nominated Melissa McCarthy, despite appearing in just four scenes.

And with recent appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and a coming spread in Vanity Fair, wearing a $2 million necklace, Wilson is now one of Australia's most recognisable cinema stars. On December 6 comes the release of her latest film, Pitch Perfect; another, Pain & Gain, will follow next year.

Wilson, who was invited to Sacha Baron Cohen's 40th birthday and has tweeted photos of herself with Hollywood A-listers including Zac Efron, says it is surreal to suddenly find herself befriended by people she used to watch on TV and in movies.

''Obviously, a lot of people want to work with you and think I'm funny, which is so nice,'' she says. ''Also, I call them my celebrity friends because it's not like if you had some major issue you're going to call up [Bachelorette co-star] Kirsten Dunst and say, 'Hey Kiki, I've got a problem with my smoke alarm. What am I supposed to do?' You know, it's not that kind of friend.''

Los Angeles-based paparazzi also rate Wilson highly enough to stalk her as she shops for clothes or meets friends.

''Now the paparazzi know where I live. They camp outside my place, they follow me. I don't really change what I'm doing but it's now weird to have people interested in what you're doing.''

Paparazzi aside, Wilson would appear to have little in common with Australia's other queens of the screen, Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman and Naomi Watts. It is hard to imagine any of them conducting interviews in an adidas tracksuit, let alone being searched at Los Angeles International Airport for looking like ''a Yugoslavian gangster'', as Wilson puts it.

She described the incident to her 240,000-plus Twitter followers in September: ''Um, I learnt my lesson - am wearing a gangsta-looking tracksuit at the airport - stopped by security four times, full body pat down plus drug test.''

In Pitch Perfect, Wilson plays a member of an all-girl a capella group, the Bellas, who teases deaf Jewish students and calls herself Fat Amy so that ''twig bitches like you don't do it behind my back''.

''I actually think 90 per cent of actresses, at least in America, would look at that and go, 'Oh, I'm not playing that role','' she says. ''I look at it and go, there's huge comic potential in that role. I'm totally going to go for it. I don't care.''

Wilson, softly spoken and unfailingly polite, is a far cry from the crass, slovenly, outspoken comic creations she played in Pizza and Bogan Pride. The oldest of four creatively named children (Liberty, Ryot and Annachi are her younger siblings) of beagle-breeding parents, Wilson says she has an ''underdog personality'', which was shaped in her school years. ''At school, nobody thought I was smart and I became smart. Nobody wanted to be my friend and then I had lots of friends. No one thought I'd be an actress.

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''Where I come from, out in the suburbs, I didn't know anyone who was a professional actor. And girls that looked like me? No girls like that were on TV.''

Wilson began a law degree at the University of New South Wales, which she completed in 2009, while building her career in television. She also enrolled in evening classes at the Australian Theatre for Young People, where her first attempt to find an agent was met with derision. She recalls: ''At my very first meeting, they said, 'we can't really see you being on Home and Away', and they rejected me. So I had to keep being myself and prove that I was better than what was out there.''

That setback did not stop her winning a scholarship in 2002, sponsored by the theatre company's patron, Nicole Kidman, to train at the renowned improvisational comedy school Second City in Chicago.

Body fascism might be rampant in Australian acting, but Wilson says comedy provides a home for misfits.

Indeed, she doubts whether the conventionally beautiful ever make good comedians, although her Pitch Perfect co-star Anna Camp, who plays the uptight Aubrey, is an exception to the rule.

''What they do in America in all those sitcoms is hire glamorous girls and they're never that funny ... that's because they've never had to develop a personality because they're hot. I think girls like me have to develop a personality to get any sort of attention.''

Wilson says her family also had low expectations of her acting career, telling her they did not want to watch shows such as Bogan Pride, which she wrote and starred in. ''At first, they honestly didn't think I'd be in movies,'' she says. ''They were like, 'Who would cast you?'''

Wilson's rising celebrity status seems to have changed their minds. ''They love who they get to meet. They love coming to the premieres,'' she says. ''And I think they think I'm good - even my brother, who's like the harshest, most cynical critic.''

Wilson does not hide her admiration for Hollywood, which, unlike the local entertainment industry, has embraced the funny, fearless young woman who was a weight-loss ambassador for Jenny Craig until acting commitments intervened.

''Before I went to America there were maybe one or two movies a year that I could audition for, and even then it was difficult to find a female part that was any interest or of any comedic value,'' she says. ''Whereas when you go over to America there are things to audition for, a couple of things a week.''

Nor is she always cast as the fat, quirky girl providing comic relief for her skeletal co-stars. In Bachelorette, Wilson had the more serious role as Becky, a bride who asks three former school foes to be her bridesmaids. In Pain & Gain, she plays a woman embroiled in a kidnapping plot.

''My strategy in America was definitely to get a profile as an actress and then segue that profile into getting my own projects,'' she says. She has been commissioned by US television network ABC to write, act and produce a comedy series, Super Fun Night.

The show's pilot included a scene where the characters try unsuccessfully to enter a club. ''I'm like yeah, I've had that first-hand experience of totally being rejected and having to explain you're in the movie with the girl having the party,'' Wilson says.

-Sydney Morning Herald

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