Rebel Wilson: ‘Men get very intimidated by me. You can see it in their eyes’
When Rebel Wilson was in college, studying law (her parents’ choice) and acting (hers), she developed a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome. “I gained a lot of weight pretty quickly,” she says, “and I noticed that the bigger I got, the ‘funnier’ I was. I wasn’t actually doing anything different.” She’d planned to go down the dramatic acting route – law was a back-up – but she decided to change tack. “There’s a long tradition of bigger women in comedy. I am quite a strategic person, so I was like, OK, I’m obviously overweight and love eating – bit of a personal flaw – so I’m gonna use that to my advantage and go hard with the comedy. When I go to America, I’m gonna say, ‘I’m the female Jonah Hill, guys. That’s who I am.’ And it was a very successful strategy.”
It certainly was. Having found modest success in her native Australia on an SNL-style sketch show called The Wedge, Wilson was given a scholarship by Nicole Kidman to study with the famous improv troupe Second City in the US. While there, she was asked to audition for a starring role in Bridesmaids. The part – as the self-assured eccentric Megan – went to Melissa McCarthy, but director Paul Feig was so impressed by Wilson that he invented another role for her: as Kristen Wiig’s boundary-lacking roommate Brynn. She was only in a handful of scenes, but her performance, all unnervingly slow cadence and deadpan delivery, was a knockout. The film was “a classic”, says Wilson. “I wish they’d do a sequel.”
In the weeks after it came out, Wilson was cast in five more films. In each one, she nailed her comic colours to the mast – hers was a humour that was utterly unselfconscious, relying as much on pratfalls and slapstick as it did razor-sharp quips and off-colour remarks. “You call yourself Fat Amy?” asked Anna Camp’s Aubrey, of her beloved character in 2012’s Pitch Perfect. “Yeah,” she shot back. “So twig bitches like you don’t do it behind my back.” The film and its two sequels made Wilson a household name. “I’m so proud of that character,” she says. “I reclaimed being a bigger, confident girl, and I think it’s important for people to see that represented onscreen.”
We’re speaking over Zoom. Wilson’s in a hotel room in Australia, dressed to the nines in a blue gown, her teeth dazzlingly white even over webcam. Far from the whacky characters she plays, she is polite and calm, putting on no performance, cracking few jokes. Last year was a busy one for Wilson, who starred in four films of varying quality: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels re-hash The Hustle with Anne Hathaway (fun, ridiculous); Hitler Youth comedy Jojo Rabbit (divisively cartoonish); the romcom parody Isn’t It Romantic (slightly off the mark); and Cats (ghastly). This year is a little quieter. We’re here to talk about the new Amazon series LOL: Last One Laughing, a strange game-slash-reality show in which 10 comedians are locked in a room for six hours, and must simultaneously try and make each other laugh and avoid laughing themselves.