Australian transplant Rebel Wilson is featured in ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY online and in print this week. Although she might be recognizable from her role in BRIDESMAIDS, she’s poised for household name status with the release of at least five films this year and a tv show in the works. While I’m skeptical how much her roles will challenge the gross-out depictions of fatness from BRIDESMAIDS, it’ll be interesting to see her star on the rise. Here’s some highlights.
- “….Ever since her scene-stealing turn as Kristen Wiig’s sublimely annoying, Mexican-drinking-worm-tattooed roommate Brynn in last year’s BRIDESMAIDS, the 32-year-old Australian-born comic actress… has become one of the most buzzed-about new faces in Hollywood. She has no fewer than five films set to come out this year…; she recently shot a pilot for a CBS sitcom that she created, wrote, and stars in called SUPER FUN NIGHT, executive-produced by Conan O’Brien;… and she has an original musical-comedy script in development…. ‘Rebel has gotten so much bounce off the movie,’ marvels BRIDESMAIDS director Paul Feig. ‘In a weird way, she’s gotten more than anybody.'”
- She and Matt Lucas, who plays her onscreen brother, are interested in collaborating on a spinoff to BRIDESMAIDS focused on their characters, an idea that seems like it could gain some traction considering that Kristen Wiig has nixed the idea of a BRIDESMAIDS sequel.
- “‘Rebel is going to make a big splash,’ says Elizabeth Banks, who plays Wilson’s boss in (WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING) and produced another of her upcoming films, the collegiate-singing-group comedy PITCH PERFECT. ‘She’s like a female Seth Rogen in a way. She came here to conquer.'” (48)
- “Wilson’s disarming self-assurance instantly won over O’Brien when she appeared on his late-night show last year bearing nunchucks (she’s a martial-arts enthusiast)….” (48)
- She became a national TV star in Australia on three series before moving to Hollywood.
- “Feig came up with the idea of having Wilson play Lucas’ sister, a role that didn’t exist in the original script. On the set, he says, it was instantly clear she was willing to go to any length for a laugh: ‘It was like, ‘Can you show more butt crack?’ ‘Sure!’ She was just going for it.'” (49)
- She is a Jenny Craig spokesperson in Australia, reportedly losing about 22 pounds on the program.
- However, “Wilson has no qualms about taking on roles that highlight her weight. Her character in PITCH PERFECT is named Fat Amy, and in BACHELORETTE she plays a bride-to-be who’s called ‘Pig Face’ by her own cruel bridesmaids. ‘Some actresses who are bigger say, ‘I don’t want to get famous for playing a fat character,’ Wilson says. ‘But the size I am, you can’t just ignore it and try to go for skinny roles.’ She shrugs. ‘In comedy you have to use what you’ve got.'” (49) For me this begs the (rather rhetorical) question, what are the skinny roles?
In terms of that last quote, Wilson claims in a DAILY TELEGRAPH article from earlier this year (source for the nunchucks photo above) that she’s actually been encouraged to maintain her size in Hollywood. The PITCH PERFECT contract required that she lose no more weight from her Jenny Craig sponsorship for the duration of the film shoot. Wilson also notes that “Australians had been prejudiced against her weight….’But when I walked into the US agency I am with… they saw me and thought, ‘We don’t have anyone who looks like you, so we are going to accept you'”. This goes along with one of the major claims in my dissertation, that larger-sized performers have found opportunities through differentiation based on their size. However, “Wilson said once her film commitments ended, she would be back on the diet and is determined to reach 80kg (around 176 pounds) by the end of the year.” So what happens to her opportunities in Hollywood if she reaches that smaller size? Another part of my dissertation will look at how established actors fare after weight loss. Although many surmise that weight loss benefits a career, I argue that it can lead to a kind of brand confusion, especially when a certain persona seems to have been set. Whatever happens for Rebel next, she should be an interesting case study.