Globalisation is an ideal that has influenced almost every industry, especially the entertainment industry. Due to an increase in technology and media coverage it is becoming increasingly easier for celebrities from all different countries to make a name for themselves internationally. Rebel Wilson has been able to establish a successful career through being a product of the trends of globalisation. Trends such as global travel, the way in which her celebrity “brand” has been developed as well as convergence of media styles have all contributed to Wilson’s global recognition.
Rebel Wilson is a Sydney-born actress and comedian who is most known internationally for her roles in the smash-hit Pitch Perfect and Bridesmaids (IMDb, 2016). Before her feature film fame, she was known in Australia for playing Toula on the SBS series Pizza as well as a myriad of other characters she played while acting in the comedy sketch series on Channel 10, The Wedge (Tribute Entertainment Media Group, 2016). Wilson studied at the Australian Theatre for Young People (ATYP) and then went on to enrol at the New York Film Academy and the Second City Training Centre after winning a scholarship from ATYP to “hone her comic craft” (Pryor, 2002). At the same time, Wilson was studying a dual degree in law and arts at the University of New South Wales and received this degree in 2009 (Tribute Entertainment Media Group, 2016). After her success in Bridesmaids, which was the first film she booked in America (Miller, 2011), her film career has taken off landing her roles in major films such as Bachelorette, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, How to Be Single and the highly popular musical comedy franchise Pitch Perfect (IMDb, 2016).
Rebel Wilson’s global success in the entertainment industry would not be what it is today if the ability to travel to different countries was non-existent. In 1998, Wilson volunteered as a Rotary International Youth Ambassador in South Africa and while there, she contracted a severe case of malaria (Wilson, 2002). Having to “lie down for a month” due to the illness gave Wilson quite a bit of thinking time and it made her want to focus on going down a more creative path rather than an academic one (Wilson, 2002). Wilson has also admitted that during this period of sickness she experienced a hallucination in which she saw herself winning an Oscar (Tribute Entertainment Media Group, 2016). If Wilson had not taken up the opportunity to travel to another country, this unusual circumstance would never had prompted her to undertake a career in acting.
After arriving back in Australia, Wilson started training with the Australian Theatre for Young People (Pryor, 2002). While studying with the ATYP, Rebel was awarded a $12,000 scholarship to go to America and continue her acting training by enrolling at the New York Film Academy as well as the Second City Training Centre (Pryor, 2002). Throughout this time, Wilson participated in not only “formal training” but hands on experience in the industry or “field work” (Pryor, 2002). This overseas experience expanded Wilson’s knowledge in this chosen pathway and David Berthold, ATYP’s artistic director at the time, describes this training as “important for the life development of students” (Pryor, 2002). In the past, it would not have been comprehendible to travel to another country just to train in an industry that still existed in your own country. Nowadays however, it is a common occurrence for aspiring actors to move to America as it really is the hub of feature film production. Job prospects in the film and entertainment industries are a major factor in regards to what draws acting students to make the move to the US (Tribin, 2012).
Although Rebel was doing quite well for herself in the Australian television scene, she found her breakout success in feature films upon permanently moving to America. Her role in Bridesmaids, albeit a supporting one, “sparked this incredible feature-film career”, Wilson said in an interview with the Herald Sun (Miller, 2011). Bridesmaids was the first job that Wilson received after moving to America and from there she lined up a number of films to work on and progress her film career even further (Miller, 2011). These opportunities were presented to Wilson after travelling to, and then subsequently living in, a place known for its’ film making. It was easy for Wilson to further her career in a country other than her own due to the similarity of the Western cultures in Australia and America. Wilson believes that “culturally somehow there’s an acceptance” of Australian actors by the American actors and this has been facilitated through the globalisation of Western ideals and a sort of comradery between the countries (Yamato, 2012).
A lot of Rebel Wilson’s success can be attributed to the way she has branded herself as an actor throughout her career and the reception of this brand internationally. Wilson’s beginnings on Australian television shows saw her playing roles such as Toula, an overweight and controlling Greek-Australian girl on Pizza as well as characters like Karla Bangs and Fat Mandi on The Wedge (Tribute Entertainment Media Group, 2016). These comedic and out-there characters have shaped the way Rebel approaches other roles, especially that of Fat Amy in Pitch Perfect. The producer of Pitch Perfect who also appears in the movie, Elizabeth Banks, says that “Rebel recognized what an iconic character Fat Amy would be” and Wilson added her own comedic flare to the role (News Corp Australia Network, 2016). The role of Fat Amy became a benchmark for Wilson, with the “wild antics” the character is known for influencing audiences’ perception of Wilson herself as she says “a lot of people think … you are those characters because they’ve seen them a lot”. (News Corp Australia Network, 2016). She has been cast time and time again as the quirky side character it has become a trademark in a way. Wilson herself recognises this and on being cast as the bride in Bachelorette, a “grounded, straight character”, she explains how it was quite unusual for her as she is used to being cast as the “wacky character and not the straight girl” (Yamato, 2012).
Wilson has embraced this image and created a persona characterised by “exuberant, brassy, edgy humour” (Romei, 2016). Her unequivocal Australian-ness has also been capitalised on, especially in Pitch Perfect where she is a fish out of water in the American college a cappella scene. Wilson is known for her outspoken Australian image and was consequently cast to do a voice over for a kangaroo character in the movie Ice Age: Continental Drift (Miller, 2011). She has become a symbol of Australia in the midst of Hollywood and through this clever branding of herself in this way, Wilson has flourished in this particular industry. Major feature films produced in Hollywood are broadcast to a multitude of countries around the world as they seem to “appeal powerfully to popular tastes in many different cultures” (Scott, 2002). Subsequently, the character archetype that Wilson portrays often is spread to a global audience which in turn has projected Wilson’s brand to a larger audience.
Over her career, Rebel Wilson has undertaken projects in various types of media genres which has contributed to her widespread recognition. Before her television days, Wilson was heavily involved in theatre through studying at the Australian Theatre for Young People. Wilson even wrote, produced and starred in her own theatre production called The Westie Monologues (Chocano, 2013) whose characters were based on people she met while living in Sydney’s western suburbs (Wilson, 2002). The stage show was performed at the Sydney Fringe Festival and the Belvoir Street Theatre in 2002 (Wilson, 2002). This theatre experience laid down a pathway to venture into the world of Australian television.
Wilson’s transition into television is where she gained the most ground in regards to Australia-wide recognition. This is due to the shows that she is most known for in Australia were broadcast on mainstream channels such as SBS and Channel 10 (Chocano, 2013). Wilson went onwards and upwards from national television after she moved to America and was signed with agent William Morris Endeavour and cast in Bridesmaids (Chocano, 2013). Wilson already had a multitude of Australian fans from her television and through this “breakthrough” role (IMDb, 2016) she garnered an even wider and global fan-base.
Recently, Wilson has revisited her old theatre days by performing in the Hollywood Bowl’s live concert version of The Little Mermaid and making her debut on the West End stage in the production of Guys and Dolls. Wilson brought the character of Ursula the sea-witch alive in this movie to concert adaptation (Miller, 2016) which is a prime example of media convergence in action. The songs of The Little Mermaid were performed live by the actors with orchestral accompaniment, bringing the movie into a whole new genre. Wilson played Miss Adelaide in Guys and Dolls which allowed her to break into the professional musical theatre sector instead of the smaller productions she has previously worked on when she was younger. Due to the way in which globalisation brings different forms of media closer together, it has made transitioning from one form to the other quite a common occurrence for actors including Rebel Wilson.
Rebel Wilson has so far paved the way for herself in the global entertainment market as an actor and comedienne who is undeniably Australian. This strategy of branding has seemed to work wonders for Wilson. Therefore, it is doubtful Wilson will change this much in the future as her unusual and individual style of comedy has attracted many casting directors to her. In regards to the travel and migration aspect of globalisation, Wilson may take advantage of this and venture into more British and UK markets in addition to that of Hollywood. She has already begun entering into this sector through gaining a cameo role in Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie as well as starring alongside Sacha Baron Cohen in The Brothers Grimsby (IMDb, 2016). After her debut this year in Guys and Dolls, Wilson may continue looking at other theatre productions to further her development in this industry as well as her film and television acting. Spreading herself over different genres within the entertainment industry only increases Wilson’s success as she brings a fan base she has already established meanwhile extending her audience through these different channels.
Travel to other countries, celebrity brand image and media convergence are all aspects of globalisation that have impacted specifically upon the career of actress and comedienne Rebel Wilson. These trends of globalisation have influenced the course of Wilson’s career and enabled her to extend and expand her audience. Without the influence of these trends, Rebel’s career would have been vastly different if she had not have come in contact with the opportunities she has been presented with.
Chocano, Carina. 2013. “ELLE interview: Rebel Wilson”. Accessed September 1, 2016. http://www.elle.com.au/pop-culture/elle-interview/2013/12/elle-interview-rebel-wilson
IMDb. 2016. “Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (2016) – Full Cast & Crew”. Accessed September 1, 2016. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2112096/fullcredits?ref_=tt_ql_1
IMDb. 2016. “Rebel Wilson Biography”. Accessed September 1, 2016. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2313103/bio
IMDb. 2016. “The Brothers Grimsby”. Accessed September 1, 2016. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3381008/
Miller, Megan. 2011. “The Q&A with actor Rebel Wilson”. Accessed August 31, 2016 http://www.heraldsun.com.au/ipad/the-qa-with-actor-rebel-wilson/story-fn6bn9st-1226199246884
Miller, Michael. 2016. “Rebel Wilson Is Pitch Perfect as Ursula in The Little Mermaid Live”. Accessed September 1, 2016. http://www.people.com/article/rebel-wilson-the-little-mermaid-live
News Corp Australia Network. 2016. “Rebel Wilson makes her West End debut in musical Guys and Dolls”. Accessed September 1, 2016. http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/rebel-wilson-makes-her-west-end-debut-in-musical-guys-and-dolls/news-story/0feb74edc78fb229ec53058e31d5c188
Pryor, Lisa. 2002. “Rebel off to New York to hone comic craft”. Accessed August 31, 2016 http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/09/24/1032734164283.html
Romei, Stephen. 2016. “Review: How To Be Single — Rebel Wilson shines as the raunchy, rowdy Robin”. Accessed September 1, 2016. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/arts/review/review-how-to-be-single–rebel-wilson-shines-as-the-raunchy-rowdy-robin/news-story/9512a7abf89471d87ca0aef10cb81b47
Scott, Allen J. 2002. “Hollywood in the Era of Globalization”. Accessed August 31, 2016. http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/hollywood-era-globalization
Tribin, Camilo Lascano. 2012. “Why I Chose To Study Abroad: An Acting Student’s Perspective”. Accessed September 1, 2016. http://www.i-studentglobal.com/study-programmes/media-arts-design/theatre-dance/why-i-chose-to-study-abroad-an-acting-student-s-perspective
Tribute Entertainment Media Group. 2016. “Rebel Wilson Biography”. Accessed August 31, 2016.http://www.tribute.ca/people/rebel-wilson/38080/
Wilson, Vanessa, 2002. “A Push Over on Stage”. Accessed September 1, 2016 http://newsstore.fairfax.com.au/apps/viewDocument.ac?page=1&sy=age&kw=Rebel+Wilson+and+University&pb=all_ffx&dt=selectRange&dr=entire&so=relevance&sf=text&sf=headline&rc=10&rm=200&sp=nrm&clsPage=1&docID=SMH020529M6EBJ21STPN
Yamato, Jen. 2012. “From Bridesmaids To Bachelorette: Why Rebel Wilson Is The Most Interesting Woman In Hollywood”. Accessed September 1, 2016. http://movieline.com/2012/09/07/bridesmaids-bachelorette-rebel-wilson-pitch-perfect-interview/
This piece was written for KCB106: Media in a Globalised World, a unit in my Journalism degree at QUT.