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[Warning: Spoilers ahead from Pitch Perfect 3.]
Anna Kendrick may be the face of the Pitch Perfect films, but the latest in the trilogy features more of fan favorite Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) than ever before.
When veteran actor John Lithgow was first cast in the film, details of his role remained tightly under wraps. When he eventually spilled the beans that he would be playing Fat Amy’s dad, the news flew largely under the radar. In fact, his character is completely left out of the trailers, and likely for good reason.
The reveal in the film that Amy’s unreliable dad has returned — and brought with him a much-needed backstory for Amy, involving her childhood and secretly being extremely rich — is one of, if not the biggest, narrative arcs in the franchise. The storyline thus provides more screen time for Amy than ever before, and, true to her larger-than-life character, leads to some truly outrageous moments onscreen.
Below, director Trish Sie tells The Hollywood Reporter about bringing Lithgow on board, his feelings about his dastardly character, Wilson’s mad nunchuck skills and that “nipple cripple scene.”
Tell me about getting John Lithgow involved.
We talked a lot about who should play Fat Amy’s dad, and it was really important to me that it be as realistic as possible, meaning the physicality and chemistry and physical resemblance had to be there. A credible Australian accent had to be there. I’ve heard John do British accents really convincingly, so I believed he could really pull that off. Obviously, he’s such a classically trained, fantastic actor that of course he can pull off an accent. He worked with a dialect coach who was so devoted to that, and I just wanted it to be believable because it’s such an out-of-orbit storyline to begin with that I wanted to make sure we believed it.
How did he make it so believable?
John Lithgow has played so many dads in his career and he is a dad in real life, and you just kind of buy that he is Dad. And he was so good at mimicking not just an Australian accent in general but her [Wilson’s] accent. He studied her and watched her body language and tried to sort of mimic that, and he has that ability to do comedy and be evil and look so harmless and lovable but also be so horrible. He’s also very tall in real life. Who knew he’s like 6’5”? He’s enormously tall. He loves to sing and dance and he’s just the greatest. We were so lucky to get him. His schedule was open — he loves musicals — and he was just kind of like, “Sure!” I couldn’t believe it.
He seemed to be having so much fun with his character. Did he share his feelings on his character’s arc at all?
He was so into it. He had so many ideas and so many thoughts, and he showed me all of these pictures and websites featuring this restaurateur in England who was like this sloppy, rumpled [guy], always wearing greasy suits and sleeping under the bar in his restaurants…and [Lithgow] loved the idea of this man.
Did that differ from your vision for the character?
I originally pictured the father as sort of a sleek mafioso guy, and he definitely has that vibe, but I love that [Lithgow] wanted to bring this scruffy, rumpled, barely-holding-it-together guy. His ties are a little askew and his suits are a little wrinkly, and he really wanted that, and I love that additional detail. It was really fun to watch him delve into what makes this guy tick, because he was really good at that.
In a lot of ways this is Fat Amy’s film, even though [Kendrick’s character] Beca has always been the “main” character. So, why is this the perfect film for Amy to have her moment?
Beca continues to be the person that we all sort of see the world through. She’s kind of the most normal of all of them and keeps the movie’s feet on the ground a little bit. And I think she still is that and the movie is still ultimately her story, but the fact that Fat Amy has such a big role in this one and has so much of the funny action, especially, I think it was just kind of her time. That character has always intrigued people. No one knows what is her deal, why she is here, where she’s going in life, and I think it was just time to answer some of those questions for people. [Laughs]
Speaking of the fight scenes: I’m so curious how much Rebel did on her own and if anything crazy happened behind the scenes.
First of all, she learned all of the fights as choreography, like a dance. She could go through the whole thing start to finish. We didn’t shoot them piecemeal. We shot them in their entirety from various angles, and she can do the entire thing. Our stunt coordinator said she’s better than a lot of stuntwomen she’s worked with.
Did she have prior stunt experience?
She has martial arts experience, and she had nunchuck experience coming in. In fact, we wrote that nunchuck moment around the fact that she’s actually really good with a set of nunchucks. She came to us with that. She can do those entire scenes and did do those entire scenes. She has a stunt double standing by if need be, just a couple of things for safety. But she did them, it’s really her. She’s a natural at this and it was startling to everyone, maybe even to Rebel herself. She had a really good time.
Did anything go wrong?
A couple of people got nailed in the balls really hard, but that’s about the only funny thing that happened. [Laughs] The nipple cripple was her idea, completely her idea. At the last minute we added that and our costume designer had to sew together shirts that the guy could rip apart, because it was just one of those Rebel flashes of brilliance. She was pretty ridiculous.
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