Hey, Los Angeles, are you ready for some football?
The 2022 Super Bowl is a little more than nine months away, and for the first time in nearly three decades, the NFL’s championship game will be held in the City of Angels, at the brand new SoFi Stadium. The $5 billion hub (the most expensive ever built and featuring an entertainment complex on surrounding grounds in Inglewood) will see plenty of action during the regular season thanks to its home teams — the Rams and Chargers — that will no doubt be welcomed by legions of celebrity fans eager to check out the new digs long before the Feb. 13 Super Bowl.
One star already has a jump start on Rams fandom with early access secured to SoFi’s coveted suites come game time. Rebel Wilson, a devoted Rams cheerleader, has partnered with the Rams to help promote the unprecedented way the team is handling its NFL Draft activities this year, scheduled for April 29-May 1. The Rams have taken over a 9,000 square foot home in Malibu overlooking the Pacific Ocean where general manager Les Snead and head coach Sean McVay will select new players.
The headquarters of the NFL Draft activity will be in Cleveland but the majority of the 32 teams will be plugging in remotely from home facilities due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, to add some L.A. swagger to the festivities, the Rams rented out the luxury Malibu home and have turned it into the Rocket Mortgage Draft House where they will also host other team business in the month of May. In the Justin Polk-directed campaign, which debuts this week, Wilson takes viewers on a tour of the house that she playfully claims ownership of while bumping into Snead and McVay and a host of other famous faces like Aaron Donald, Terrell Burgess, Jordan Fuller, Sebastian Joseph-Day, Johnny Hekker, Andrew Whitworth, broadcaster Erin Andrews and Hall of Fame legend Eric Dickerson. Rams die-hards will perk up upon seeing newly-installed quarterback Matthew Stafford and mascot Rampage, the live ram.
“When they asked me to do it, I was like, ‘Oh my God it’s my dream come true,'” explains Wilson. “Once I started knowing one or two of the players, I became invested in wanting them to win. This past season, watching the games was a bit frustrating because I wanted them to win and get to the Super Bowl, but now that the Super Bowl is coming to Los Angeles at the brand-new SoFi Stadium, it could be unreal. What an awesome story if the Rams get there.”
It would be quite the storybook ending for the Rams and their new stadium, that Wilson notes will likely be packed with stars. “Hopefully, the Rams will be there and because it’s in L.A., every man and his dog is going to try to be there,” she says. And she will likely be there, too. “We are so excited for our fans to see what we’ve created with the hilarious and brilliant Rebel Wilson,” said Rams vp partnership marketing Lexi Vonderlieth. “We felt that there was no better way to celebrate this exciting time in the NFL calendar than in true Hollywood fashion with the talents of Rebel and a Draft House full of Rams players, legends and special guests.”
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Wilson, calling in from a London hotel room where she was finishing up a mandated quarantine period before filming her next movie, opens up about her Rams fandom, the similarities between actors and NFL players, and what she’s learned about herself during the pandemic.
When did you first become a fan of the Rams and football?
How I got into football was through that TV show Friday Night Lights. I freaking love that show, and then I segued into more sports documentaries. I was big on Hard Knocks and all that. There are so many documentaries on Netflix about youth football and college football and I’ve been just fascinated by it. There’s a big similarity between the NFL and the entertainment industry in terms of how hard you have to work to get to the top and how few people make it. I just really related to those journeys and to watching it in documentaries.
Then I got invited to go to some of the Rams games at the Coliseum, and it was the best time. America really knows how to do sports, full stop. Going to a NFL game is so much fun. I love going on the field. I love watching the players warm up. Even though I don’t fully yet totally understand all of the rules 100 percent because our football is very different in Australia, I became obsessed.
I saw on Instagram that you recently scored a touchdown in SoFi Stadium. What was it like to be on the field for that?
Oh my God! Apparently very few people get let on the field and I’m guessing most of them are professional players for the Rams and Chargers. I loved it. I’ve never played NFL myself so, I really wanted to see whether I can catch the ball. I could and it was so much fun. I’m the world’s slowest runner but I feel like I could be a decent runner on that field. It’s a really awesome surface that is so cool to walk on. Everything is so state-of-the-art. They have a double-sided, 360-degree video board that is just brilliant. I went there for NFL Honors to film a little segment and it was like, “Whoa, this is going to be epic.” I cannot wait to get in the doors come September to see an actual game. It’s going to be really cool to feel the energy of the place filled with people because when I was there it was just me and a couple of my team. It’s going to be really sick.
What you said about the similarities between Hollywood and the NFL is something I’ve never thought about. It takes so much to make it and yet, the window of “success” can be relatively short for so many. Any other similarities?
I know I didn’t have much of a social life or a love life when I was trying to build my career because you really have to sacrifice so much. For me, first of all, I was a complete unknown with no real connections in the industry after having come up through Australia and succeeding there. Then, I moved to Hollywood and the odds of someone like me making it in here are the same as the odds of a high school player making it in the NFL. I don’t have the current stats on me about what that is but the odds are but it’s very few.
Even then, a lot of NFL players get to play one or two seasons…it is quite rare for a player to play seven seasons. That’s a really solid run if you’re a professional player in the NFL. One time somebody was telling me that for an actor if you can last seven years professionally and make it over that rollercoaster, you’ve made it. All careers have their ups and downs and require sacrifice and hard work. A lot of people don’t understand what goes into having a successful career in both the NFL and in the entertainment industry. A lot of the time your body is your work, you know? Like what about money, too? There are similar pitfalls that happen with rookie players and with young Hollywood stars in how they treat their money. [In the NFL], they get million-dollar contracts which is what people think actors get and that’s not totally true. When you do your first [project], you don’t get millions of dollars but people think that you do. I could go on about it for ages…
Let’s talk about the draft day project which looks like it was fun to film. What was it like to be on set?
When they asked me to do it, I was like, “Oh my God it’s my dream come true.” Plus I get paid in suites for the games so, I love that. The players like Jordan Fuller, Johnny Hekker, Terrell Burgess, Sebastian Joseph-Day — I was really impressed with because [acting] isn’t what they do at all, and yet they were so good. I love all the gear. They sent me all kinds of Rams gear…I got a helmet by the way, signed by all the players on the team, which was really dope. So that’s going up on my bookshelf.
Did you really get paid in suite access?
I did. “What a suite deal,” that’s what I said.
You also attended the Super Bowl this year in Florida. How was it?
Only a handful of people could go [due to COVID-19 restrictions] and so it was a lot different than a regular Super Bowl. There was no drama getting in and out of the stadium because there were only seven and a half thousand people there. It was really cool to go to Tampa, buy a couple of fireworks, go to the Super Bowl. I was filming Pooch Perfect for ABC so I had to get straight on a plane afterward and be back at work a few hours later. But it was a really cool for someone like me from Australia to say that I’ve been to a Super Bowl. It would be interesting to go with a full Super Bowl experience weekend with all the parties and stuff. Obviously, none of that was going on so it will be cool to see what that is like.
Yeah, and hopefully you get that chance in 2021 when it’s in Los Angeles.
By next February it will be the new Roaring Twenties. Every celeb is going to want to go to the Super Bowl because it will be at the new SoFi Stadium and hopefully, the Rams will be there. Because it’s in LA, every man and his dog is going to try to be there.
Speaking of dogs, you’ve been really busy with a new show, Pooch Perfect, on ABC. Great title, by the way …
It was originally called Snip Doggy-dog which I also liked as a title.
Do you have a dog?
No. I’m allergic to dogs.
Yeah, so no.
How has it been filming amid COVID-19 protocols?
I feel for the crew who have to really bundle up and really take double measures to be protective whereas we get to be a bit freer as the on-camera talent. For me, it’s been pretty good because I was normally on camera all day so it’s a bit like normal. Apart from the fact that if you just look around everybody’s wearing a mask and a shield. On Pooch, we didn’t have one COVID-positive test so that was really, really great. I’ve done a couple of commercials and I’m about to film two movies — one here in England and one in Atlanta. It will be interesting to see but as more people are vaccinated, the more confident you feel. I know that companies are spending a fortune doing all the testing. I feel like I’ve been tested hundreds of times over the last year. I was very confident that I didn’t have COVID and I wasn’t spreading it because sI was having to get tested all the time and [I knew my status].
It’s just been an extra hassle especially for a lot of the crew. To not only have to do your job and a full day’s work, then there are all the extra COVID precautions, coming in early and getting tested. But I think now, more than ever, people need entertainment. That’s why with Pooch, for example, we tried to make a really entertaining show that really takes your mind off the pandemic and what’s been happening. It’s really about positivity, love and inclusivity. We’ve got to keep entertaining people and keep people sane.
One of the movies you mentioned that you’re going to shoot is a dramatic part, something of a departure for you. What can people expect from your role in The Almond and the Seahorse?
It’s completely different from the commercial comedies you’ve seen me working on. It’s a movie about traumatic brain injury with a fantastic international cast and I play opposite Charlotte Gainsbourg who’s a lovely French actress. It’s an indie and it should be really interesting. For me, it’s such a challenge but I remember I had the huge pleasure of talking with Robin Williams about a month or two before he sadly passed. We were on a night shoot together and he’d watched me do a little scene on Night at the Museum that we were both working on at the time. It was 3 a.m. and so we were talking to each other and he said to me that he saw in me the ability to do comedy and drama.
He was so supportive and it makes me a bit emotional when I think of that conversation. He’s like, “You’ve got to do it. You’ve got to show people that side of you. I’ve watched you work and I know that you have the guns to do it.” That encouragement from someone who’s such a legend was really good. It’s taken me a while. There have been other offers for things and I was actually cast in the movie Snowpiercer, which was a really fucking cool movie. I wish I had done a bit at the time. I took a Michael Bay movie that was also really cool but I think my trajectory would have been a bit different if I had done Snowpiercer with director Bong [Joon-ho]. This one, Almond and Seahorse, is completely different from how people have seen me. I trained as a dramatic actress and did a lot of serious stage stuff in Australia, it’s just that, internationally, people haven’t seen that side of me.
I love that. Then you go back to comedies with a cheerleading movie, right?
It’s called Senior Year. I play a high school cheerleader who falls off the pyramid, falls into a coma and wakes up as adult. Then, my character wants to redo her senior year and crush it. It’s so funny. My mate Brandon Scott Jones did a rewrite on it. We met on Isn’t It Romantic and he was my co-star and I knew then that he was a funny guy. My other mate, a British director Alex Hardcastle, is going to direct. It’s just so cute. I love movies like Bring It On — that’s like my childhood — so I’m just really excited to do a high school cheerleading comedy.
What have you learned about yourself during the pandemic?
I already knew I was a workaholic but then I learned that when you can turn everything off, it can be really great and positive. I was just go, go, go before, wanting to succeed and achieve while working my ass off and not concentrating on my health. Then I realized, oh, you can take a break. You can take time off and make sure you’re good as a person and come back stronger than ever. That first four or five months where everything stopped and nobody knew what was going to happen there was no work, I really enjoyed that stillness and quietness. It tied in nicely with my year of health that I was doing because I had no stress and didn’t have to be up filming long ridiculous hours and could just really concentrate on my health and what I was eating.
I can’t remember where I read this but it was from an interview with Emily Blunt where she said that she would take five months off in between projects. At the time, I thought, “God, five months off? What do you do?” I would get excited about a weekend off. But now, I understand why successful people in the business do that. We put so much of ourselves in our jobs and so I realized that maybe I could be a bit more selective. It’s so hard now, because 2021 is now busier than ever and I’ve got to find that balance between being healthy and having a balanced life and then also doing quality work. I definitely learnt that. And then the other thing is just, who are you if you’re not a successful movie star? What is your purpose and what do you do? This is probably a much bigger question but I’m sure a lot of people confronted that during the time: When your jobs get taken away, who are you? What are you about?
This story first appeared in the April 28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.