Rebel Wilson returns to the big screen this weekend as she teams up with Ben Stiller and co in Night At The Museum: Secret of the Tomb.
Wilson will take on the role of Tilly - one of the new additions to the third film in the popular film franchise. The actress chats about the film and getting the chance to work with Stiller and director Shawn Levy.
- What kind of woman is Tilly? It looks like she was a lot of fun to play?
Tilly is the guard at The British Museum, the equivalent of Ben Stiller's character Larry Daley, except that she's never experienced any kind of magical events like he has in New York.
So she is basically sitting in a shack outside the British Museum all the time doing nothing and being bored and on the phone a lot. Then all of a sudden all the action comes to England when Larry arrives with the magical tablet and then Tilly gets a lot of action.
- Did you actually shoot any of the film on location in England?
I was in London for two nights and we shot one night at the front of the museum and that was really cool. But we were filming in late January of this year and it was freezing cold.I was lucky that my outfit actually consisted of five layers of clothing, which is good when it's that cold. I had a hat on as well which helped.
- What was your inspiration for Tilly?
A lot of the inspiration came from British comedians I admire. I love British comedy and I'm lucky to share a house in LA with Matt Lucas, (the English actor and Wilson's Bridesmaids co-star). He has played so many different characters; one of his characters I loved was Vicky Pollard in the TV show Little Britain. So that was one of my inspirations. I've also always loved a character of Catherine Tate's (the comedian) called Lauren Cooper, on THE Catherine tate show.
So I took a tiny bit from both of those characters and then I formed my own new character Tilly. She is a little bit 'street' but not really street. Also, one time when I was in England, I went on a trip out to a shopping mall in Watford (north of London) with my sister and I saw a few girls there who inspired Tilly.
Sometimes when I meet people in real life, I watch them and bank that information and think 'oh, that could be a good character at some point.' So it's all those bizarre little elements which merged in my mind when I was finding the voice for Tilly.
- How did your role evolve once you were cast as Tilly?
Well originally my role was just going to be a tiny, one scene cameo, like Jonah Hill had in the second movie, when he also played a security guard in Washington DC at the Smithsonian. I think they liked my character so much that the role expanded.
Ben plays two characters: Larry Daley and the Neanderthal character called Laaa, who the museum director Dr. McPhee, (Ricky Gervais) modeled on Ben as a prank. He made one of the cavemen in the exhibition look a lot like Ben Stiller's character. So of course Ben had to play the caveman because the character had to look like him.
He's kind of doing an Eddie Murphy thing [playing more than one role] I guess in this movie. Tilly falls for Laaa and we developed this romance, which got bigger.
- What was it like working with Ben?
I had a great time! Working with Ben was awesome; we were always riffing off each other. I have to tell you a funny story. At one point we said: 'we'll do the scene where Tilly falls in love with Laaa, but Laaa has to leave London and go back to America (to The Museum of Natural History).'
I had to kiss Laaa. So Shawn (Levy) yells 'action' and I go in towards Ben, but Ben physically pushes me away. I am like 'what is going on Ben, what's wrong? I thought this was what we are supposed to be doing?
I was supposed to kiss you and then you just shoved me away.' But Ben thought we were just rehearsing and he didn't want me to mess up his prosthetics with my lovely kissing (laughs).
He thought it wasn't a real take and that I needed to save the real kiss till the actual take, because the prosthetics on his face that he wore as Laaa were quite delicate and he didn't want my passionate kissing to ruin the make-up. But it actually was a take, they were filming, so that whole scene is on camera somewhere.
- The romance between the characters is hilarious.
Yes and Ben loved the Laaa and Tilly love story. He was joking that he wants to do a whole spin-off movie with Laaa and Tilly and when he told me, I was like 'oh my God!' Their relationship is a little silly, but for some reason I just find it really funny.
- It is actually very sweet too.
There is a scene where it may look like I'm starting to tear up with emotion, but it was actually zero degrees and my eyes were watering. But I used that (for the emotion). - Was it exciting to work on this film with such a talented comic cast?
It was really exciting because I am a huge Ben Stiller fan, which is why I wanted to do the role. I also thought it was amazing having Ricky Gervais in the movie and Robin Williams... All these actors in the film are icons to me. I didn't have any scenes with Robin but I got to chat with him.
- It is very moving and emotional watching Robin, who is wonderful again as Teddy Roosevelt isn't he?
Yes and I really cried when I watched the film. His performance was so beautiful, I thought it was great and it made me very emotional. Robin was lovely. He watched one of the scenes that I did where I come out and have Laaa captive.
I have a hammer and I am saying to Ben: 'I'm going to hurt your twin brother if you run away.' It took hours to film that scene and Robin watched all of it. Then he asked me if I would come and talk to him and I did and we talked for ages about comedy. He didn't have to do that, but he was so kind and generous.
- What did he have to say?
He gave me so much encouragement and he was such a nice guy. He told me I was funny and great at improvising. We had both recently been leads on network TV shows and so we were talking about the really grueling schedule of doing that, and how it might not be wise for writer-performers to go into that kind of situation in a TV show because it really is brutal doing seven pages of comedy every day.
Luckily I got to speak to him on two nights when I was on set and he said the kindest things to me. I know everyone says that he was so lovely and generous and I felt so lucky that I got to experience that personally and to get praise from him. I couldn't believe I got to have all that time with him. It was so cool. He's a comedy genius and a legend.
- What was it like working with Ricky?
I was very happy I got to work with Ricky. He is so funny. We actually had much more fun off-camera with our scenes, because throughout the whole day we were laughing and joking about every single subject you can imagine. Ricky is such a sharp guy.But what amazed me was that he always laughs during the takes, which I call 'corpsing'.
It is what happens when you're in the middle of a take, but then you just crack up laughing. Ricky does that all the time! At one point Shawn had to say, 'Ricky, just keep going. Rebel's side is still usable,' because I hardly ever laugh during a take. Something would have to take me really by surprise to make me do that. I would never, ever laugh during a take because I am trying to be my character. But I just love Ricky's style. He goes 'ha ha' and he has an outrageous laugh that comes out in the middle of the scene.
- It sounds like the whole shoot was great
I am so lucky that I got to work with all these comedy greats. It's such an amazing cast for a family movie. I got to meet Dan Stevens in London as well as in Vancouver. He's the nicest guy and so well cast as Sir Lancelot. He really is very charming and debonair in real life. But I felt bad for the poor guy wearing a suit of armor. I was wearing five layers of clothing but he was wearing about 50 pounds of armor, which is very heavy.
- Part of the magic of these films is the idea of meeting characters from the past. Who would you love to spend the evening with?
I would love to meet Michael Jackson. I know he's only recently departed, but I was a fan of his music. There are so many stories about him and I think it would be so interesting to get a reading on him myself and find out what he was like.
- Can you discuss your experience of working with Shawn Levy?
Shawn is like Ben Stiller Part Two! I actually think they kind of look similar as well as having similar energy. They are both very fit, strong guys who have lots of great energy and they even have the same hair color, maybe a little of the same spirit too. Shawn was great. This is a very big budget movie and to see him at the helm of the whole thing with all the complicated special effects was amazing. To deal with all that you have to be a really strong director and he is really strong.
I loved working with him. He always knew what he wanted from the actors. He would be like: 'okay, pretend there's the dinosaur over there, the dinosaur's playing with the other dinosaur like this,' and he'd do a little demonstration and pretend to watch it himself.
- You do a great English accent as Tilly; did you model it on anyone?
In England I would listen to a British rapper called Lady Sovereign. I don't know what British people will think of my accent; I hope they think it's okay. In between shooting The Night At The Museum, I shot the Sacha Baron Cohen movie, Grimsby in which I do a Northern British accent which is completely different from Tilly's voice, but still from the same country, so it was confusing to have to do both. I hope they both work.
- Can you reveal anything about Grimsby, which is obviously going to be very funny?
It is outrageous and I am sure the movie is going to get a lot of attention when it comes out. I'm very curious to see what can actually be shown. I play Sacha's wife and I have 13 children!
- You are so funny; who is is your biggest comic influence?
I love Jennifer Saunders. She was the first woman I saw who was writing great material on 'Ab Fab' (Absolutely Fabulous the British TV comedy series). I have not met Jennifer, but she recently emailed me about a role in the Ab Fab movie, which is exciting.
There is nothing definite but it would be amazing to work with her. I am a big Ab Fab fan. It was the first show I saw that was written by a female, starring females, with so many interesting female characters. It was inspiring.
- I believe you didn't anticipate becoming an actress yourself, right?
No I actually graduated from law school in 2009 in Australia, before I came to America. So I could practice law if I wanted to, but I don't know how seriously people would take me now! I think I've ruined my chances of a serious career in law. I think I have ruined my credibility by being funny.
- As a child, did you enjoy performing?
I did enjoy school plays but I never thought someone like me would ever get to do this.
- How did it happen?
I was a youth ambassador for Australia in Southern Africa and I got malaria really badly when I was in rural Mozambique. Recovering in the hospital it was so bad and it was very strange and I'm glad I came out the other side of it. But the drugs were so powerful when I was recovering that I lost my hearing.
I was lying there in the hospital bed hallucinating and I couldn't hear anything. I hallucinated that I was an actress and that I was really good at acting and I won an Academy Award. When I came out of hospital I thought: 'okay I think I need to become an actress. I'll go to law school as well because it is really hard to become an actor, but I'm going to do acting.'
- How did people react when you informed them of your plans?
Everyone thought I was crazy and that maybe the malaria had affected my brain, but I just thought I could do it. I don't know whether it was some weird vision I had or whether it was something that I had subconsciously known and just never realized before that moment. I thought whatever it was, whatever had happened when I was so ill, was so strong that I really had to follow it.
The vision was so real I had to follow it through. And of course it kind of worked out. Obviously, I haven't won an Academy Award, but maybe in the future I could work on projects that could win awards. Comedy doesn't quite get recognized in the same way as dramas by the Academy, although I think it should. But Melissa McCarthy was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Bridesmaids, which was great.
- How fulfilling is life for you at the moment?
It's pretty amazing. I'm living in Los Angeles now and I am loving what I'm doing and trying to find balance between doing movies and taking a break.
- Do you miss Australia?
I do but I'm back there a lot and I'll be back at Christmas. I travel all around the world.
- Returning to Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb, what can audiences look forward to?
From a comedian's point of view, the comedy is really cool. It's a family movie so obviously there is all of the kids' toys and fun, but the comedy is really funny for anyone of any age and that's very hard to do.
There are so many hilarious moments in the film and then on top of that there are all the amazing special effects and action. The storyline is great and the film is very moving and funny.
Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb is out now.
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