1. Pitch Perfect was Ester Dean’s first acting role in a movie — but far from her first gig. Dean, who plays Cynthia (aka the token lesbian), is a well-known songwriter, helping to pen such hits as “Rude Boy,” “Firework,” “Turn Me On,” “Mr. Know It All,” “Super Bass,” “Stronger” and “Where Have You Been.” “S&M,” which she sings in the movie, is one of her songs.
2. Elizabeth Banks plays one of the commentators in the film, best known for her work in The 40-Year Old Virgin, 30 Rock and The Hunger Games. However, she wasn’t the first choice for the role. Screenwriter Kay Cannon (of 30 Rock and Baby Mama) originally intended the role for Kristen Wiig, but Banks had to step in when the very-busy lady had to drop out. With Rebel Wilson starring in the film, we narrowly missed out on a mini-Bridesmaids reunion. Curse you, Wiig!
3. It’s easy to see why Anna Kendrick was chosen for this film. She has quite the background in stage and music. For her role High Society on Broadway, Kendrick was the second-youngest person to ever be nominated for a Tony, and her breakout role in film was in the 2003 musical-drama Camp (which is actually really good, if you haven’t seen it). She’ll soon appear in the film adaptations of Into the Woods and The Last Five Years. Currently, her track from Pitch Perfect “Cups (When I’m Gone)” is in the Top 10 on Billboard, about to clear the Top 5. Mazel, Ms. Kendrick.
4. Before we move on, a little more on the music. Pitch Perfect’s soundtrack is notable for reaching Number 1 on the Billboard 200, selling close to a million copies. This made it the best-selling soundtrack of last year, likely boosting the sleeper-hit status of “Cups,” which is in its 32 week on the charts (and still rising). In addition to “Cups,” three other tracks from the movie have charted on Billboard, while receiving no radio play or marketing push. They weren’t even properly released as singles. This is all based on sales and the film’s immense popularity, as the soundtrack’s top four tunes have sold a combined 3.17 million copies.
Do you know the last film or television program to have this kind of organic success from its soundtracks? Glee, the show Pitch Perfect is spoofing.
5. Okay, whew. Back to business: Camp was filmed at Stagedoor Manor, the renowned performing summer arts camp the film is based on. Kendrick never went there, only acting in the movie version, but Skylar Astin did for many years. Astin even appeared in the 2006 documentary Stagedoor, which profiled students at the camp. The two had never met before filming.
6. Skylar Astin got his big break as Georg in the Broadway musical Spring Awakening. After filming wrapped, Astin dated Pitch Perfect alum Anna Camp, who acted in an episode of Glee with his former stage co-star Lea Michele. (Camp played Candace Dystra, one of the Sectionals judges, which is a little more age-appropriate because Camp’s 30 in real life.) For the Riff-Off, one of the categories was “Songs Ruined By Glee.” Your move, Ryan Murphy.
7. Astin was cast in the film because the producers were looking for someone who had a John Cusack vibe — who starred in Better Off Dead and Say Anything. According to producer Max Handelman, they wanted “awkward but not a geek, but not so cool that you’re not rooting for him.” This follows in the footsteps of Easy A, which cast Gossip Girl alum Penn Badgley as an obvious reference to the brat pack hunks of the 1980s, particularly Can’t Buy Me Love’s Patrick Dempsey. (See: The riding mower scene.) Unfortunately, though, Skylar Astin is not related to The Goonies’ Sean Astin. It’s a stage name and just a happy accident. Skylar Astin’s real last name is Lipstein.
8. Handelman is Banks’ husband, whom she shares a production company with. Their first movie together was the moderately received 2009 movie Surrogates, starring Bruce Willis. The pair later had a child using a gestational surrogate, but I highly doubt that had any relation to the movie.
9. Anna Camp was also in the 2008 revival of Equus, meaning she got to see Daniel Radcliffe naked on stage. (That lucky hoeshed.) Radcliffe is obviously best-known from his role in the Harry Potter series. In an early scene in the film, Kendrick’s character is attending the Barton activity fair, perusing the DJ booth. You can see a simulated game of Quidditch in the background.
10. According to castmates, Rebel Wilson improvised most of her lines and would often rattle off barbs for up to 20 minutes, having the whole cast and crew roaring with laughter. This is not surprising, being that she was the first actor cast in Pitch Perfect and honed those improv skills during Bridesmaids. What’s more wonderful is that she now lives with her Bridesmaids co-star, Matt Lucas (of Little Britain), who played her brother in Bridesmaids. Apparently they have so much fun sharing an apartment together that they goof off all the time and annoy the shit out of all their neighbors. They get a lot of complaints.
Let’s be honest, though: Who wouldn’t want to fuck around all the time with Rebel Wilson?
11. Wilson doesn’t have the stage or vocal background of many of her co-stars, but she did almost die in high school during a production of Fiddler on the Roof, when she literally fell from the roof. During one scene, Wilson was being lowered from the ceiling in a coffin, which due to a tech malfunction, didn’t descend all the way. She was still two stories high. She jumped out anyway.
12. Rebel Wilson never planned on pursuing acting professionally and only got into it after getting malaria during a Youth Ambassador for Australia trip. During her fever hallucinations, she envisioned herself as an actress. In the dream, she was “really, really good.” Wilson is just lucky she was right, coming a long way since her first role in 2003’s Fat Pizza. (It’s Australian.) For Pitch Perfect, she was nominated for a number of critics prizes, including getting a nod at the Broadcast Film Critics Awards. Wilson has her own t-shirt line (“Not For Skinny Bitches”) and is soon to be starring her first American TV show, Super Fun Night.
13. In addition, her family members are professional dog handlers, and they show their prize Beagles all across Australia. Rebel Wilson claims that as a Junior handler, she used to “dress up in little outfits and stuff and run around with the dogs.” Wilson shares this background with her Pitch Perfect co-star, John Michael Higgins, who acted in Christopher Guest’s beloved 2000 film, Best in Show, a satire of the dog show world. Guest is now working with Wilson’s Bridesmaids co-star Chris O’Dowd, the lead in Guest’s new HBO comedy Family Tree.
14. A notable mistake in the film is that Beca claims that “Vader” means “father” in German. It does. The German word for “father” is “Vater” — with an A pronounced like you’re saying “baa baa black sheep.” However, “Vader” does mean “father” in Dutch, spoken in the Netherlands, where a clue as to Darth Vader’s identity would have been hanging out for Dutch viewers.
15. “Cups (When I’m Gone)” is a rendition of the classic 1931 Carter family tune, “When I’m Gone,” which was later recorded by J. E. Mainer’s Mountaineers, Charlie Monroe and Lulu and the Lampshades. Kendrick learned the cups portion of the song from watching a viral video, and when the film’s producers found out she knew how to perform it, the cups were included in the movie. This became her audition song and she would also memorably do it for David Letterman.
16. The film takes place at the fictional Barton college, supposed to stand in for the liberal arts institutions we all know and love. However, the film holds a fun clue as to the campus’ relation to reality. The college radio station that Beca works at uses the slogan “music for the independent mind.” That’s the slogan for 88.9 WERS, the college station out of Emerson in Boston, MA. However, most of the filming took place in Baton Rouge at LSU, far away from the Emerson campus.
17. Pitch Perfect was based on GQ editor Mickey Rapkin’s 2008 book, a look into the world of intercollegiate acapella singing groups that profiled such groups as the Hullabahoos from the University of Virginia and the famous Beezelbubs of Tufts. The group appeared on NBC’s The Sing-Off, the popular NBC show that capitalized on the acapella craze Glee helped launch. The Beezlebubs were also the inspiration for the Dalton Academy Warblers on Glee, the rivals for the New Directions in Season Two (of which the dreamy Darren Criss was a part). Criss can currently be seen in Girl Most Likely – with Pitch Perfect defector Kristen Wiig.
18. For the movie, subjects from Rapkin’s book actually got involved in the filmmaking process. Deke Sharon and Ed Boyer served as creative consultants, acting as music directors and helping arrange the music. The Hullabahoos even scored a cameo in the movie.
19. More six degrees of Pitch Perfect notes: One of the book’s blurbs compares it to Christopher Guest. Another is from Mindy Kaling, Anna Camp’s co-star on The Mindy Project. Kaling (whose real name is Vera Chokalingam) got her start in The 40-Year Old Virgin with Elizabeth Banks and Glee’s Jane Lynch, with whom she later co-starred in Wreck-It Ralph.
20. Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson both appeared with Elizabeth Banks in the 2012 film What To Expect When You’re Expecting, with Wilson’s Bridesmaids co-stars Ben Falcone and Wendi McLendon Covey, Anna Camp’s True Blood co-star Joe Mangianello and Glee’s Matthew Morrison. This really isn’t that notable, because that movie had half of Hollywood in it — and somehow still found room for Dwayne Wade, Kim Fields, Whitney Port, Cheryl Cole and Taboo of The Black-Eyed Peas, who I always forget isn’t Tattoo from Fantasy Island.
21. Pitch Perfect was Jason Moore’s directorial debut, although he’s been a TV director for close to a decade, working on Dawson’s Creek, Everwood, Brothers and Sisters and lots of other things that have Emily Van Camp glowering. However, Moore is best-known for his stage work, as the director of Avenue Q (for which he was nominated for a Tony), Shrek: The Musical and the 2006 Steel Magnolias revival. His next project is a live-action Archie movie, for which Brittany Snow would be perfect, as she made her name on wholesome period entertainment like American Dreams and Hairspray. Perhaps we have our Betty?
Note: Steel Magnolias was recently remade as a film starring Queen Latifah, Phylicia Rashad, Jill Scott and Alfre Woodard. There’s no connection here. I just wanted to remind you to see it.