Interview: Elizabeth Banks
Prolific ... Rebel Wilson with Elizabeth Banks in ''Pitch Perfect''.
Elizabeth Banks appears in five major films this year: People Like Us, Man on a Ledge, What to Expect, The Hunger Games and her new musical comedy, Pitch Perfect. But the 38-year-old actor is seldom recognised. ''I don't think many people know what I look like at all, but I'm thrilled some of them might be figuring it out,'' she says hopefully. ''If nothing else, I'm just happy I get to go from one extremely different role to the next and surprise people.''
Banks and her husband, Max Handelman, also produced Pitch Perfect, based on Mickey Rapkin's book Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate a Cappella Glory. The film explores the world of college acoustic-singing groups, and Oscar-nominated Up in the Air star Anna Kendrick plays Beca, an outsider who reluctantly joins an all-female a cappella group, the Bellas. Australian actor Rebel Wilson plays an even more unlikely member of the group. ''It's very hard to send a script out to actresses when the character is named Fat Amy,'' Banks admits with a sheepish grin, ''but we were familiar with Rebel from the comedy world and hoped she would embrace it, and she did.''
Originally intending to stay behind the camera, the blonde actor agreed to play a small but hilarious role as a former contestant now reporting on the competition.
''My character was written for (Bridesmaids star) Kristen Wiig but she couldn't do it scheduling-wise, and we looked at the list of actresses that we would want to play the role and frankly I just felt I would do a better job and I was cheap, so I cast myself!'' she laughs.
In 1996, Banks earned a graduate degree at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco but has toiled in obscurity as the industry's best-kept secret ever since. She had roles in Catch Me if You Can, Seabiscuit, Spider-Man 2 and Oliver Stone's W., as well as a recurring role in Scrubs and another on 30 Rock as Alec Baldwin's love interest. In 2009, she teamed up with her husband to start their production company, Brownstone, and later that year released their first film, Surrogates, starring Bruce Willis.
''I want my producing and acting careers to be completely separate,'' says the mother of two boys under two. ''I'd prefer to be able to just make movies with my husband and sometimes there could be a role for me, but most of the time it's more about just finding great stories to tell.''
GENRE Musical comedy.
CRITICAL BUZZ The $US17 million ($16.2 million) movie earned great reviews and an impressive $US67 million in the US so far but Rebel Wilson will also drive business Down Under.
STARS Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Elizabeth Banks.
DIRECTOR Jason Moore.