True story: Pitch Perfect nearly killed me, but in a really good way. You see, when I first watched it back in 2014, it was part of my effort to keep myself entertained at the gym by watching movies while slogging away on the elliptical. I’d heard good things about Pitch Perfect, but I had no idea how funny it would wind up being — which led to me laughing hysterically while on the elliptical, losing my balance, falling off, and very nearly breaking myself as I flailed wildly to the ground. But hey, at least I didn’t barf all over a panel of judges at an a capella competition!
If you’ve ever wanted to find out about some awesome behind-the-scenes facts about the franchise and the cast, then listen up, pitches — it’s time to get aca-educated.
The original film was low-budget
The first installment of Pitch Perfect was produced for only $17 million, according to the Hollywood Reporter — a sum that, by industry standards, is actually fairly low. “It was a little, under-the-radar, affordably budgeted movie,” said Peter Cramer, Universal Studios’ co-president of production. “We didn’t project that it could be a big franchise.” Sure enough, it earned $113 worldwide at the box office, and then went on to bank over $103 million in home video sales, video-on-demand (VOD) sales, and premium cable deals.
“The weird thing is that it happened so slowly,” Anna Kendrick told Glamour UK. “It wasn’t until VOD and iTunes that anybody thought about making it a franchise.”
Cast members auditioned with a variety of songs
I’d wondered about how the producers went about casting the movie: finding good actors is one thing, but good actors who can sing well, too, seems like a tall order. As it turns out, the women of the Barden Bellas earned their stripes, auditioning with a diverse array of songs to showcase their talent.
Hana Mae Lee, who plays shy and quiet Lilly, told Young Hollywood that she used to sing in her church choir, but that most of her singing experience prior to Pitch Perfect focused on Korean folk music. An old adage advises people to play to their strengths, and Lee did precisely that when she decided to sing Korean folk music in her audition.
Rebel Wilson, by contrast, went for modern pop music: she told Buzznet during the Pitch Perfect press junket that she showcased her musical chops by singing Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory” in her audition.
The producers wound up making some significant changes from how the movie was originally planned. For example, in an interview with Collider, Elizabeth Banks revealed her role was originally meant for Kristen Wiig. “When she wasn’t going to be able to do it, we made a list of who else could do it,” Banks explained. “And then [director] Jason [Moore] was like, ‘Why aren’t you just doing it?’ So I was like, ‘Yeah, okay, I’ll do it!'” Personally, Banks is one of my favorite characters in the franchise (My favorite line in the first movie is when she says, all easy-breezy and with a big smile, “Well you always were a misogynist, Jim!”)
In addition to the Wiig-Banks change, in a separate Collider interview, Anna Kendrick revealed that the movie was originally supposed to revolve around the film Say Anything, not The Breakfast Club. She even had to re-record “Don’t You Forget About Me,” because she didn’t feel like she had an emotional connection to the song. “To me it’s like “Take my Breath Away” from Top Gun, where it’s almost a parody of itself,” she told Collider, but in retrospect, I suspect everyone is glad that the change was made.
Let’s talk about the barf scenes
The vomit scenes were intense — but not just for the audience. In an interview with MovieViral, Anna Camp said that the production crew attached hoses to her neck and chin, and that “the stunt guy was off to the side, and he would press a button and it [the vomit] was so powerful that it would knock me off my feet. It got everybody laughing, and it got all over me, all over everything. And it got people everywhere. It was actually gross, actually cold. But it was fun.”
During a press junket for the first movie, the cast revealed to Buzznet that the faux-vomit was also apparently a mixture of pineapple juice, tomato juice, and chicken noodle soup. (Is anyone else gagging at the thought of that, or is it just me?)
There was a lot of room for improv
Multiple cast members described the flexibility for improv in the scripts for both Pitch Perfect and PP2. As Banks told Collider, scriptwriter Kay Cannon “wrote amazing jokes, so we had this great script,” but was working on 30 Rock when filming began. “John Michael Higgins [who played Banks’ fellow aca-judge, John] was hired because he’s one of the best improv actors of all time so we were going to make use of it…We did the script, and then we played and played and played.”
Ester Dean, who played Cynthia Rose, described a similar situation in an interview with NYLON, saying that in Pitch Perfect 2, Banks “gave me the perfect freedom to go out there and try a lot of things…It was like, ‘These are your lines, but Ester, SAY SOMETHING, OKAY? Try this…do whatever you wanna do.'”
Castmates Hailee Steinfeld and Brittany Snow echoed that sentiment, with Snow saying in a 2015 interview with Collider that in Pitch Perfect 2, “[Banks] knew that the more time that was given for improv, the more little things there would be that could get picked up, along the way…We felt safe with each other because we knew each other better, so there was a collaborative atmosphere, this time around. There was on the first one too, but we knew each other’s comedy so well, we really had a chance to play.”
Rebel Wilson was hand-picked
Via the 2012 press junket for the original movie, Buzznet published some awesome tidbits that the cast revealed about Wilson and her role as Fat Amy. First, the nickname Fat Amy actually originated with Amy Poehler: when she was pregnant, Cannon (Amy Poehler’s close friend, and scriptwriter for PP) asked her how she was doing, and Poehler replied that she felt “like Fat Amy” — which Cannon then took and used in the movie.
Cannon also approached Wilson via Facebook about playing the Fat Amy role, and although social media can be a bit of a double-edged sword, we can all thank our lucky stars that Facebook facilitated Wilson being cast in the movie! Most surprisingly, Wilson had originally planned to use an American accent in the movie, but she later stuck with her native Aussie accent after director Jason Moore heard her regular voice.
Castmates are friends in real life
Given how well the cast gets along on screen, it’s not a surprise to learn that they get along in real life, too. Lee told Young Hollywood that “Filming was like summer camp. We were there four weeks prior to filming — we would have four hours of dance and two hours of singing a day…We’re still friends now…We were all from a different place, yet we were altogether making this beautiful and fun movie together.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, those friendships have remained intact. Snow told Refinery29 that she and co-star Kelley Jackle, who played the role of Jessica in PP and PP2, live together in L.A. and “share everything…we do share beauty tips, like the braids that we find on Pinterest and want to try.”
Perhaps the most impressive post-filming IRL relationship comes from Camp and Skylar Astin, who got married in 2016. Cast-mates Wilson, Banks, and Ben Platt attended their fall wedding in California, according to People, and Snow was even one of their bridesmaids. “It’s funny since I’ve known them from the beginning of them meeting and dating, and to now see them get married is pretty surreal,” Snow told People. She also said that the whole cast remains close to each other, noting that “we’re on a massive text chain with each other…We all really love and support each other.”
These pitches got skills
Wilson isn’t the only one with hidden talents! When co-star Dean isn’t acting, she’s also an accomplished song writer: she co-wrote Rihanna’s “What’s My Name?,” Katy Perry’s “Firework,” and has also worked with Nicki Minaj. In an interview with Glamour, Dean described herself as “a very emotional writer. I always need to have a boyfriend. I always need to have some food. I always need to have a heater at my feet, and I drink this thing called Cool Brew, which I found in Louisiana. It’s like condensed coffee. I normally work like a vampire. Around 8 to 9pm, what I call ‘the spirits’ actually show up, and then I just go in the booth and scream on top of a track. I only sing on the mic. I don’t sit down and write anything.”
Lee, in addition to her beat-boxing skills, is a fashion designer and even has her own clothing line. “I love fashion,” she told Young Hollywood. “I’ve been into fashion since I was really young. I’ve started my own clothing line, Hanamahn, which means ‘just one’ in Korean. A lot of my pieces are fierce and avant-garde.” In fact, some of her pieces even made it into the first Pitch Perfect!
Twerking injuries and airborne burritos
As you can imagine, it’d be nearly impossible for a movie franchise like Pitch Perfect to be made without a veritable cornucopia of silly moments. For example, the scene where Wilson is hit by a flying burrito was included in the script because — get this — it happened to writer Cannon in real life.
In an interview with SplitSider, Cannon said, “I was running on the side of a highway and a group of five guys drove by, one threw at burrito at me and I fell over. I looked down and thought I was looking at my guts when it was really just beans and rice. I worked at 30 Rock for six seasons and every season I asked, ‘What if Liz Lemon gets hit by a burrito?’ I’m so happy it ended up in the first movie.”
As if that weren’t enough, Snow told Cosmopolitan that she injured her back on the set of Pitch Perfect 2. “One of my favorite scenes to do [in Pitch Perfect 2] was this number where we really get dirty with our dancing,” she explained. “We had a month of rehearsals learning how to do things I’m just not cool enough to do in my real life. I’m a really bad twerker — I still haven’t figured out how to do it. I actually hurt my back one day. I woke up the next morning and my back was completely tweaked out…from twerking.”
How’d the Packers wind up in there?
One of the best scenes in Pitch Perfect 2 is when the Green Bay Packers compete in the riff-off. It was totally unexpected, and of course it begged the question: how on earth did that happen? Cannon told Vanity Fair that it all began when Pakers’ offensive lineman, David Bakhtiari, started a Twitter conversation with Banks, telling her how much he loved the first movie and eventually asking for a cameo in the sequel. Skeptical about how well this would work — and staying true to her Chicago roots as a die-hard Bears fan — Cannon initially resisted the idea.
But the Pack promised to work hard, saying “If you put us in the sequel, we will practice, we will rehearse, we’ll take it as a serious thing. We’re athletes, this is what we do. We’ll really work at it.” Cannon relented, and it turned out to be a great call. “Once they were for sure in, it was actually super fun to write those bits, to write those jokes and to have them be specific, like Clay Matthews saying, ‘There’s nobody who loves more tenderly than I.'”
Banks and Cannon hustle the pitch
When Banks and Cannon were pitching the movie to Universal, it wasn’t the only a cappella-themed movie floating around Hollywood — so they knew they had to make it different. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, the duo described an eccentric presentation during which hilarity ensued: it involved harmonicas, Banks-Cannon harmonizing, and attempts at hitting notes that only Mariah Carey can reach. According to Cannon, “We made fools of ourselves…[Universal’s Peter Cramer] loved it.”
Pitch Perfect 3: coming soon!
After the successes of Pitch Perfect and Pitch Perfect 2, fans eagerly await the release of Pitch Perfect 3, which is slated to release on December 22, 2017. According to IMDb, in the third installment, “The now-separated Bellas reunite for one last singing competition at an overseas USO tour, but they face a group who uses both instruments and voices.” (Wait, what? This rival group doesn’t make music exclusively with their mouths?!) Here’s to getting pitch-slapped this December!