Some people catch the acting bug from performing in a school play. Some get it from being in a cereal commercial. Rebel Wilson caught it in the most absurdly literal way imaginable: from a mosquito bite. After graduating from high school, the Sydney, Australia native — whom Bridesmaids fans will recognize as Kristen Wiig’s irritating, tequila-worm-tattooed roommate Brynn — was spending a year in South Africa as a youth ambassador when she contracted a severe case of malaria.
Hovering near death in a Johannesburg hospital, Wilson — who’d been planning to become a lawyer — had a vivid fever dream in which she saw herself standing on a stage accepting an Oscar for acting. In her delirious vision, Wilson delivered not an acceptance speech but an acceptance rap (”Listen up, y’all, I’ve got something to say/It’s about this award that I won today”) — and the audience went wild. ”I don’t know if that idea had always been inside me or what,” Wilson says, picking at a cheese plate at an Italian restaurant in Los Angeles. ”But when I got back home, I said I had to become an actor.”
Although a febrile hallucination might not seem like the most sensible basis for a career choice, it’s hard to argue with Wilson’s results. Just two years after arriving in L.A. as a total unknown, the 32-year-old is making a lot of noise in Hollywood. Wilson has no fewer than five films set to come out this year, including the May 18 ensemble comedy What to Expect When You’re Expecting, in which she plays a spacey assistant at a breastfeeding supply store, and the indie comedies Bachelorette, with Kirsten Dunst, and Struck by Lightning, with Chris Colfer. On top of her busy film schedule, Wilson just shot a pilot for a CBS sitcom that she created, wrote, and stars in called Super Fun Night — executive-produced by Conan O’Brien — about three dorky twentysomething roommates trying to turn around their lame social lives. ”Rebel is going to make a big splash,” says Elizabeth Banks, who plays Wilson’s boss in What to Expect and produced another of her upcoming films, the collegiate-singing-group comedy Pitch Perfect. ”She’s like a female Seth Rogen in a way. She came here to conquer.”