She’s one of Australia’s most successful movie stars. But that’s pretty much the end of what we know for sure about Rebel Wilson.
Rebel Wilson celebrated her 29th birthday this year.
Which is interesting, because Rebel is actually a 36-year-old called Melanie Elisabeth Bowndes who graduated from Parramatta’s Tara Anglican School in 1997.
Her online academic transcripts say this. As do her school friends.
“She finished yr 12 in 1997, and was our deputy head girl. Definitely not 29 years-old,” commented a schoolmate, Lauren Thomas.
When Mamamia reached out to Rebel’s Sydney and LA-based reps to clarify her age, neither would do so.
“We don’t discuss personal details of any of our clients,” Jacinta Waters from Creative Representation told us.
But that, of course, does not stop others from doing exactly that.
“I worked with her on a theatre production when I was around 12-13, at that time she was studying law at university – which would put her around 19-20,” a former co-star told Mamamia.
“I’m 28. If I was around 13 when she was at university how can we suddenly be the same age?”
Family members also seem baffled by Rebel’s “new” age.
“Shes [sic] not really 29 and its [sic] not her birthday …” Rebecca Clare Bownds, Wilson’s cousin, commented on a Mamamia story about Wilson back in February.
Rebel Wilson is not the first celebrity to lie about her age. How old you are has a direct relationship to how much – and what kind of – work you get in Hollywood.
But recently, Rebel went as far as to say that she was too young for some roles she’d auditioned for.
Speaking about why she didn’t score a role in the the all-girl Ghost Busters movie, Wilson told the UK Independent:
An older cast?
She has also spoken about actresses who try to appear younger than they are.
“A lot of actresses here have [digital correcting, like a form of movie Photoshopping] written into their contracts. It’s pretty obvious which ones… I mean, Sandra Bullock… Did you see Gravity?” she told The Guardian.
But Rebel’s epic reinvention has worked. She has achieved things in Hollywood that most Home And Away starlets can only fantasise about in their wildest ‘breaking Hollywood’ dreams.
She is currently starring in the number-one movie in the US and Australia, Pitch Perfect 2, which is outperforming Mad Max: Fury Road, a movie event 30 years in the making.
And her “Fat Amy” role is only a tiny part of it. Rebel runs her own production company. She’s collaborating on a plus-size fashion label, she got a whole TV series green-lighted in the intensely competitive US market, and has four major movies coming out over the next year.
If you consider the hordes of Aussie soap stars who leave Australia for Hollywood every pilot season, you realise that the scale of Rebel’s achievement makes her a unicorn.
So why did Rebel, whose appeal in large part is built on being a straight-talking, unpretentious, body-positive “bogan”, feel the need to lie?
One word: Hollywood.
Women in Hollywood know that age is a commodity and often, in order to extend their acting lives, a little deception is necessary to nail it in a business obsessed with appearance.
Goldie Hawn once said there are “three roles in Hollywood for women – ingénue, district attorney and Driving Miss Daisy”.
Some, (few though they may be), manage to carve out a career long after their, in the words of Amy Schumer, “fuckable” years are over. But Rebel’s shtick has never been primarily in fuckability.
Watch Amy Schumer and Tina Fey brilliantly explain that concept, here (post continues after video):
The serious matter of celebrity age deception was highlighted in 2011 after an anonymous actress filed a suit against movie database IMDb for posting her real age on her online bio – a source regularly accessed by casting directors.
The actress was almost 40 but represented herself as being significantly younger. The suit said revealing her true age “would make it nearly impossible for the up-and-coming actress to get work.”
The court ruled that the woman’s name would have to be made public if she wanted to pursue the case. She decided against it.
Working it… Rebel Wilson over the years. Post continues after the gallery.
Wilson has carved a particular niche for herself in Hollywood: she’s the ditzy roommate, the off-kilter bridesmaid, the funny sidekick.
Youth is part of that currency. You can’t play the hilarious, tubby college freshman in your 30s, right? Hollywood is not interested in another middle-aged female underdog – Melissa McCarthy already does that job. Bascially, the industry does not recognise ageing up-and-comers.
But sooner or later, even if the number on the cupcakes never makes it past 29, the jig will be up, and Rebel will have to move into “grown-up” parts. Even in Hollywood, you can’t really stay 29 for ever.
“I need to go super-dramatic, or people are just going to get confused,” she told the Guardian, recently. “I’ve got to be extreme – a murderer. I can’t do in-between.”
We’ll be rooting for you, Rebel. No matter how old you are.
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