EXCLUSIVE: Rebel Wilson has signed with Warner Music and will have her own highly personalized label: Rebellionaire. “Take the ‘b’ out of billionaire and replace it with an ‘r’ for Rebel,” she quipped.
The recording group partnered with Wilson after hearing songs from her feature directorial debut The Deb, a musical set in Australia that is set to begin shooting Down Under in October.
Rebellionaire’s first release will be The Deb’s soundtrack, due out later next year with the film’s launch.
Wilson was introduced to The Deb 3½ years ago through a scholarship program that she supports at Sydney’s Australian Theatre for Young People (ATYP). “Basically, one young person wins it and then I mentor them for a year,” she explained. “And as part of it, they have to pitch a show and write the show and hopefully finish it by the end of the year.”
The very first one was an Australian musical called Fan Girls, which, according to Wilson and others, went gangbusters.
It was lightbulb moment for Wilson. “And then I was like, ‘Oh, hang on, I think I’ve got something here…’”
New contracts were set up with ATYP allowing Wilson to investigate productions that came via her scholarship that were worthy of further development for stage, TV or movies.
The Sydney native also was keen “to go back to Australia and create some Australian movies because I hadn’t shot a movie there for 12 years.“
The last film she shot there was 2011’s A Few Best Men with the late Olivia Newton-John and Elizabeth Debicki.
Written by Hannah Reilly, The Deb follows three girls whose lives are changed when one of them gets booted out of her posh city school and is sent to muck out with farm girls in a bush town far from the city limits .
“Even though it’s very uniquely Australian, it could have real impact overseas,” Wilson said of The Deb when we met in a basement recording studio in the heart of Soho in London’s West End.
Wilson hooked Reilly up with pop composer Meg Washington, and together they wrote several numbers for a stage production that was performed at ATYP’s Rebel Theatre. Yes, yes, it’s named after our Rebel.
“The stage production was a deliberate development step for the film and a way to test the musical,” Wilson told me.
She noted that Baz Luhrmann trod a similar path with his 1992 debut feature Strictly Ballroom. He created in 1984 as a short play set in the world of ballroom dancing.
Wilson has monitored Reilly and Washington’s output every step of the way, and it became a huge hit when it played the Rebel Theatre.
Since then, Reilly and Washington have written two new songs for the film: “F*ck My Life” and “Pretty Strong.”
The first title “has about 100 f*ck words in it, which is probably why the movie can never be bought by Disney,” Wilson observed.
I’ve heard the spoken version of “F*ck My Life.” However, I had a private live performance of “Pretty Strong,” performed a cappella by Natalie Abbott, Charlotte MacInnes and Stevie Jean, who play starring roles in the film.
The harmonizing trio’s way with “Pretty Strong” was pretty electrifying. I totally get now why Wilson reckons that The Deb’s songs will be huge with the TikTok generation.
The movie’s other numbers will have “some with hip-hop elements, another has music that’s a bit Disney princess-like, and there’s a ballad or two,” said Wilson.
Amanda Ghost, who is producing The Deb with Gregor Cameron and Len Blavatnik, met Abbott, MacInnes and Jean at auditions Wilson held in Australia. MacInnes was in the original stage production.
“I couldn’t believe the talent when I got to Australia,” Ghost said. “I’ve never come across three girls with voices with this much talent that blend so well.”
Wilson travels to Sydney later this summer to start pre-production, with shooting set for October and November in the city and rural New South Wales.
Ian Eisendrat has been contracted as executive music producer. He performed similar duties on Snow White and Wicked.
Rob Ashford (Cinderella, Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile) will do musical staging and choreography.
I’m curious about how Wilson will cope in the bush during the shoot.
“I’ve had the bush life,” she laughed. “I was raised in the western suburbs of Sydney … living in a house where you had snakes and bush rats in the back yard. I know that life!”