Skylar Astin and Anna Camp shine in “Pitch Perfect,” the hilarious new comedy directed by Jason Moore. Astin plays Jesse, a Barden University freshman and talented singer who joins The Treblemakers, an all-male a cappella group, and chases after Beca (Anna Kendrick), an incoming freshman and unconventional new member of The Bellas, an all-female a cappella group. Camp plays Aubrey, the extremely tightly wound music director of The Bellas who has her own way of doing things. A stubborn traditionalist who masks her anxiety with bitchiness, Aubrey butts heads with the rebellious Beca almost immediately as The Bellas get ready to compete for the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella title.
At the press day for “Pitch Perfect,” which opens in theaters on September 28th, Astin and Camp talked about their new movie, their favorite songs they got to perform, how they motivated each other through a sometimes exhausting shoot, how they found room for lots of improv, and why one scene was particularly memorable for being both the most fun and the worst to shoot. They also revealed their excitement at having the opportunity to work with Australian actress and comedian Rebel Wilson.
Question: Were you the kind of kids in school who would just burst into song in the middle of science class?
Skylar Astin: Probably. It depends. For me, growing up, teachers either loved me or hated me because I was a charmer. So, if they liked the fact that I could possibly sing, I would do a little thing. I don’t think the science teachers really liked me. The English teachers did though. (to Anna) Did you have any song in your heart?
Anna Camp: I sang a little bit here and there. I don’t think I sang in science. I did get in trouble with my English teacher though once for talking a lot and doing weird voices at one point and I got suspended.
Camp: It was bad. Mrs. Egan. I feel so bad. I’m so sorry, Mrs. Egan, for causing you any trouble.
Q: But it paid off obviously?
Camp: Yes, I guess so. I was hard to contain then and hard to contain now.
Astin: She was suspended from our movie too.
Camp: I was, for doing weird voices. (laughs)
Q: Could you each share a favorite song that you got to perform?
Camp: My favorite song that I performed was the Bruno Mars “Just the Way You Are” when we’re in the pool. I think that it’s such a turning point for my character. It’s where she really gives up control or at the beginning of her giving up control. It was such a beautiful orchestration in the way they worked everything out. I loved doing that.
Astin: I loved singing Cee Lo’s “Bright Lights Bigger City.” That was definitely a favorite of mine because I got to get all soulful. A close second would be Flo Rida’s “Right Round” because I got to rap which I’ve never done before. But I really liked watching the girls’ finale. That was my favorite thing to enjoy and sit back and watch.
Q: Anna, how was it to play such a tightly wound character and did you have a lot of fun with that?
Camp: Yeah, I think playing a character like that with so much boiling underneath the surface is such a treat as an actor because to be fighting against so much going inside but trying to repress it and not show it just gives you so much to play. I think those characters are some of the most interesting because you don’t know when they’re going to pop and you don’t know if they ever will. And then, you see if you’re going to let a little bit out in this scene or hold it back. It’s just very dynamic. People do that all the time when they force themselves not to say something they really want to say or do. And also, it’s just that inner struggle of seeing everybody getting along and going against her and just having those doubts of maybe what I am doing is wrong, but not wanting to let them know that she’s having those doubts. I hope that Aubrey is a fully realized person and she’s not just like the mean girl bitch but that you do sort of feel sorry for her sometimes too.
Astin: And your character literally pops and lets it out. Sometimes she holds back her vomit and sometimes she lets her vomit up.
Camp: She really has that huge explosion and release but it’s also symbolic. She’s letting it all go literally and …
Astin: There is something to be said about the one scene where you just let it go.
Camp: There’s something to be said…
Astin: That could be a very strange part of the film and it makes me laugh every time uncontrollably.
Q: Could you both share your personal vomit stories?
Camp: Like me vomiting or someone vomiting on me?
Astin: I was once with my brother at his college and it was winter and I was wearing a jacket that had one of those furry hoods. I was at a keg party at a fraternity house and this guy did this epic keg stand and I was walking away and he literally puked in my entire hood. It was disgusting. I didn’t know what to do. I took off the jacket and I was freezing for the rest of the night and it was like a super expensive jacket.
Camp: Oh, bummer!
Astin: Yeah, poor guy.
Q: Was it ruined?
Astin: Completely ruined. The guy literally let his lunch out all over my clothing. I mean, listen, you can’t judge this question if you’re asking it. What’s your worst puke story? Ooooh, that’s gross. (laughs) Yeah, that’s my worst puke story.
Camp: I remember being in third grade and I had a crush on this boy named Scott, Scott Tool. His last name was Tool. It was an unfortunate last name.
Astin: Better than Ben Douch though.
Camp: That’s true. Scott Tool. Love you! I would follow him around. He didn’t like me. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong for this guy not to like me. And I remember one day we sat in the cafeteria, like I sort of got a seat not directly across but near, and the poor guy lost it, like vomited everywhere, and I remember I stopped liking him. I was like “Oh good!”
Astin: How shallow!
Camp: The guy gave me a really good reason why not to have a crush on him anymore (laughs). I was grossed out by it. That was the end of my love affair with Scott Tool. Not a single tear.
Astin: Oh gosh! Poor Scott Tool!
Q: Anna Kendrick was telling us how exhausted she was going home. How did you keep yourself going? Did you guys motivate each other?
Astin: We hung out a lot actually.
Camp: We did.
Astin: Kendrick had a lot of big tasks on this movie so I’m sure she was a little bit more pooped than the rest of us, but we went all the time to dinners and movies.
Camp: We’d hang out, but I was tired though at some point. First, the finale, the shooting of the… I was going back and forth between shooting the opening and the finale in the same day so I’d have to change wardrobe. I’d have to change hair. I’d have to remember the choreography because the choreography is similar at times. So, it became a little exhausting for me on that one specific day. I definitely drank a lot of vitamin C and had some V-12 vitamins happening at some point, but besides that, it was just hanging out and really supporting everybody. We supported each other a lot in this film.
Astin: It wasn’t such a competition as it is in the film. It really wasn’t.
Q: What was the most fun scene to shoot in this film and what was the worst experience you had?
Astin: I think shooting the riff-off was actually not as fun as it looked just because it was a night shoot. Anytime you do something that takes place at night, it’s at 3am, so to try to kind of wake up for that, and we were shooting in an actual hollowed out pool that was kind of dingy and dirty, but it looked so good on camera. But those days were kind of tough because since it’s so vast, there’s no place to keep your cast chairs or warmer things, so we actually bonded a lot that night for sure.
Camp: We did. I guess one scene was the worst and the best and the most fun. It was the throw-up because it was so crazy. We had this hose attached to my face and one was under my chin, and the stunt guy was over there and he’d press a button, and literally it was so powerful that it knocked me off my feet once and everybody was laughing and it got all over me, all over everything, and it did not smell [good]. It got people everywhere. It was amazing, but it was also actually gross and really cold. But it was fun.
Q: Was it like a fruit smoothie?
Astin: No, no, no.
Camp: No, no, there was pineapple.
Astin: There was pineapple, but it wasn’t all fruit and it wasn’t like the Hawaiian pizza pineapple. It was like pineapple, rice, tomato, and all that together equals vomit smell.
Camp: It equals vomit smell.
Q: Skylar, do you love “The Breakfast Club” as much as your character does?
Astin: Yes, I do. I don’t quote it and move my mouth along with the lines as much, but I always loved “The Breakfast Club,” and I did watch it once or twice before filming just to become even more familiar with it. I think it’s an absolutely iconic movie and I am so thrilled to be a part of something that is going to shed light on those classics for a new generation.
Q: Did the Aca get stuck in your head like it did in my head and probably many others who will see this film?
Camp: Aca yes.
Astin: Good Aca answer.
Camp: No. It was a tricky thing because I wanted to make sure that Aubrey was very committed to saying that and she wasn’t in on the joke. This was very serious for her. It would just fly out of her mouth. She didn’t have to think about it. It was in her speech and that’s how she talked and hopefully people can laugh at it, but hopefully it’s not too jarring of a thing.
Q: Was there any room for improv?
Astin: Oh yeah.
Camp: Yeah. Lots of it.
Astin: Some more than others. Rebel (Wilson) and Adam (Devine) got to fly off the handle a bit. For Anna Kendrick and I, since we’re one of the more grounding elements of the film, we kind of had to stay a little bit sharper and crisper in the dialogue and it became more of a witty banter. But there were definite times where we got to live in a conversational period. I think the scene where I’m drunk at the Hoodie Night I got to get away with a couple things here and there. And, during the audition scene, I was able to throw in a couple of lines. (to Anna) But I think you had more opportunities than I did probably, right?
Camp: Yeah. There were some times. My character was so by the book and a stickler too that I definitely wanted to rein everybody in. There were some moments though before the performances where we were all in a huddle where I was just so frustrated that I’d go “C’mon, whatever! Screw it! Let’s just do it!” I think I just came up with that on the spot. So, screw it! Let’s just do it!
Astin: Let’s just do it.
Q: There’s a lot of excitement about Rebel Wilson being in this. What was it like to have had a front row seat working with her?
Astin: She brought a lot to the table. She was definitely our home run hitter. I don’t want to reveal too much about her process because that’s hers, but I will say she’s a very, very crafty comedian and she comes to set more prepared than you’d think. It seems like she’s just having a great time and spitballing, but really… I mean, she’s a blast on set and she’s so fun, but I think she’s got a couple of those way back in the corner and she lets them all go. It was a thrill because we knew it was coming and it never got tired or boring. It was always exciting to watch. I didn’t actually have to act opposite her as much as Anna did so I got to take a front row seat literally at the monitor with the headphones and sit back and enjoy my own Rebel Wilson movie.
Camp: Just watching her as another actor, she really leaves no stone unturned when she leaves a scene. Sometimes, when you shoot a scene where you’re done and it’s over, as you’re leaving it, you’re like “Dang, if only I had just got that idea…” She really mines everything in the moment, and it’s really inspiring to me. I’m like “I’m going to do that too. Next time in this next scene I’m going to do everything that I want to do so I can walk away from that scene knowing that I accomplished everything that I could.” So there’s no feeling of “If only, if only…” She really, really nails it and she does everything that she wants and it’s inspiring to watch.