How Beagles and a Fever Dream Made Rebel Wilson a Star

About five years ago, when she was 39, the actress Rebel Wilson faced a dilemma. She had just had a string of successes, having made $20 million for her comic roles in “Pitch Perfect 3,” “Isn’t It Romantic” and “The Hustle.” But a visit to a fertility doctor had filled her with self-doubt.

Her weight — then 225 pounds — could make it harder to retrieve viable eggs, the doctor suggested. After the appointment, she was devastated and called her talent agent and said she planned to get healthier. Her agent was not thrilled.

“The agency liked me fat because they got hundreds of thousands of dollars in commission for each film where I played the fat funny girl,” she writes in her new memoir, “Rebel Rising.” Losing weight, she worried, could jeopardize her “multimillion-dollar pigeonhole.”

In “Rebel Rising,” which Simon & Schuster released on Tuesday, Wilson details her struggles with food addiction and writes with disarming candor about intimate episodes from her life. Raised in a suburb of Sydney, Australia, as the eldest of four, Wilson had an unconventional childhood: Her family ran a pet product business and bred show beagles, and Wilson had her first brush with show business as a junior dog handler when she was 8.

Success didn’t come easily. Wilson was rejected five times from Australia’s National Institute of Dramatic Art, and auditioned for nearly 30 screen roles in Hollywood before she was cast in the 2011 comedy “Bridesmaids,” a performance that launched her film career.

The memoir has already generated controversy, particularly her account of making the 2016 comedy “The Brothers Grimsby” with Sacha Baron Cohen. Wilson writes that during filming, Baron Cohen made her uncomfortable by asking her to appear nude in the film (they hired a body double instead). She also alleges that he urged her, when they were in character and enacting a sex scene, to stick her finger up his rear end, which she refused to do, while others who were present filmed the encounter on camera phones. Through a representative, Baron Cohen has denied Wilson’s account. “While we appreciate the importance of speaking out, these demonstrably false claims are directly contradicted by extensive detailed evidence, including contemporaneous documents, film footage and eyewitness accounts from those present before, during and after the production of ‘The Brothers Grimsby,’” a representative of Baron Cohen said in a statement.

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