Watch CBS News

Rebel Wilson on the sobering secrets revealed in her memoir, "Rebel Rising"

Rebel Wilson on her memoir, "Rebel Rising"
Rebel Wilson on her memoir, "Rebel Rising" 08:23

Stretching out below the hallowed Hollywood sign lies a bit of L.A. greenery. Griffith Park is a surprisingly peaceful place given the cacophony around it, although for actor Rebel Wilson, when she first moved here from Australia back in 2010, the idea of hiking these trails seemed a bit weird. 

"Being quite big, I was like, who would find it enjoyable to walk up a hill?" she laughed.

Actress Rebel Wilson with correspondent Lee Cowan.  CBS News

She's always owned her weight. Given the "Pitch Perfect" character that made Wilson famous, how could she not? "That was really the one that really changed my life, and actually made me lots of money – I shouldn't say that!" she laughed.

Pitch Perfect (1/10) Movie CLIP - Fat Amy (2012) HD by Movieclips on YouTube

It was clear it was her talent, not her size, that ensured she wasn't a one-off. "Bridesmaids" was her breakout. She got six movie offers in the two weeks after its release. She was a sure thing, and those around her wanted to make sure she stayed in her lane.  "My agents were against [my] losing weight," she said, "because they thought, Well, you've got such a pigeonhole that is such a valuable pigeonhole – being the fat, funny girl – so we don't really want you to lose that."

It made her relationship with food and fame both complicated and contradictory. "People would see me being this confident big girl, [who] didn't seem to be restricted by being a big girl," Wilson said. "But then, what they wouldn't see is, you know, after a movie premiere coming home and just eating a couple brownies and a couple cupcakes and then a big plate of ice cream and then feeling terrible about myself for doing that."

That's one of the many sobering secrets Wilson is about to reveal this week in her memoir, "Rebel Rising." "If you're going to write a memoir, you may as well just share everything," she said.

Simon & Schuster

The book starts where she did, as a young Melanie Elizabeth Bownds, who had trouble finding friends. She writes that, when she was in elementary school, she sometimes ate her lunch in the bathroom. "Yeah, 'cause I was just so shy," she said. "The thought of going out and talking to people that I didn't know was really terrifying. So, I'd often just sit in the toilet with my little plastic lunch box, and just eat my little cheese sandwich."

Her mom was so worried, she decided to enroll Wilson in drama class – a sure-fire cure, or so she thought. "I was like, 'No! that's not me!'" Wilson said. "Like, I'm holding onto the car door by my fingertips, and she's pulling me, rips me off, like, pushes me like a snowplow – I'm like, 'No, no, no, no. I'm not going. I'm not going!' –  and then, pushes me in the door, shuts the door, and says, 'I'll be back at 5:00,' and leaves."

Like her stories, her writing is frank and funny, including about the most intimate things.

Cowan asked, "You hadn't – I guess the nice way to phrase it is 'gone all the way sexually' until you were 35?"

"That's a good PG way of saying it, Lee," Wilson laughed. "Yeah, yeah. I hadn't had sex until I was 35. And that was something that I felt ashamed about – like, I felt really embarrassed about it, actually."

"Even though no one knew?

"Yeah, nobody knew, not even the guy that I first slept with knew. Now he'll know. Great!"

That's not to say that all the memoir is funny reading, especially when she gets to one of her later roles with fellow comedian and one-time co-star Sacha Baron Cohen. Wilson said, "I thought he's a comedy genius. And it just ended up being the worst professional experience I've had."

During the filming of "The Brothers Grimsby," released in 2016, Wilson said she felt Baron Cohen had "something against women, particularly overweight women."

"[This] felt personal," she wrote. " … he just wanted me to look and feel awful."

Wilson said, "He asked me to do things that made me feel very uncomfortable, humiliated, and kind of degraded as a human being. And yes, I'd played characters before that had used my bigger physicality to my own advantage. But I had agency over that character."

Through a spokesperson, Baron Cohen called Wilson's allegations "demonstrably false." 

One of the writers and producers of "Grimsby" told "Sunday Morning," "This makes no sense …. Not only was Rebel's character consistent with how she was described in the script, which Rebel had read and approved prior to filming, she also had full agency in all aspects of [her character] Dawn."

He is one of at least eight people connected to the film, so far, who have come forward to cast doubt on her claims.

Nevertheless, Wilson writes that when the production had finished, "It really sank in … it felt like SBC [Sacha Baron Cohen] had sexually harassed me."

She told Cowan, "It's not about cancelling him; it's more about expressing my truth, and what happened."

She's felt wronged before. When tabloids in Australia claimed that she had repeatedly lied about her backstory, Wilson took the billion-dollar media company to court, and won. She knew what she was doing: Wilson actually has a law degree from the University of New South Wales. She earned it while still starring in a hit Australian TV series.

"I got famous first in Australia for playing this, like, gang girl," she said. "And then, they'd see me walk into, like, my federal constitutional law exam, they'd just be like, 'Wait, but isn't that … ?' Like, it would confuse the hell out of people!"

She's still surprising people. In 2022 she ditched comedy for a dramatic role in "The Almond and the Seahorse." The movie revealed a different side of Wilson – and a different look. She had lost as much as 60 pounds in just 11 months, in part on the advice of a fertility doctor. 

Yep, Wilson was ready to be a mom.

Royce Lillian Elizabeth Wilson was born via a surrogate in November 2022.

Royce and Rebel.  CBS News

Wilson also found the love of her life: girlfriend Ramona Agruma. Wilson proposed last year, on Valentine'd Day, at Disneyland. "All this time, I thought I was looking for a Disney prince," Wilson said. "And then I found out maybe it was a Disney princess."

Rebel Wilson has always chased her dreams. What's pleasantly clear from her memoir is that, so far, she's managed to catch almost all of them.

For more info:

Story produced by Reid Orvedahl. Editor: Mike Levine. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.