Director Elizabeth Banks Says 'Rocky IV' Inspired The New 'Pitch Perfect' Banks makes her directorial debut with Pitch Perfect 2; she talks to NPR's Audie Cornish about breaking into directing, the true meaning of a cappella, and how the Barden Bellas are really Rocky.
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Yo Aca-Adrian! Elizabeth Banks Says 'Rocky IV' Inspired The New 'Pitch Perfect'

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Yo Aca-Adrian! Elizabeth Banks Says 'Rocky IV' Inspired The New 'Pitch Perfect'

Yo Aca-Adrian! Elizabeth Banks Says 'Rocky IV' Inspired The New 'Pitch Perfect'

Yo Aca-Adrian! Elizabeth Banks Says 'Rocky IV' Inspired The New 'Pitch Perfect'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/406760704/407071656" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Anna Kendrick and her compatriots in the Barden Bellas are back for a second installment of a cappella excitement in Pitch Perfect 2. It's also Elizabeth Banks' first major movie as a director. Universal Studios hide caption

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Universal Studios

Anna Kendrick and her compatriots in the Barden Bellas are back for a second installment of a cappella excitement in Pitch Perfect 2. It's also Elizabeth Banks' first major movie as a director.

Universal Studios

You'd recognize actress Elizabeth Banks if you saw her — blonde, attractive, funny — whether she's playing an exhausted pregnant woman in What to Expect When You're Expecting, or an inappropriate a cappella judge in the 2012 movie Pitch Perfect.

Elizabeth Banks directed Pitch Perfect 2, and she also returns as impolitic a cappella judge Gail Abernathy-McKadden. Universal Pictures hide caption

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Universal Pictures

Elizabeth Banks directed Pitch Perfect 2, and she also returns as impolitic a cappella judge Gail Abernathy-McKadden.

Universal Pictures

Now she's taking on a different role: Directing Pitch Perfect 2. It's a tall order since the first one was such a surprise hit — it cost only $17 million to make, but earned more than $100 million worldwide.

And much like the first film's success, singing heroines the Barden Bellas are fresh off a victory, though theirs was onstage at a college championship, rather than at the box office. So to raise the stakes, Banks took the big fish out of their small pond and dropped them in an ocean. In Pitch Perfect 2, the ladies are competing in the world championships.

Banks tells NPR's Audie Cornish she thinks these films are just like sports movies. "In the first film, especially, it was really structured like The Bad News Bears," she says. "It's a group of misfits who have to come together, who practice, who have competitions, they have to keep winning in order to keep going — so very much like a sports movie."


Interview Highlights

On her particular inspiration for this movie

Our model was Rocky IV. Because we spent a lot of time talking about Ivan Drago — we have a new competitor, a German group called Das Sound Machine, and we wanted Das Sound Machine to sort of be like our Ivan Drago, and the Bellas are our Rocky ... I think they look villainous but weirdly sexy.

On the tribal nature of a cappella

I think it's a good metaphor for life, generally — you know, all of these voices have to work together in harmony to be its best, and I think that's something that on an almost subconscious level people are responding to with these films. This particular type of music, I think, really requires all the part, and that dovetails really nicely with our teamwork themes.

On moving into directing

I started thinking about it probably maybe five years ago. You know, I directed plays in college, and it's something that I've sort of always put in the back of my mind ... and I started just sort of seeking out small opportunities. So one of the first things I did was direct a short film for the Farrelly brothers. And I did it by essentially guilting them into letting me direct it. I said, you don't have any women writers, directors, nobody. And I knew that they sort of trusted me in a weird way ... so I had been working towards this moment, towards the moment of directing a big feature.

On why more actresses don't move into directing

It's really the time commitment — and if you're going to direct a movie, you know, I think that's why Ben Affleck always stars in his movies. I mean, that would be my theory — I don't chat to him about it! But, you know, I think if you're going to take that amount of time to direct, you don't want to just leave your acting career on the side. That's what brought us to the dance, that's what we all love to do.