‘Pitch Perfect 2’ Screenwriter on Maturing the Bellas, Friendship and Sequel Ideas

The Barden Bellas are back in action.

Pitch Perfect 2,” the sequel to the 2012 musical movie, hits theaters this weekend, reuniting cast members Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Adam Devine, Skylar Austin, and more, with Elizabeth Banks making her directorial debut.

It also brings back the screenwriter — Kay Cannon, whose other credits include “30 Rock” and “New Girl.” The comedy scribe depicts the Bellas, the champion university a capella group, three years after the previous movie, about to graduate college.

Cannon took some time to talk with Variety about the new movie, its messages and just what a possible “Pitch Perfect 3” might look like.

The funny thing about the first movie is that it was really a slow burn, as far as earning money and gaining traction goes. Did you ever expect a sequel, or to even be a part of a musical franchise?
No! I’m still happy the first one even got made. Like, I’m just beyond happy that people actually saw a script that I wrote and brought to life. And so, beyond that, everything’s been icing on the cake, for me, anyway, and I did feel like the first one stuck around in the top 10 at the box office for many, many weeks and then all of the sudden, it was really well received. I went shopping at Target before the holidays and all the DVDs for “Pitch Perfect” were all sold out. And I was like, “Oh, there’s like something happening here. This is like a sleeper hit, it’s a hit, and people are really enjoying it.” So I’m just shocked to even be a part of it and to know that there’s potential that this weekend could be really great and that we might even, dare say, win it. [laughs] That just blows my mind.

Yeah, some early predictions even give “Pitch Perfect 2” the edge over “Mad Max” and “Avengers.”
Yeah, I know! It makes me crazy, because I can’t even believe this is even a conversation we’re having.

And the fans are so incredibly loyal — what is it about the movies that you think makes them so passionate?
Well, I really feel like that they love the characters and they love how the characters love each other. I think they really genuinely believe that the Bellas love each other and want to be with each other and can say they whatever they want to each other and still be best friends. Like, it reflects in real life how you are with your best friend or your group of friends. And so I think they really see themselves in the ladies, and I also think that the ladies are a group of oddball chicks that all kind of found each other and themselves and they’re discovering who they are and I think that everybody feels that.

And I was just asked about, what in the sequel – because in the first movie, definitely there were things in my real life that I put into the movie — and they said, “Well, does the same hold true for the second movie?” And I was like, “Oh, no, not really. I did not flash my vagina in front of the president. That didn’t happen.” But I have all these great female friends. I ran track in college. And that team, that all-lady team that I was on, I can remember just being so incredibly sad that I knew we were all going to leave each other after we graduated and that our lives would change. And even though I was the bridesmaid at all their weddings and stuff like that, it’s just not the same, right? I think that so many people, regardless of gender, have felt that same way.

What I love about the movie is that, while there is some romance, the central focus is all about their friendships.
Yeah, I mean, this movie is not a romantic comedy and I’ve heard critics talk about how there’s been no love toward showing Becca and Jesse’s storyline and Jesse’s kind of taken a backseat, and my response to that is, “This is not about how these ladies are with dudes. This is about the Bellas and their friendship and their legacy that they’ll leave since they created this wonderful legacy, since they did break the glass ceiling. This is about their friendship and how their lives are going to change. So it’s subtle, but it’s more meaningful, to me. It’s what I wanted this movie to be about, it’s what Elizabeth wanted this movie to be about, and I’m glad that’s what it is about.

Even still, I loved the subplot with Fat Amy and Bumper. Why did you decide to go down that route with them?
I felt like in the first movie, we had really told the story of Becca and Jesse’s love story, right? And so, to me, in the sequel, the shock and the surprise of the audience, and this is very subtle, is that [Fat Amy and Bumper] are still together, because I think they might think, three years later, they’ve broken up, but I just really wanted them to stay together. And so I was like, “What haven’t we seen before?” And I felt like we haven’t seen a character like Fat Amy in a real genuine love story, as having the romantic storyline, and she deserves one. There’s no reason why we haven’t seen that before and so that’s the direction we went into. And quite frankly, I actually had her with somebody else who was going to be a new character, a new Treble that we had never met before. Then someone pitched it in one of our pitch meetings over the script and Bumper was pitched. And I was like, “Oh, that’s perfect.” It’s perfect because they did kind of have something at the beginning, in the first movie. So now they’ll have this history and we know who Bumper is.

And one of my favorite parts of the sequel is that in the first movie, Bumper is our villain and in the sequel, people really love our villain and really want our villain to be with Fat Amy, who they love. It’s a nice shift.

It really did seem like the guys, especially the Treblemakers, had less of a role in this film. Was that a conscious decision?
Yeah, it was definitely a conscious decision. The first movie was about an all-lady group being the underdog and so, pitting that against an all-male group made sense, right? That’s what the story was. And this is different now. The Bellas are successful in their own right, so it’s like, who do they have to beat to win back the legacy? I didn’t want to tell that same story again. It wasn’t about gender politics anymore, so they did have to take a backseat so we could tell a different kind of story.

And instead of having just guys vs. girls this time, you went really big, taking the girls to an international competition. Why take the competition worldwide?
I actually was quite hesitant to go so big. There was a part of me that just wanted to go back to the ICCAs (International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella). But I do understand the idea of that’s what fans have already seen and so you just kind of have to amp it up a little bit to show something different, show a little bit of different flavor, and I think they chose beautifully, all the different kinds of groups from all over the world.

The main rivals are the German group, Das Sound Machine. Were they inspired by anything in particular?
Well, no. Here’s the thing: they seem like they’re this group that actually existed, but they all auditioned individually and were made into a group. So they’re the One Direction of a cappella. But I knew I wanted a group that was going to be a force to be reckoned with, and I felt like a German group would be that intimidating force. And I may be running the risk of stereotyping here, but there’s something really powerful and forceful about them, where they look like these professionals and they’re very disciplined and they’re a co-ed group and there’s a lot of them. And I believe it was my husband, actually, who came up with the name of the group, Das Sound Machine. Or he said the Sound Machine and [producer] Max Handelman said, “Put a ‘Das’ in front of it.” And we also knew that the country of Germany enjoyed the movie. [laughs] I think it was in the most popular market in Germany. And so that organically lent itself to making them a German group.

Now, obviously a sequel hasn’t been given the greenlight yet, but have you given any thought to what a “Pitch Perfect 3” might look like?
No, I really get nervous to even start to think about it, because I would hate for the demand to not be there and you’re just there with pie on your face. But if all goes well with the demand, and people really identify with it and the sequel has legs and there is a third one, I can’t help but think about what it could be because I really love the Bellas and I love this world and I love all the characters around it. And so, my mind starts to go into places like, “We could do this and we could do that.” And that’s spoken to no one, by the way, it’s all that’s in my mind about where we could take these ladies.

There’s kind of like a polite lady-ness about myself right now with this, where I’m like, “Oh, let’s see what happens with this,” that I don’t think, like, that’s what the “Fast & Furious” franchise was like. They’re like, “Yeah, we’re going to make another one!” I’m lacking the cockiness, but there is a small part of me that feels like I should be like, “Yeah, we’re going to make another one! I got all sorts of ideas! Let’s see where this goes!”

Should there be a sequel, are there any subjects you’d like to see the Bellas face?
Yeah. I mean, I feel like to see them as adults, like real adults outside of college, I think is a really fascinating territory and area to discover and for them to go through real life things in which you would need your friends that you’ve had since college. I think all those areas are worth exploring.

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