Elizabeth Banks Wanted the ‘Pitch Perfect’ Riff-Off to Feel Like a ‘Fight Club’
Elizabeth Banks played an integral role in creating the Pitch Perfect movies. Not only did she produce the first film, but The Hunger Games actor also directed and co-starred in subsequent sequels. After reading the Pitch Perfect book, Banks decided a movie about a college a cappella competition sounded like a fun idea.
The Modern Family actor admits the riff-off is one of her favorite scenes from the entire franchise, which she hoped would portray to audiences as an intense Fight Club battle.
Elizabeth Banks worked on ‘Pitch Perfect’ in front of and behind the camera
Together with her husband, sportswriter Max Handelman, Banks created Brownstone Productions. They are responsible for bringing the first Pitch Perfect movie to the screen in 2012.
Along with producing the first film, The 40-Year-Old Virgin actor also co-starred in the first installment, playing the role of Gail. Her character was a vibrant a cappella official and announcer who discussed the ins and outs of women’s a cappella.
After the unexpected success of the first Pitch Perfect movie, it was inevitable that a sequel was on the horizon. In 2015, Banks made her directorial debut with the second installment of the popular franchise, Pitch Perfect 2. She also continued as a producer and returned to the screen to reprise her role as Gail.
The infamous ‘Pitch Perfect’ riff-off scene
Banks told The Hollywood Reporter the original idea for the riff-off “came out of a college experience that I had attending what we call ‘Hootenannies’ where a bunch of theater groups get together.” She explained, “It becomes very raucous. It’s like a giant party, really, but we’re a bunch of nerds who love to sing.” Banks said, “I just always had this idea of taking that competition to the next level.”
In Pitch Perfect 2, in the same style as the riff-off in the first film, the Barden Bellas go to a private underground location to have a hip-hop-style sing-off. The groups invited to the party by an eccentric a cappella fan (David Cross) include the German group Das Sound Machine, the Treblemakers, the Tonehangers, and members of the Green Bay Packers football team (who do a pretty great job at singing a cappella).
In an interview with WFSU Public Media, Banks said the riff-off scenes were inspired by her “experience of being a nerdy musical theater kid.” The Charlie’s Angels actor explained the experience of going to house parties. She explained, “we would all stand around a piano with lyric sheets and just sing and show off and go back and forth and sort of throw it to each other.”
Banks revealed, “That was the inspiration for the riff-off in the first film. And I knew in this one [Pitch Perfect 2] I wanted it to feel like a fight club.”
The franchise sang its way to the bank
Banks played a notable role in all three Pitch Perfect movies. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the first Pitch Perfect movie only had a $17 million production budget. It garnered enormous success, grossing more than $115 million worldwide, with approximately $135 million in home entertainment sales. It was one of the top-performing DVD titles of 2013. The soundtrack was also a huge success, with the catchy single “Cups” having combined sales of almost 3 million units.
The BBC reported Pitch Perfect 2 was “the highest-grossing musical comedy of all time” in 2015. Variety reports Pitch Perfect 2 grossed $285 million worldwide, with domestic sales of $183 million. Due to scheduling conflicts, Banks did not continue as director of the third installment, but the departure was “amicable.” She did continue to portray Gail and produced all three installments.
Pitch Perfect 3 had the highest production budget of $45 million. According to The Numbers, the third installment brought in $185 million. The franchise had a staggering worldwide box office sales total of $589 million for the three films. The Barden Bellas may have been the underdog, but in the end, proved victorious.