Elizabeth Banks Was a Frustrated Actress. Now She’s a Determined Mogul.


Their insight – that the best roles for women often came in indie films that paid little, were a struggle to get made and sometimes took you away from your family to lackluster locations – made her realize, she said, that she wanted a different route, especially as she and Mr. Handelman were contemplating parenthood. (They now have two boys, ages 5 and 6.) Artistic fulfillment, she felt, shouldn’t have to come at the expense of autonomy. “There just became a moment where I was like, I need more control over all of this,” she said.

“I also like money, and that is O.K.,” she added. She was aiming for a home where her children would not have to share a room. (The other actresses’ counsel: “It’s actually O.K. to want money in the way that your male colleagues want money.”)

The first film Brownstone developed was “Surrogates” (2009), based on a graphic novel and starring Bruce Willis. Then came “Pitch Perfect,” from the book by Mickey Rapkin, which tracked the first all-female a cappella team to make it to an international singing championship. Ms. Banks had encountered the a cappella scene at Penn.

“I remember this guy singing Elton John’s ‘Rocket Man’ and really moving me,” she said. “Max was like, ‘Do you remember how nerdy but committed the a cappella kids are?’ That a cappella would be a nerd’s greatest outlet just seemed like a really funny idea to us.”

The first film, with a modest budget and a newly famous Anna Kendrick in the lead, was a surprise hit in 2012, and created a star turn for Rebel Wilson as Fat Amy. Ms. Banks gave Ms. Wilson a bigger role and a boyfriend in the sequel.

“As an actor, Elizabeth has the unique ability to see the whole movie, not just her own part, which is why it’s not surprising she has turned into such a good director,” said Gary Ross, who directed her in “Seabiscuit” and “The Hunger Games.” Ms. Banks hung around the monitors on set, asking questions, as she prepared to direct, and started out by making a public service announcement for the American Heart Association.