Anna Kendrick: She’s Just a Girl and She’s on Fire
From a booth at the restaurant Birds, actress Anna Kendrick eyes a TV commercial across the room. “How about that pocket hose, huh? It’s a little tiny hose and it gets big. It’s a real space-saver,” she says. “If you have a yard that needs watering, I think you’ve got enough space for a hose. Sorry.”
In addition to ridiculing infomercials over lunch in Franklin Village, Kendrick does many other things that adorkable, 27-year-old Angelenos are supposed to do — not because they’re cool but simply because she wants to. She frequents hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurants and art-house theaters like Cinefamily and the New Beverly, sometimes by herself. She uses Instagram, and Snapchat, the latter of which is perfect for celebrities since the images disappear in seconds. She obsesses over the hoarding phenomenon, even hanging out in the Reddit community devoted to discussing the gory details.
She’s done most things right in her career, too, rising to a level of welcome ubiquity that rivals Neil Patrick Harris and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, fellow actor-singer-dancer-comedians who are so likable and of-the-moment that they can do no wrong. Kendrick effortlessly bounces from a Twilight sequel to Joe Swanberg’s upcoming micro-brewing indie, Drinking Buddies, to the in-production film version of the cult musical The Last Five Years. Her solo in the a cappella movie Pitch Perfect — which involved a 75-year-old Appalachian folk song and a cup used as a percussion instrument, a trick she discovered via a video posted on, yes, Reddit — hit No. 64 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Still, Kendrick has a broad self-deprecating streak, which she’s channeled into her million-plus-follower Twitter account. Her most famous tweet implied she masturbated to Ryan Gosling movies (a joke, she clarifies). She sends consistently funny lines like, “Fuck you, recipes that list something chopped, covered in olive oil and baked for 20 minutes as an ‘ingredient.’ I am not Wonder Woman.”
“It’s nice to be able to check in with the universe,” she says. “Like, ‘Hey, I feel this way sometimes — does anybody else? You do? Great.’ ”
Growing up in Portland, Maine, Kendrick’s comedic sensibility was influenced by her father’s gallows Irish humor, which included taking her at age 12 to see Martin McDonagh’s Broadway play The Beauty Queen of Leenane. “We just spent the rest of the night doing quotes from, you know, a funny play about matricide,” she recalls.
At the time, Kendrick was working a few blocks away, starring in the musical High Society and becoming one of the youngest Tony Award nominees ever. She moved to L.A. at 19 and slowly built a career that took off seemingly overnight when she played a pushy consultant in Up in the Air. Her performance was so memorable that she’s had to work hard to keep things fresh. “I actively decided to look for things that were not feisty,” she says of the aftermath. “As recently as this month, I got this script that was, you know, no-nonsense, wearing a business suit, and I was immediately, like, I can’t even bother reading this.”
Despite her stardom, Kendrick shares her home in the Hollywood Dell with roommates, including one she’s had for eight years. Back when they lived in West Hollywood, things were harder — the electricity was turned off, and they were almost evicted.
Recently, she says, “After watching an episode of Hoarders, I was going through my closet and really trying to get rid of stuff.” Kendrick saw black pants and a white button-down she used in the past for catering jobs. “I finally threw them out, like, this month. It was a big step.”
Anna Kendrick: Outtakes From Our Interview
Anna Kendrick in Pitch Perfect
We profiled actress/singer/comedian/Twitter celebrity Anna Kendrick for our People Issue, but didn’t have space for everything.
Here are some of the best deleted bits from our interview:
I find I get the most response from things that I’m kind of honest about. When I make full-out jokes that works sometimes too, as the Ryan Gosling Tweet proved.
But sometimes when I say something really honest, like I tweeted something about sometimes I wish I could wear sign around my neck that says, “Look, I’m pretty sensitive, can everybody just be cool?”…And I got an amazing response because it was, like, an honest thing where sometimes you’re just like feeling really vulnerable…
It kind of forces you to tighten things up, which I’m bad at. Anything that I’ve ever written is just so utterly rambling…Like when God forbid I have a misunderstanding with somebody, the email that I will send them is like a ten-page novel.
On the hoarding phenomenon:
There’s a subreddit for hoarding. I’m obsessed with the hoarding. It fascinates me ’cause I think we all have that, that tendency inside of us, and it’s just a matter of who lets it get out of control…
I want to get inside the minds of hoarders. ‘Cause I am totally guilty of having, you know, hypothetically, two of the exact same thing but feeling like, “But this one’s a perfectly good thing, I can’t just get rid of it.” Some of those episodes of Hoarders are just heartbreaking. These fathers that won’t get rid of planks of wood they think they’re gonna do some project with that they’re never gonna do and their family’s, like, begging them to throw it away. To be in the mind of a person like that, I can’t imagine.
I feel like that could totally be me. Nothing makes me clean my house more and get rid of stuff and do a purge than as much as I’ll really go for it after watching an episode of Hoarders. I feel like sometimes when I’m feeling like I have too much stuff and I need to get reorganized and prioritize what actual things I need in my life, I will watch an episode of Hoarders and I will have half the stuff I owned before in a couple of hours. It’s amazing…
My phone was stolen and I lost a bunch of pictures and I was so upset. And I’m still — I’m heartbroken, really. But I didn’t go through and look at them…All they had been was just like photos on my camera roll that I never really visited and yet when they’re gone, I was devastated. That’s gotta be the same feeling — like I can’t get rid of it but I never go and visit it. I think my mom has a storage space…I’m gonna ask her about it now — be like, “What the fuck is in there that’s so important?”
…As I can be a hoarder, nothing gives me more intense pleasure than re-organizing my closet and getting little containers and making little things so that there’s a place for everything and everything is in its place. It’s like I waver between being a total hoarder and completely OCD…For a while, I tried crafting. I’m just not good at it.
On losing her phone
The person turned it off immediately. It was just some fucking asshole…It’s not like somebody was targeting me specifically…
I have a bunch of phones. They’re all good, I just — I don’t know. It’s more just learning to use new technology that’s daunting. I want to try them. And, like, actually have the one that’s best. ‘Cause I am at a point now where just organizing my life is a priority and I don’t have an assistant or anything and sometimes — like this week — things feel a little overwhelming…
I want a phone that at the time when I leave the house has got, like, a map ready for where I need to be. …There must be an app for that. If it’s not, let’s make it and make a million dollars. But that’s a good idea, right? To have a thing where I could enter addresses for the week where I was gonna be and then what times I was supposed to be there and then half an hour before then it would just be like, “Here’s your map.”
Everything Kendrick did during the week leading up to our interview:I got back from SXSW and I had, like I don’t actually know what it was — it was like social catch-up but also kind of a work thing. Like, somebody I hadn’t seen in years — it was the day that my phone got stolen, so that was really fun.
Then I had — I’m doing this video for Vogue….They’re having girls come in and sing and it’s kind of fashion and music and whatever. So I had a lesson for that just to try and pick what song I was gonna sing. A pianist worked with me for a while on that but I had to drive out to — he was at, I don’t know if it’s CSUN or something.
And then I had a bunch of the Pitch Perfect girls over so I was running around trying to clean my house up. Yeah, just for fun.
You’re friends in real life?
Believe it or not, yeah. Real-life friends. It’s crazy.
Then I had a meeting about a script. Then the next day I had a meeting about a script. A fitting for this Vogue thing. I had to go to this event thing that’s like, I don’t know, a relationship thing, really, and then another kind of work dinner that was sort of related to the first script.
And then today I had my vocal lesson [for the film version of the musical The Last Five Years] and I have this and then the [photo] shoot [for L.A. Weekly's People Issue] and then I’m going to do, like, an MTV sketch thing…And then I’m having dinner tonight with Jason Moore, who directed Pitch Perfect, ’cause we’re doing a music video for that song “Cups.”…
And then tomorrow I actually shoot the Vogue video but I might try to have voice lesson before then and then the next day I’m doing a Funny or Die thing and having like another work dinner.
It’s weird — it’s like the fact that these are all things that are happening, it’s just so not my life. I was so never the person who, like, had to schedule social engagements in order to see people. I was just always around….I’ve always had friends that said, “Ooh I’ll pencil you in next week for coffee” and I’m like, “It’s ok, I’ll just see you when I see you.” And now I’m that person that has to set aside time to see friends. It’s really bizarre.
Kendrick’s “Cups” music video
On the phenomenon of the song “Cups,” which involved using a cup as a percussion instrument. Kendrick performed it in Pitch Perfect and it ended up on the Billboard chart:
That was bananas!…I get emailed videos of acquaintances’ nieces doing the “Cups” songs.
But in a way it doesn’t surprise me…I saw a video on Reddit of those two girls [doing the cups percussion] and it’s just such a fascinating and fun thing to learn. That’s why I sat in my room, like, teaching myself to do it from this video, so in a sense it makes sense to me that the more people that see it, the more people who try it and make videos themselves. I was just doing it for fun and then I taught my roommates and we sat around all night doing it…
When I was meeting everybody about doing Pitch Perfect, they wanted to…make sure I could actually sing and I was like, “Well, since I’ll probably never have the opportunity to do this again, I learned it, I might as well do it.” I did that thing, so they were like, “Yeah, that’s going in the movie.”
I’m a fan of intensely dorky things that people want to do by themselves or together….The thing about, like, harmonies and a capella singing — it’s like a puzzle. If you’re a fan of puzzles, and you’re a fan of music, it’s right where your brain wants to be.
Kendrick does the “Cups” song herself on Letterman
Kendrick in 50/50
On her music lesson for the upcoming movie musical The Last Five Years earlier that day:
While I’m extremely excited that Georgia [Stitt, wife of the musical's composer, Jason Robert Brown] is working with me on it, at the same time I almost wanted a lesson before the lesson, you know? With somebody who wasn’t so close to it ’cause I was afraid she was gonna walk away from our first lesson being like, “I don’t know about this one.”
On picking scripts:
If early on in the script a writer kind of outsmarts me, I’m kind of, you know, I get more excited for the rest of it. That was one of the things with Pitch Perfect….I was like, “I know what this movie is. I know what this is gonna be,” and then, you know, on every page [writer] Kay Cannon just outsmarted me.
On whether she tends to play feisty characters and/or characters who have to mature beyond their years for their jobs:
I did play pretty feisty roles but then I actively decided to look for things that were not feisty. My character in [the upcoming film] Drinking Buddies could not be described as feisty. And I don’t think [the young psychologist] Katherine in 50/50 could be described as feisty.
Here’s the thing: I think Katherine could’ve been played feisty. I think that’s why they gave me the job, because of what I’d done in Up in the Air. And I just decided that as long as nobody told me not to, I was gonna try something else, and that worked well and everybody responded to it.
And I really liked playing somebody who got it her own way a lot and was pretty bad at masking her naivete and inexperience. And I think that was conscious because at that time, that’s how I felt. Up in the Air [had just come out] and I was like going to award shows feeling like I was getting my own way and I was pretty bad at masking my naivete and all of that. So I kinda needed to exorcise some of those demons a little bit.
I think a lot of people saw a common thread there, but when people would say, like, that they were the same, I was like, Natalie in Up in the Air is cold and calculating and confident and Katherine is so excited to help people that she’s falling all over herself. So I think the comparisons are more artificial ones. But I think people just see what they want to see sometimes. I think people particularly with newer actresses or actors, they project the same qualities that they’ve come to associate with them. ‘Cause it’s like, “That’s that girl that does that one thing.” And you have to try to not do that.
Anna Kendrick with Rebel Wilson in Pitch Perfect
On playing a college freshman in Pitch Perfect after playing way older characters
I was worried that people were gonna have their knives out for me a little bit…That movie was a lot of work. I was like singing and dancing and I’m in every scene and it was intense. One of the things that I said to [director] Jason [Moore] while I was still like figuring out if I was gonna do it or not, I said “You know, I’m not actually eighteen. So I’m going to be really tired.” I was so worried that I was gonna wear myself out…There were so many nights where the rest of the cast was just, like, really disappointed in my party ethic…’Cause I was like, “Guys, I have another 14-hour day tomorrow. I can’t do it.”
On action movies:
I really like action movies. It’s hard when it’s a genre that’s consistently like, not great…you get excited about the new Die Hard and then it just, you know, gets panned and you’re less excited about seeing it…
Would you ever be in one?
I would just straight-up ruin an action movie. ‘Cause A) physically it doesn’t really make sense and B) I don’t think I’d be able to wipe that stupid look off my face like I’m so excited to be there. Like making the gun noises with my mouth and stuff.
I mean, I think there’s just so few like roles where that would even makes sense. I guess it isn’t something that’s really come into my life and even when it is, you know, the role is like the distressed girlfriend or something. It’s not like an actual badass, you know. There’s only a couple of those a year for girls and Zoe Saldana’s like got it covered as far as I’m concerned as a viewer. I’m like, yes please. More Zoe Saldana holding guns, please.
On starring in the upcoming, largely-improvised Drinking Buddies, directed by micro-indie director Joe Swanberg:
Basically, Joe had a structure set out and he knew where we all needed to get but, you know, I was never given a single piece of paper the entire time, which was really terrifying but exciting…
Honestly, if I could make every single movie like that, I would. Like if it was financially an option…
There was a scene where Jake Johnson and I are supposed to be just having fun downstairs, like, loudly so that Olivia Wilde’s character kinda hears us and gets a little jealous and comes down from her bedroom. And we were playing slapjack — you know, that game where you just — it’s the stupidest game. You just keep flipping cards until a jack comes up and the first person to slap it [wins]. And we were playing it as a drinking game and I kept losing and we were drinking real beer…
We were just laughing so much and having so much fun and I’m pounding this beer and I’m really small and I drank it really quickly and I think everybody walked away from that scene like “I’ve never seen a human being get drunk that quickly.” But then I was, like, drunk at work — it was really uncomfortable, actually. ‘Cause I was like, you know, I’m trying to do my job…
On luck at gambling:
We played blackjack because Jake Johnson actually is a very, very skilled gambler and I warned him that I’m the cooler — and I have the worst luck of all time. And once again I kept losing even though I was doing all the right plays, you know. He was kind guiding me through it and teaching me how to play and he was like, “I’ve never seen anything like this,” like, “you’re literally doing everything that the book says you should do and yet you’re losing every single hand. I don’t know how that’s possible.”
I was in Vegas for Up in the Air and a bunch of the producers wanted to play craps, and it was just a whole bad situation. Like I had to leave the table and then I went and sat at a blackjack table and everybody started losing.
Kendrick in Up in the Air
On how she got her start:
I was six when I did my first community theater play. And at that age I was also playing soccer very badly and I’m doing rock climbing pretty badly and I’m taking karate pretty badly but this was the one thing that I really loved and gravitated towards. And I don’t know why — ’cause I was six…
The story’s never that clean. It’s like Charlie Chaplin and picking the hat. ‘Cause he tried on a million hats…
I just expressed enough interest and I heard — and every little girl across the country heard — that they were reviving Annie on Broadway and I was like, “I want to audition for that” and so I auditioned for that because my cousin was getting married in New York so we were there anyway. This agent took me on just so I could audition and then afterwards just kinda kept sending me out. It’s not a great story. I always wanted to be one of those girls that was like discovered in a donut shop.
On L.A.’s arthouse cinemas:
I go to the New Beverly and Cinefamily all the time. They program such incredible stuff. And the New Beverly has…always been one of my favorite little hideouts — like I’ve been going to movies alone there for years…. It’s such an easy vibe. At a place like the Arclight — which is great, obviously, but sometimes you don’t wanna run into people that you know ’cause you just wanna sit and watch a movie by yourself. I don’t know how many people still do that but I like watching movies by myself…
And like, Cinefamily, fuck what’s the name of that movie where Robert de Niro plays a comedian? The King of Comedy, yeah. I saw that at Cinefamily and I was so happy that I saw it with an audience ’cause it’s one of those movies where if I’d watched it by myself maybe the tone and the humor of it wouldn’t have come through and I would’ve been like this is a bummer of a movie. But it’s nice to see things with an audience.
On Hamburger Mary’s:
I really love Hamburger Mary’s…’Cause I think some of the bars in West Hollywood can be a little like a wink and a nod to their clientele, but I love how Mary’s is just like “Yup, we’re a big, fat gay bar. Welcome. Let us welcome you with a drag queen.”
On Snapchat, the app that lets you send photos to friends and they disappear after a few seconds:
It’s such a silly thing that weirdly I feel like my friends and I are like texting each other way more. Because it’s like you feel like if you’re gonna text somebody a picture, you should have a good reason. It can’t just be an ugly picture of your face. But for some reason like, just knowing that it’s gonna be gone…You can be social. All while not speaking to anyone.