For knowing that her best role is herself.
“Oh, I love this guy,” Anna Kendrick says, as a bichon frise greets her hand with its tongue. “Hi, pal! You’re a good guy!” The 28-year-old actress is sitting on a bench in a Hollywood Hills dog park, where a half-dozen or so of California’s chicest hounds are frolicking in a grassy meadow, enjoying a lazy morning on the last day before spring. Off to Kendrick’s right, a galumphing golden retriever chases down a slobbery tennis ball. “I want to steal that fucking dog,” she says.
The pooch-loving Kendrick doesn’t own a dog right now; having six movies coming out over the next 18 months puts a bit of a crimp in pet ownership. (The closest she’s come recently was a Jack Russell terrier that belonged to an ex, but she lost him in the breakup, which seems to bum her out more than the breakup itself.) Occasionally she’ll get lucky and dog-sit for friends, but today she’s here to get her fix vicariously: “Just creeping,” she says. Before long, a yappy-looking mutt scampers over to the bench, lifts his leg, and, before Kendrick can stop him, marks his territory all over her Kate Spade purse. “No!” she says, shooing him away. “Cheeky!” It’s hard to imagine Angelina Jolie or Gwyneth Paltrow ever “just creeping,” much less letting their bags be despoiled by an overfriendly Chihuahua. But Kendrick–who broke out in 2008’s Twilight, did an Oscar-nominated turn opposite George Clooney in Up in the Air, and rose to genuine stardom with 2012’s Pitch Perfect–is part of a new breed of actresses who somehow manage to seem eminently approachable while also remaining heroes to their legions of fans. (See also: Jennifer Lawrence, Lena Dunham, and, to some extent, Emma Stone.) Kendrick’s reach is particularly vast: She counts 1.3 million followers on Instagram and 2.2 million on Twitter, all of whom tune in to hear her say whatever’s on her mind, the more inappropriate the better. Her hit single, “Cups (When I’m Gone),” from the Pitch Perfect soundtrack, shot to No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 thanks to 120 million viral-video watchers. An increasing number of brands want to tap into her four-quadrant appeal to help push their products; and–oh, right–she’ll appear in three films this year, including Disney’s take on the Stephen Sondheim musical Into the Woods, in which she stars as Cinderella alongside Johnny Depp and Meryl Streep.
And yet, Kendrick says, “Not only is strategy not my strong suit, it doesn’t even enter into my thought process.” She doesn’t have a business manager or even an assistant; recently, when she went to buy a new, used Prius–which she only assented to after her 2002 Prius died on her–she brought along her BFF Aubrey Plaza, of NBC’s Parks and Recreation and the forthcoming zombie rom-com Life After Beth, which Kendrick has a cameo in.
“I’m a terrible negotiator,” Kendrick says. “The guy was doing all the cliché car-salesman things, playing hardball and going to talk to his manager, and all I could say was, ‘Why are you being so mean? Stop it!’ ” Fortunately, Plaza–who’s known for her biting sarcasm and droll demeanor (says Kendrick: “I envy her. I think people would be thrilled to pieces if she threw a drink in their face”)–came prepared to live up to her rep. Their good cop/bad cop routine worked, and after a bit of back-and-forth, Kendrick drove off the lot at Toyota of Glendale with a preowned Prius for exactly what she wanted to pay. “We did it,” she says with a grin.