By JUSTIN CHANG
If there’s any justice, Ginny Ryerson will one day take her place in the cinematic pantheon of indelibly bossy teenage girls, somewhere between “Election’s” Tracy Flick and “Harry Potter’s” Hermione Granger.
Until then, it’s a measure of Anna Kendrick’s performance in Jeffrey Blitz’s comedy “Rocket Science” that while her Ginny is many things — ambitious, manipulative and ferociously self-assured — the 22-year-old actress wasn’t always so confident behind the scenes.
“I thought I was a fast talker naturally,” she says, referring to her character’s mile-a-minute delivery as a champion high school debater. “And then we saw this video of a national collegiate championship, and I thought, ‘I can’t do this. What have I gotten myself into?’ ”
An altogether fascinating acting career, that’s what. Long before she set adolescent boys’ hearts aflutter in “Rocket Science,” the Portland, Maine, native co-starred at age 12 in the Broadway musical “High Society,” earning a Tony nomination and Drama Desk and Theater World awards. More legit work followed, including the role of Fredrika in the New York City Opera’s “A Little Night Music” before she made her bigscreen debut in 2003’s well-received indie musical “Camp.”
Kendrick’s singing experience serves her well on her next project, Paramount Vantage’s “The Marc Pease Experience,” in which she stars opposite Jason Schwartzman. Among other things, director Todd Louiso’s film gave Kendrick the opportunity to sing a cappella — improv — opposite Ben Stiller.
“Every time we would cut, people would be so impressed that I wasn’t breaking or laughing,” Kendrick says. “I was like, ‘If I could stop feeling like I was about to throw up, it would occur to me to laugh.’ ”
While “Pease’s” star power could bring Kendrick her widest audience yet, she refrains from making assumptions about its potential impact on her career (“It’s hard for me to think of any films or choices as strategy-based … it’s why I’m not a manager,” she says). Her other pic in the pipeline is writer-director Nathan Hope’s “Elsewhere,” a smaller-scaled indie production in which she plays her first leading role — a girl whose best friend suddenly goes missing.
Kendrick’s characters in “Experience” and “Elsewhere” may not be as fearless or as articulate as Ryerson, but she was nevertheless drawn to their inner strength and complexity. Which is not to say that she’s left screen bitchery behind forever.
“I have this bad habit of trying really hard to like a script — even if, in my heart of hearts, I don’t think it’s that great — if the female character is really strong or really badass.”
AN ACTOR SHOULD ALWAYS: “Let humility outweigh ambition.”
I’M INSPIRED BY: “Fearless women in comedy, like Parker Posey, Molly Shannon and Amy Poehler.”
FAVORITE FILM CHARACTER: Sylvia Fowler in “The Women” (1939), played by Rosalind Russell