Portland actress Anna Kendrick, star of the critically acclaimed film Rocket Science, is sharing the screen with Ben Stiller and Jason Schwartzman in The Marc Pease Experience, in post-production at Paramount Studios.
Interview by Colin W. Sargent
When did you get your role in The Marc Pease Experience?
I got the phone call on Valentine’s Day last year. I usually have bad luck on Valentine’s Day, so I was very nervous when I heard I’d get the decision [by telephone] then. Up until then, anything work-related that had happened on a Valentine’s Day had just gone down the toilet. So this was great. It reversed my luck!
Do Ben Stiller and Jason Schwartzman know you’re from Maine?
I remember talking to Jason, because he used to be the drummer for Phantom Planet. When I told him I was from here, he immediately said he liked Portland because he’d come here with his band, and all of a sudden I blurted out, ‘I was there! You opened for Incubus at the Civic Center.’ It all came back to me: ‘Your lead singer stage dived, and a group of my friends caught him!’
Was there a real-life Jason Schwartzman counterpart at Deering when you went there–you know, your basic uber-loser who returns eight years after graduating in disguise so that he can star in your high-school production of The Wiz?
No! I’ve never met anybody like Jason, and I don’t think anybody has met anybody like Marc Pease. He’s one of a kind.
Take us behind the curtain during filming.
I remember my first day. Jason and Ben knew how terrified I was about the whole thing, so they took it easy on the practical jokes–it was obviously a very big deal for me. But there was one time: Ben plays my music teacher, and in one scene, we were doing vocal warm-ups and Ben started improvising funnier and funnier things that I had to repeat back to him. It turned out everybody was laughing in the background, but I was white as a ghost. In-between, the script supervisor said, ‘What he said was so funny–I can’t believe you’re not laughing; this is so incredibly professional of you.’ I said, ‘This is not skill, this is fear.‘
In what ways is your character like the person you were at Deering High, and in what ways is she different?
She’s romantically involved with two older men, which is certainly nothing I was involved with at Deering. She’s vulnerable and in the process of discovering her strengths, and I think I shared that with everyone going through high school.
Have you had to alter your Broadway live-audience gestures for movies? Exactly what measures did you take?
I was lucky. My first film was a film about theater, called Camp, in 2003, so that kind of eased me into the transition.
Where is the premiere going to be when the movie comes out, and what friends of yours from Maine will attend?
I imagine it will be in L.A., and what I’ll have to do during the premiere will be a lot like working. I like to keep that whole part of my life private.
You’re not doing a very good job of that!
It’s more like, I’d hate to disillusion any of my friends about how un-fun L.A. can actually be.
There’s a 20 year age gap between you and Ben Stiller. Did he make jokes about that, or did you?
Oh, yeah. He was cool and cracked a couple of jokes. But like I said, I was too nervous to make jokes myself!
What’s your ‘role that got away,’ so far?
They’re remaking my favorite film, The Women, and it’s my tough luck that they didn’t make it 15 years from now, because I’m too young for any of those roles.
How are you a different actress than if you’d been born in California or New York?
Growing up in a normal atmosphere and going to public schools in a life that seems, in comparison, to be ‘humble’ beginnings, is invaluable. I don’t understand how a girl who’s grown up in California can even play your average Joe. I wouldn’t just be a different actress if I’d grown up in New York or California–I’d be a different person.
What does it take to make you feel you’ve really returned to Maine during a visit?
I’d have to watch a football game with my dad. Patriots, obviously. I know this is not very Maine-like, but my dad and I have to get the spicy scallop roll at Yosaku. I also love Foley’s Bakery and Street & Company.
What’s your favorite film performance by a Maine actor?
Bob Marley in Boondock Saints is fantastic.
How often do you come to Maine?
I usually just come for Christmas, but then somebody gets married or graduates, so it ends up to be twice a year.
If your life were a movie here in Portland, where would you have to go when you had to be alone to think things through, the way Spiderman goes up into his tower?
I go to the woods on Leland Street above the Deering High football field to hear myself think, or Fort Williams.
We celebrated you as one of the “Ten Most Intriguing People in Maine” when you were 13. Did your fellow students razz you about that?
I’m sure they didn’t mean anything by it. When you’re in middle school, any attention feels like negative attention. I definitely felt different when I came back [from her Tony-nominated and Drama Desk-award-winning role in High Society on Broadway] as a teenager. They say you can never go home again, but it’s strange. On one side, you feel like you’re the person you were. The atmosphere feels the same, so why shouldn’t you feel the same? Then I have to remind myself that I’ve been taking care of myself since I was 17 and you have to move on. Uh-oh! My mom just gave me a look.
The Anna Kendrick Experience
High Society 1998
– As Dinah Lord
• Drama Desk Award
• World Theater Award
• Tony Award nominee (second-youngest)
• Fany Award nominee
The Mayor 2003
As Sadie Winterhalter
My Favorite Broadway: The Leading Ladies 1999
New Moon 2009
As Jessica Stanley
Up in the Air 2009
As Natalie Keener
The Marc Pease Experience 2008
As Meg Brickman
As Jessica Stanley
Rocket Science 2007
As Ginny Ryerson
• Nominated for Film Independent’s 2008 Spirit Award, presentations February 23
As Fritzi Wagner