BY L. KENT WOLGAMOTT / Lincoln Journal Star | Posted: Thursday, December 24, 2009 10:35 pm

Anna Kendrick has a harrowing couple of months ahead of her.

Asked what is the most difficult thing about her career, the 24-year-old actress had an offbeat confession:

“Red carpets and stuff like that make me nervous,” she said. “I feel I’m very awkward on red carpets. I’m terrified out of my wits.”

That’s going to be a problem.

Kendrick’s an odds-on favorite to pick up an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress for her work in “Up in the Air.” She’s already got a Golden Globe nomination, a Screen Actors Guild nod, one from the Critics Choice awards, and early this month she won the National Board of Review’s best supporting actress award.

When we talked a couple days after she learned of the National Board of Review award, she brushed off any Oscar speculation.

“I’m not really thinking about that,” she said on the phone from New York. “Everything has been good. I’m so happy the movie is good, that people like the movie.”

“Up in the Air” is topping many “best of 2009” lists, won the National Board of Review best picture award, is a Golden Globe favorite and is also expected to be on the Oscar list.

In it, Kendrick plays Natalie Keener, a fresh-out-of-college corporate downsizer who figures out how to fire people via video conferencing. That puts her in conflict with Ryan Bingham, who fires people by flying to their workplaces.

Bingham and Kendrick hit the road together, putting Kendrick in dozens of scenes with Clooney. Their relationship isn’t romantic; Natalie dismisses him as too old early on. But they have plenty of sparks.

“So many people ask (co-star) Vera (Farmiga) what it was like to kiss George Clooney and say they’re jealous of her,” Kendrick said. “You should be jealous of me. I got to yell at George Clooney. It was the best day of my life.”

Kendrick’s affection for Clooney is apparent. When she talked about the NBR award, she was most thrilled that he had won and went on and on about how Clooney had befriended her.

“He was like a big brother to me,” she said. “He was encouraging and supportive. He made me feel like I shouldn’t worry about making mistakes.”

An avid student on the set, Kendrick said she learned a very valuable lesson from Clooney that has nothing to do with acting.

“The lesson of George is about compassion,” she said. “He’s the kind of person who has to be charming and generous all day, every day. He can’t be in a bad mood, and you know there are some times he has to be feeling tired or bad. But he’s still remarkably kind to everybody around him. I think if George Clooney can do it, nobody else has an excuse.”

She also learned much from “Up in the Air” director Jason Reitman.

“From Jason, it was learning what it is to have a director you trust so implicitly,” Kendrick said. “You’re completely in their hands … I couldn’t have broken down in front of hundreds of people without that kind of trust. You basically have to rely on one guy that the scene is working, the moment is working and when it is edited together, it’s going to look wonderful.”

Not only is Kendrick making a name for herself in one of the best movies of the year, she also co-starred in one of 2009’s most popular pictures, playing Jessica, Bella’s best friend, in “The Twilight Saga: New Moon.”

“It’s exciting,” she said of being in the two films. “I feel like a lucky lady, believe me. I like it that the movies are out around the same time, so people can see a different side of me.”

“New Moon” and “Up in the Air” are two more smart choices for the savvy young actress, who started working on Broadway as a pre-teen and earned a Tony nomination at 12 for her performance in “High Society.”

Moving into the movies, she received Independent Spirit Award nominations for her performances in 2003’s “Camp” and 2007’s “Rocket Science” before signing on with the “Twilight” franchise.

While she says she’d like to go back to Broadway and be in a musical sometime, Kendrick is committed to film. She said for fun she watches a lot of movies and cited 1939’s “The Women” as her favorite film.

She brings both a fan’s perspective and critical appraisal when she watches herself on screen.

“The first time I see a movie, I’m basically focusing on every little thing I’m doing: Why am I standing that way, why did I move my hand like that? Just picking everything apart,” she said. “The second time I watch the movie, I can see what a beautiful film it is.”

So why is “Up in the Air” a beautiful film?

“Everybody’s talking about it’s timely because it takes place in the current environment,” she said. “It’s really a story about what people want in life. I think that’s a timeless story.”

Kendrick has already finished filming the next “Twilight” movie and spent the last couple months promoting “Up in the Air.”

Now she’s getting ready for awards season and those scary red carpets.