Kendrick, 24, caught the acting bug at age 5, when she played an orphan in a community production of “Annie” in her hometown of Portland, Maine.
Kendrick and her brother, Michael Cooke Kendrick, would travel six hours by bus to New York City for casting calls. They weathered a lot of rejection. “There are Pop Tart commercials and kid hair product commercials [that I didn’t get],” Kendrick told ABC News’ Nick Watt. “My hair was just so frizzy and all. … I looked like Shirley Temple. So I feel like I had no business auditioning for kids’ hair products.”
At 12, Kendrick landed the role of Dinah in “High Society” on Broadway. Filmmaker Todd Graff, who would go on to write and direct Kendrick’s first film, “Camp,” recalled the first time he met her.
“My cousin Randy Graff happened to be one of the stars of [“High Society”],” Graff said. “And I remember Randy saying, ‘There is a kid named Anna Kendrick, who is in the show, who we all have to watch out for. And she was joking, like, ‘I better watch my back. This little girl’s going to be after my job at some point in the future.’”
“Anna is a very old soul,” Graff said. “She always was extraordinarily mature, even as a kid. She was the one who always knew how to be in the moment, but also hit her mark, but also knew when she needed another take, because there was something that she wanted to get across, that she wasn’t quite able to get across in that take. We called her Meryl,” as in Streep…
“It was a moment on ‘Rocket Science’ where I realized, ‘I am so in love with doing this; I am so in love with making movies and being on film sets.’” Kendrick said. “It was my birthday. And I worked 12 hours, and there was a cake at lunch, and it was one of the best days of my life, and it just makes me want to try to be on film sets as much as I can.”
Despite her Oscar nomination, Kendrick’s Broadway friends will always remember her as an ambitious and hard-working little girl. “If you meet somebody when they’re 12, in some way they’re always 12 to you,” Graff said. “And she’s always going to be our 12-year-old Anna Banana.”