Culch.ie – Irish Exclusive: Interview with Up in the Air’s Anna Kendrick

Monday, May 24th, 2010

Up in  the Air on DVDMillions of us fly from one point to another across the globe on a daily basis. Most would rather be spending time with their feet firmly on the ground, with their families, friends and loved ones. For Ryan Bingham, the opposite is true – he wants to be Up in the Air.

Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) fires people for a living. He can’t truly understand what it’s like for these people because he spends so much time on an airplane and in hotels – he’s never connected with another human being in a meaningful way. All of that changes when a young corporate ingenue (Anna Kendrick) positions a new concept to his boss (Jason Bateman) that would reduce expenditures and bring the company’s employees home to their families.

Meeting another person (Vera Farmiga) who shares his love of flying and being on the road, his long avoidance of all things familiar and real begins to turn to genuine feelings for another. Ryan must learn to relate once again and in that pursuit, he discovers a hole in his existence that he’d been avoiding for far too long. The trio of Clooney, Kendrick and Farmiga is the main reason this film works so well. In particular, Kendrick’s performance as a woman with a tough-as-nails exterior which gives way to the intimidation and self-doubting of a young woman whose heart is in the right place, but doesn’t quite know how to handle it.

In conversation, the lovely Anna Kendrick shares a little more about herself and her character:

Q: Hi Anna. How are you?

A: Great thanks.

Q: Is it true Jason Reitman wrote the role of Natalie in Up in the Air specifically for you?

A: Apparently so. He said he wrote it with me in mind after he saw me in Rocket Science.

Q: How are you and Natalie similar?

A: There are similarities, but differences. The kinds of things Natalie says in the movie, I would never say. There are many instances when I don’t stand up for myself or say what’s on my mind. That’s what I loved about playing her. When she is on the boardwalk in Miami and tells George Clooney to shut up and he is a 12-year-old, it was a lot of fun (laughs).

Q: That was a great scene.

A: Oh my God I was so excited to do that scene. I read that scene in the original description. I thought I would actually go overboard because I was so excited to yell at George Clooney. I had to rein that in. It was actually quite funny because my heels kept on getting caught in the boardwalk. They could put a funny montage of me cursing every time my heel went between the planks.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced on the film?

A: For me personally there was a strong desire to protect Natalie in a way that wouldn’t be right for the movie. When she falls apart I love her so much I wanted her to maintain some dignity. It wouldn’t be right. She had to totally lose it. Jason had to push me a little to get me to show everything because I wanted her to hide a little bit more.

Q: Natalie’s job is to fire people. How about you? Have you ever been fired from a job?

A: No. Thankfully (laughs)

Q: Not even a job other than acting?

A: I’m so weird. I have never had a normal job. Once I worked in a bakery because I’m interested in baking and pastries. I went into a high-end bakery and asked if I could work there for two weeks. It was around Christmas so they said yes.

Q: Did you enjoy it?

A: It was strange. They didn’t let me meddle too much, but the good thing was everyone who works there has to try everything so you can talk to the customers about it. So I ate a lot of pastries (laughs).

Q: How did you get into acting?

A: When I was young I was involved in community theatre and loved to get on stage and sing and dance. When I was about 10 I wanted to audition for Broadway shows. I was quite a serious child and I felt invincible. I was lucky to have parents who supported me. They were by no means stage parents, but they were willing to drive six hours from Maine where we were living to New York for auditions and to keep doing it until I won a role.

Q: Did you shoot Up in the Air before or after New Moon?

A: At the same time actually.

Q: Was that difficult?

A: It was really great because I got to have a little break from Natalie. I adore her, but she is very uptight. It was nice to go to New Moon where I play someone really silly and it was a character I have played before so it was kind of like going back to summer camp. When I went back to the Up in the Air set I was treated as persona non grata because I was coming back from the Twilight set. They gave me such a hard time about it. Those boys! (laughs).

Q: You have had a great year with two huge films. You must be happy about that.

A: Yeah. It’s strange. I feel incredibly lucky to be involved in both films, but also that my role in Twilight was not too large so it doesn’t generate much fandom that surrounds so many of the other actors. They haven’t been able to maintain normal lifestyles. Nothing has changed for me. Really. I get photographed in airports in Vancouver. That’s it (laughs).

Q: You must be receiving plenty of great scripts for future projects.

A: I don’t know. If I had time to read scripts I would tell you. Truly, I haven’t done laundry for weeks. It is disgusting. People ask me if my life has changed. I say ‘It is falling apart at the seams!’ I just have no time for anything.

Q: What was the relationship like between George and Jason on the set?

A: It was very much like an older brother relationship. Those two would make fun of me the whole time. They can take it as much as they can dish it out and that made it really fun. But, I did feel really protected by both of them especially when we were shooting tough scenes. I felt like I had two wonderful men looking after me and my emotional state. George wanted to set me up on blind dates. It was that strange family thing where he said ‘We need to find you a guy’. I never took him up on the offer (laughs).

Q: It sounds like a lot of fun.

A: Oh yeah. Hands down the best working experience of my life.

Q: Where you star struck when you first met with George?

A: Yeah. For the first two seconds. When you meet him it is a little shocking, but he has a real skill for making people feel at ease. Otherwise a lot of people couldn’t do their jobs around him. He has an incredible skill for making you feel you can give him a hard time and he is going to give you a hard time.

Q: Natalie is dumped by a text message… She is also in favour of sacking people over the internet. How do you feel about this and how the world is becoming so impersonal with Facebook, MySpace and Twitter?

A: I can’t stand it. I don’t even like talking on the phone. I like to look at people in the eye. Otherwise I feel disconnected. It is totally false connection when you comment on somebody’s Facebook wall when you haven’t even talked to them or seen them in person for weeks.

Q: What is your relationship with flying and airports? Do you like travelling?

A: I hate it. It stresses me out to no end. I’m the person you don’t want to get behind in lines. I’m the one who doesn’t take her laptop out of her bag or gets double screening because I don’t have my liquids in the right bag.

Q: What’s your favourite movie?

A: The Women from 1939.

Q: Why is that?

A: I saw it when I was 12. I love how fast it is and how smart the women are and how vulnerable they are. I love how she forgives him in the end. I don’t think you’d see it in a movie these days. There’s something really real in that.

Q: Who would you love to work with next?

A: In a perfect world I’d love to work with Patricia Clarkson or Sarah Polley. I thought Away from Her was spectacular.

Q: You seem to prefer independent movies than the big budget ones.

A: Yeah. I don’t have any ambition to be in anything like Twilight ever again. It has been fun, but I would be tempting fate if I got involved in something like that again. It would be the end of my personal life.

Out now on DVD, Up in the Air is trying to say a lot about modern life and the human condition and thanks to director/screenwriter Jason Reitman and his screenwriting partner Sheldon Turner, those ideas are presented without forced sentimentality or unnecessary handholding.

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