By Lina Das
Last updated at 8:04 PM on 26th June 2010
You might think that starring in the Twilight movies and notching up an Oscar nomination opposite George Clooney would go to a girl’s head… Not so, discovers Lina Das, for actress Anna Kendrick
Anna Kendrick slips without fanfare into the lobby of the West Hollywood hotel where we are scheduled to meet: some achievement given that she’s part of the teen-idolised Twilight cast, whose every move is usually accompanied by ear-splitting shrieks from adolescent fans. But Anna insists: ‘I’m one of the few who gets to leave home and not be followed around. Actually, when I do get children coming up to me, it makes me slightly nervous because I feel like I have to be on my best behaviour. I have a habit of cursing, so I have to keep it reined in. It feels like I’m visiting my grandmother!’
The Twilight films, based on the bestselling novels of Stephenie Meyer, centre on the love story between Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and the vampiric Edward Cullen (played by our own Robert Pattinson), who vies for her affections with Bella’s childhood friend – and werewolf – Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner). Anna, as Bella’s best friend Jessica Stanley, has one of the more fun parts in the film, unleashing all manner of teenage cattiness as she struggles with her envy of Bella’s popularity.
In truth, relations between Anna and Kristen are much warmer. ‘When I met Kristen, I knew her from some of her other films,’ says Anna, ‘and it’s so strange because she turned into my friend, and then just as quickly turned into one of the biggest stars on the planet. I’m on the outside and I really don’t know what to make of it even now. I can’t imagine what she and Rob are going through.’ Particularly as Kristen and Rob have themselves been dating since last year.
Fresh-faced and dressed casually in a striped blue top, jeans and canvas flats, Anna easily looks younger than her 24 years and is both chattier and more self-effacing than one would expect of someone tipped for great things. Because although it’s the Twilight films that have brought her wide recognition, Anna was Oscar-nominated and won Best Breakout Star at the 2010 MTV Movie Awards for her role opposite George Clooney in this year’s hit comedy Up in the Air. With the Twilight and Oscar madness of the past 12 months, she admits that, ‘This year has been crazy’, and it looks set to get even crazier with the release of the third of the Twilight films, Eclipse.
Bella and Edward were reunited at the close of the saga’s second instalment, New Moon, but Eclipse sees the chaste lovers facing new obstacles, with a series of unexplained murders and a malicious vampire threatening revenge on Bella. What’s more, she once again has to decide between the pale, brooding charms of Edward, and Jacob’s more muscular appeal.
‘It’s a film about growing up and making decisions,’ says Anna. ‘It’s a difficult time for Bella because at that age not only is she going through romantic confusion, but also she’s questioning what path she’s going to choose for her future.’
Of course, going through a romantic quandary with chaps who look like Messrs Pattinson and Lautner isn’t a bad problem to have, as the predominantly female fans of Twilight, or ‘Twihards’, will attest. ‘But seeing how much in love these girls are with Rob or Taylor, it’s kind of hard to understand,’ says Anna. ‘I mean, they’re like siblings to me now, and if I had to choose between them, it would feel really creepy. I’d have to think of them in terms of [their characters] Ed and Jacob – and in that sense, I’d root for Jacob because he never leaves Bella’s side. But having to pick one?’ She is momentarily flummoxed. ‘Well, I don’t think either of them is my type. I’d like a guy who looks a little more goofy and who is less intimidating – they’re both lovely, but almost too perfect-looking.’
Even without Anna’s vote, Robert Pattinson has no shortage of admirers (the ‘ROBsessed’) – teenage or otherwise. Mothers of R-Patz fans have proved themselves as enamoured of the London-born actor as their daughters: ‘Oh, the Twilight mums,’ says Anna, a touch nervously.
‘They’re a big thing now – and it’s not just in the UK, but everywhere. It seems like a harmless hobby, although it is a little strange,’ she admits. ‘Maybe the mums are finding a way to connect with their daughters, which would be sweet. But all it takes is one crazy mum to infiltrate that sweet circle of women and you never know what they might do! I think Rob is just as shy and freaked out by the attention as he seems to be – it’s not an act. He’s definitely not hard on the eyes, and I get why girls go crazy for him, but it makes me feel like saying: “Guys, really, he’s just a dude!”’
Anna witnessed plenty more female light-headedness when filming scenes with George Clooney for Up in the Air, the Bafta award-winning film by Jason Reitman. ‘We were shooting in a hotel lobby one time and every woman who passed by was just drooling over George and collapsing at his feet – it was crazy,’ she says. ‘It’s actually quite upsetting to see grown women turn into monkeys around him. I wanted to say: “Ladies, get it together – you’re embarrassing yourselves and our gender!”’
In Up in the Air, Anna plays a junior colleague to Clooney’s Ryan Bingham, a freelance management consultant who crisscrosses the US firing employees in order to cut their companies’ costs. In one brilliant scene, Anna’s character Natalie reassures her boyfriend that he needn’t be jealous of the time she’s spending with Bingham, because ‘I don’t think of him that way – he’s old!’
‘We actually filmed that scene on the same day everyone was drooling over George in the hotel lobby,’ says Anna, ‘which makes that line even funnier. If I’d been saying it about anyone else, I’d have felt really uncomfortable. But George had already made fun of me so much, I didn’t mind. He would call me “short”, so I’d ask him how his hip replacement was going. He’s so goofy, but a real gentleman as well. He’d be on set playing football with the crew, but he was also sensitive to the fact that I needed people to be quiet for my scenes.’
‘All the women were drooling over George and collapsing at his feet. I wanted to say, “Ladies, get it together – you’re embarrassing yourselves!”’
Probably because Clooney knew that he was in the presence of something special. Anna’s performance in the movie earned her Best Supporting Actress nominations in virtually every award ceremony from the Baftas to the Oscars, with Anna consistently losing to Mo’Nique’s show-stopper of a performance in Precious. ‘There’s no way of saying this that doesn’t make it sound like I’m just trying to be polite,’ says Anna, ‘but Mo’Nique gave such a humbling performance, that to see her win again and again didn’t make me feel bad at all. In a way, it took a lot of the pressure off because I didn’t feel that I was losing to a performance I didn’t admire. And I know it sounds cheesy, but it really was a dream come true to be at the Oscars – I never thought I’d get to be there.’
Born in Portland, Maine, in the US, Anna started acting at the age of six when she became involved in community theatre (her older brother Mike is also an actor). By 12, she had won the role of Dinah Lord, younger sister to the female lead Tracy Lord, in a Broadway production of High Society. She garnered a Tony nomination for her performance, making her the second youngest nominee in the awards’ history. ‘It was amazing to be nominated and pretty similar to how I felt on Oscar night. I have an idea in my head of what a Tony or Oscar nominee is like, and it’s not as if I’ve turned into Penélope Cruz overnight. When I got the Tony nomination I thought: “Wow, they’re letting me play in the cool kids’ club for a few hours.”’
During her Broadway run, Anna lived in New York with her father, William, then a supply teacher (her mother Janice works as an accountant). ‘It was great to have my father there,’ says Anna. ‘I hope they don’t mind me saying this but a lot of theatre children can be intense, and some of their mothers can be too: they would be there listing their child’s accomplishments and my dad and I would just look at each other.
‘I was grateful my father was there to keep me grounded. And I’m glad that I started out in theatre. Doing eight shows a week instils a good work ethic. You’re much more mollycoddled on a film set and I wouldn’t have wanted to start my career that way.’
Home-schooled by her father for the duration of her Broadway run, Anna returned to school in Maine afterwards. ‘People always ask if I went back feeling more confident, but I felt exactly the same as I had always done. I was quite shy and I don’t think insecurity is something a trip to New York can cure you of,’ she admits.
‘At that age you have that dual thing of wanting attention and being afraid of it, and I perceived any attention [from classmates] as negative. There was one girl who sort of tormented me. She was the kind of person who could turn everything I said on its head. Even if I said: “The sun’s come out”, she’d be like: “Oh, and that’s because you’re better than us, is it?” I’m sure she’s grown up now and I don’t wish any bad on her, but it certainly affected me at that age. Maybe I put some of her into my portrayal of Jessica in Twilight, so it worked out in the end.’
Anna moved to Los Angeles (where she still lives) at 18, making her movie debut soon afterwards in musical comedy Camp. She later went on to star in Rocket Science, playing a fast-talking high-school debater: ‘My palms were sweating so much between takes that as soon as I finished, I resolved to never debate again.’
Two years ago, Anna embarked on her Twilight odyssey, little imagining the success that lay ahead. ‘I remember seeing Catherine Hardwicke [the director of the first Twilight movie] at the premiere and we looked at each other like a couple of old war veterans,’ she says. ‘We couldn’t believe what was happening. We had no idea it would become one of the most recognisable film franchises ever. The cast had all signed to do two sequels [directed by Chris Weitz and David Slade respectively], but we didn’t think we’d actually make them. Can you imagine? If we hadn’t made them, there’d have been rioting in the streets.’
Later this year, she’ll appear in Scott Pilgrim vs The World – a feature film based on the Scott Pilgrim comic book series and helmed by 36-year-old Edgar Wright, the English director best known for his films Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. It turns out that Anna is a bit of an Anglophile: a fan of both films, ‘as well as Alan Partridge, Ab Fab and Catherine Tate, although I have to admit that Doctor Who has completely confounded me because I don’t know where to start with it’.
And her love of all things British may or may not have something to do with the fact that she and Wright have been rumoured to be seeing one another. It’s the only subject over which she draws a discreet veil, although she admits she loved working with him, saying he’s the kind of director ‘who makes you feel comfortable enough to want to try new stuff. It’s like having your biggest fan give you feedback on set. His mind operates on a completely different level, but he brought so much enthusiasm to a really long shoot, which was great.’
I had read somewhere that George Clooney had taken it upon himself to give Anna dating advice, a comment which prompts her almost to spill her tea. ‘Well, I wouldn’t say that. I know that if I went to him for advice, the only thing I’d get would be ridicule,’ she says. ‘But one of his friends was dating someone my age and George said he thought it was fine until I said to him: “Well, what if I dated somebody your age?” and he said: “Absolutely not.” I guess he thought it was different for me, because we had
this little-sister/older-brother dynamic. He felt very protective of me off set and wanted to make sure I was with a good dude…and this was after we’d only known each other a week,’ she adds. ‘His main criterion was that you can’t be with someone who
feels threatened by you.’ Since Anna’s star looks set to soar even higher over the coming years, Mr Clooney’s advice sounds pretty spot on.
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse will preview in cinemas next weekend and will be on general release from 9 July
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