Scenestealing Comes Easy for the Spritely Performer
The petite, energetic anna Kendrick greets me, waving a frozen Milky Way bar in one hand, and offering me a handshake in the other. She’s gushing about the candy bar’s delicious constitution, making junk food seem like poetry. In between bites, the sugar high that is her personality rises up from her miniature frame, lighting up the dark, cavernous lobby of New York’s Bowery Hotel. We make our way to the outside terrace to enjoy the sunshine, something I can’t imagine she’s had much time to do in the last year. As she beams at me eager to begin, it’s clear that she tackles press with the same amount of passion and intensity that she does her acting roles.
Kendrick is in New York for a whirlwind 72 hours, promoting her latest project Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, a fast-paced comic book adventure, where Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) must defeat seven evil ex-significant others in order to be with the woman he loves. Kendrick might possibly be the movie’s biggest fan. “I love this movie,” she gushes, “your mom would love this movie, kids would love this movie.” Her enthusiasm is in no small part due to the actors like Jason Schwartzman, Alison Pill, and Kieran Culkin that she filmed with. “It’s such a great cast,” she continues. “There’s not a single person in it that’s a weak link on screen or a weak link off screen. We all kind of sit back and think how did we not get one crazy person on the film? Maybe that’s me and no one is telling me.”
Kendrick plays Stacey Pilgrim, Scott’s younger sister, who can’t be bothered hearing about her brother’s pathetic love life. She knows the role well. “I didn’t realize it until I started doing press,” she offers, “but I’m completely playing myself. Like, I didn’t do anything to work on this because I know this role, I know who she is. Done and done.” When Kendrick was younger, she would ride the bus with her older brother from Portland, Maine to New York City to attend auditions. They’re close, but they’re not your typical siblings. “We’re more like brothers than brother and sister,” she says. This is the dynamic she channels for the role. “Stacey tries to reach out to Scott and say, ‘You know I’m here for you,’” Kendrick says in her sprightly way, “and then right back into, ‘Well, your hair looks stupid or whatever.’ And that’s exactly the way my relationship is with my brother—you can only go so far before you call him a douchebag.”
As she’s talking, I glance at her half-eaten candy bar. It’s now dueling with the sweltering sun for survival. Just minutes before its slow death, Kendrick had breathed life into that chocolate ice cream bar, effortlessly bringing me into her magical world where a Milky Way bar has a personality. She’s been doing this with acting roles ever since she was an overachieving 12-year-old, performing in her first musical, High Society, for which she was recognized as the third youngest actor ever nominated for a Tony. She’s played precocious, fearless teenagers in indie films like Camp, Rocket Science, and The Marc Pease Experience, which she says “went very wrong.” She plays people like her—clever girls, who guys want to date and girls want to hang out with. Her part as Jessica Stanley, the know-it-all best friend of Bella (Kristen Stewart) in the fluff-fest Twilight trilogy is a departure, but her portrayal is so sharp it doesn’t compromise her past indie achievements. “I run my mouth, and people think it’s amusing,” Kendrick grins. For it is as Jessica Stanley that Kendrick plays the girl in high school that she would have despised. “I don’t know who exactly Jessica comes from,” says Kendrick of her inspiration in preparation for the teenybopper fare, “but there was one girl in particular from my high school. And she was a nightmare.” There is an assertion that as a teenager she “was a little weirdo,” not a cool girl, not a ditz.
It was last year’s smart girl performance as the ambitious Natalie Keener, stealing scenes from George Clooney in Up in the Air, which earned her an Oscar nomination and propelled her into the public eye. For everything it did for her career though, she’s glad to be done with the shock that her system took from the instant fame and respect. “Sometimes I feel like I got thrown into the deep end,” she says, “and I feel like nothing will ever be as crazy as that was and I feel like I can handle anything.” She also insists that despite all the attention, things “haven’t really changed, which is great. My favorite part of events and premieres is when I come home and I sit on my bed—my really truly crappy Ikea bed—and I pull up The Daily Show on Hulu, and I’m sitting in the post-premiere aftermath, looking at how ridiculous it is that I’m wearing thousands of dollars worth of clothes and jewelry… I’m the same human being, I’m just wearing nicer clothes. And they’re not even my clothes.” She deserves every bit of the success, but you get the sense that she feels as though if she acknowledges this, the roles will stop coming, so she plays humility well, “I have a pretty pathetic existence actually. I just, like, walk to the video store. And walk back.”
In her next, as yet untitled project, she plays Catherine, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s “very well-meaning, but not very talented social worker,” who talks Gordon-Levitt’s character through a cancer diagnosis. “Catherine is much more vulnerable [than other roles I’ve played]. And I liked that about her because I was in an awards season labyrinth and I was feeling really vulnerable so I was happy to go and shoot that immediately.”
In a week, Anna Kendrick will turn 25, and she’s having a bit of a quarter-life crisis. “I was thinking about driving across the States,” she says, “because I’ve never done that. That’s something you’re supposed to do, right?” But there’s a little sadness in her tone, and you realize she’d actually rather be on set than playing the part of a carefree girl in her early 20s. “Now I’m in a place where not working is the thing I’m supposed to do, when working is what I really want to do. But you just have to be careful so you can work for the rest of your life. You can’t say yes to everything, I guess.” As she says this, I see that the Milky Way is officially melted, it’s lost the showdown, and it’s time to let her go. I go to turn the recorder off and Kendrick asks, “Was that okay?” She cocks her head. It’s apparent this interview was just another performance in her promising career—one that I’ll remember every time I reach for a Milky Way ice cream bar.