January 14, 2010
Jarett Wieselman

In a year full of breakout performances, one of the best came courtesy of an actress PopWrap has been watching for years. Anna Kendrick has been high atop our love list since Fritzi sabotaged and upstaged Jill in 2003’s cult classic “Camp.” So while it’s a shame that Hollywood lags seven years behind, better late than never!

And it couldn’t have happened at a better time since Anna’s Golden Globe — and soon to be Oscar — nominated performance from “Up in the Air” is the best work she’s ever done. Seamlessly weaving between the euphoric highs and Lexapro lows that come from being ace at your corporate downsizing job, Anna conveys a million emotions with just the twitch of her arch eyebrows.

With Sunday’s Golden Globes looming and Oscar nominations just around the corner, we caught up with the in-demand actress before she, well quite frankly, before she became too famous to take our calls! We chatted all about working with The Clooney, working on The “Twilight” and why she’ll never get to work on her dream movie.

PopWrap: If it’s not too early to say, congrats on your Oscar nomination!
Anna Kendrick: [laughs] Um, I don’t know who you’ve been talking to!

PW: No, but seriously, it must be so exciting to have this movie get such a great reaction — not just from critics but from audiences too.
Anna: It is. I’ve been involved with smaller films that not a lot of people have seen, which is always disappointing, and a lot of bigger films that I wasn’t a big factor in. So it’s really exciting that people are responding to this smart movie. This role is so rare — parts like Natalie don’t come along every day for women.

PW: Now, I heard the audition didn’t go so well … or so you thought.
Anna: I spent 10 minutes in the room and kinda blew it. Two days later I got a call saying I booked the job. As Jason [Reitman, director] told me later, he had written the movie with me in mind after seeing “Rocket Science.”

PW: Why didn’t he mention that in the room?
Anna: He thought it would psych me out — that reading for a role that was written with me in mind would have been too much pressure. His strategy was sound [laughs]. But at the same time, it freaked me out that he wasn’t reacting to my audition. Like he had zero enthusiasm, so I just assumed I didn’t get the job.

PW: In the movie, George’s character never stops traveling — I’d imagine that’s something you, as an actor, can relate to.
Anna: Yeah, I’m in an airport right now [laughs] so it’s a little strange. Especially for this to be the first movie I’m doing a major promotional push for, it does feel a little on the nose. Like I’m doing promotion every time I fly.

PW: I know that as an actor you have to see your fellow actors as peers, but how many times did you think to yourself, “I’m yelling at George Clooney, this is nuts!”
Anna: The second you meet him, he basically wants you to forget that he’s George Clooney so you feel comfortable enough to do your job. But it would be weird when he was in a crowd of extras and I’m making this big speech and you just realize everyone in the room is so aware of his presence. I mean, he’s one of the most famous people on the planet. But I was kind of more intimidated by Vera [Farmiga] because she plays these icy, powerful women. I thought she’d tear me to shreds. But she’s so warm.

PW: 2009 was a huge year for you with “Up in the Air,” “New Moon” and most importantly getting spoofed on “Saturday Night Live“!
Anna: Oh, that was so cool! I was actually surprised they hadn’t done that earlier. I mean, there’s a lot of material to work with in “Twilight,” so I feel like we kind of got off easy. But I’d see “Firelight”!

PW: Obviously, George Clooney attracts his own mobs of screaming women, so which film has louder premieres?
Anna: “Up in the Air” fans are quieter. No one is louder than “Twilight” fans. It certainly attracts all types of women — they are just smaller on the “New Moon” side [laughs].

PW: Although everyone is just catching on now, I’ve loved your work since “Camp” — which just looks like it was such a fun movie to make!
Anna: Oh, thank you so much! That was — I was attached to that movie when I was 13 years old, but it didn’t get made until four years later. So Todd Graff [writer/director] said, “although it’s not age specific, the role is yours if you still want it.” It’s like, are you kidding … if I want it?

PW: And you did all your own singing as Fritzi, any aspirations to star in a movie musical?
Anna: Yeah, sure! I think there will always be a part of me that wants to sing and dance, so I’m glad there’s this new wave of musicals.

PW: What would your dream musical be?
Anna: Unfortunately, my favorite musical is “Parade” — which is like the weirdest, darkest musical that would never get financed. And there’s not quite a role for me, but I want that to be a movie so badly!

PW: You get to sing a bit in your next movie, “The Marc Pease Experience,” right?
Anna: Yeah, but I’m not supposed to be very good. My character is ok, but has no technique — so finding that voice was interesting. Meg’s got good tone, but is afraid of her own shadow.

PW: Although there’s no singing, I think everyone and their mother is incredibly excited about another one of your upcoming movies, “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World”!
Anna: Yeah, “Scott” is going to be amazing. With most movies I tell people to lower their expectations so they can be pleasantly surprised, but there is no need with this film. It’s that good. The cast is absolutely incredible. The really fantastic thing about it is I’m sure the studio could have gotten bigger, flashier names — but every person is exactly right for their part. It’s going to make the end result absolutely hilarious and amazing.

PW: Plus, Edgar Wright directed and co-wrote it — I’ve been obsessed with him since “Spaced”!
Anna: Yeah, like I said, there’s absolutely no need to lower your expectations.

PW: With all this craziness, is there something you like to do to unwind or de-stress?
Anna: I make a mean flourless hazelnut chocolate tort. Yeah, that’s right — take that! [laughs]

PW: That sounds really elaborate!
Anna: It’s fun to do something simple and rustic like peanut butter and oatmeal squares that feel like they should be at a potluck dinner, but I like to challenge myself. I have to go at my own pace through, that’s the beauty of baking. I like to take my sweet time.

“Up in the Air” is out now and Anna will battle it out on Sunday in the Best Supporting Actress category at the Golden Globes!

Photo: Getty Images, Art Streiber/Entertainment Weekly; Paramount