The Star: And now for something completely Anna

Only 25 and with Oscar and Tony nods under her belt, Kendrick focuses on being different

Published On Fri Aug 13 2010

“When I read some of these scripts I’m sent and they describe the heroine as ‘incredibly beautiful’, I wonder why they sent it to me,” says actor Anna Kendrick.

KEITH BEATY/TORONTO STAR

"When I read some of these scripts I'm sent and they describe the heroine as 'incredibly beautiful', I wonder why they sent it to me," says actor Anna Kendrick.

By Richard Ouzounian Theatre Critic

Here’s the amazing thing about Anna Kendrick: no matter what party you invite her to, she always fits in.

Are you looking for the perfect girl to play the hero’s controlling sister in a graphic-comic movie? Done deal.

Need someone to balance George Clooney in a bittersweet study of love, loss and frequent flyer points? Give her a call.

And if you’re craving a cast member for a cult vampire movie who can offer just the right degree of edgy detachment, Kendrick’s the one.

No wonder that this brainy beauty has her plate full, the current entrée being Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which opens in Toronto this weekend.

“I loved doing this movie,” she enthuses at an early morning interview at the Hazelton Hotel, “even though it was totally unlike any project I’ve ever done before. Normally you do three-minute takes at a variety of angles all around the room. Not here. It was one line at a time to totally capture the feel of the graphic novels it was based on. Crazy? Sure. Demanding? You bet. A lot of fun? That too.”

Kendrick is quite perfect in the film as Stacey Pilgrim, the Second Cup barista sister of the nerdy title character played by Michael Cera, and she gleefully admits that “this time around I’m playing myself. This is exactly how I treat my brother in real life and I found it so easy to play.”

“Easy” is not the word you’d normally pin on the projects connected with the 25-year-old Kendrick, who says that she only has two career rules. “The first one is to have no rules and the second is never to do the same thing twice.”

She’s been making major blips on the celebrity radar screen since she was 12, which is pretty amazing considering she’s not a Hollywood or Manhattan kid, but grew up in safe, solid, Portland, Me.

“I am so lucky to have come from there,” she says. “If you grow up in Los Angeles, you almost feel you have a duty to go into show business, but I was grounded in a real world from the start and that’s come in pretty handy when all the craziness happens.”

She admits that, like lots of other talented kids, “I used to sing in my room with the door closed. Bette Midler was my idol. My parents finally sent me off to classes, not to get me into the business, but — as Dad put it — ‘to get rid of some of that energy of yours!’ ”

Whatever the motivation, she got cast in her first Broadway musical, High Society, when she was 12. Although Kendrick got a Tony nomination for her work, the show was a failure and during the tense pre-opening period, the current artistic director of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, Des McAnuff, came in to try and fix things.

“We were under pressure and scrambling to make significant changes, yet Anna was with us in every step.” recalls McAnuff. “There was nothing cutesy about her work: she played a real person, not a stagey child.”

Kendrick kicked around the theatre for a few more years, but soon found herself in her first movie, a low-budget 2003 film called Camp, which was Glee before there was Glee, the story of a show-business summer camp for teens in upstate New York.

“Oh my God, that was a wonderful time!” she recalls. “No telephone, no internet, no TV. We just hung out and sang all day. We were happy as clams, little freaks that we were. Kind of a musical theatre Bloomsbury Group.”

A few years went by before her next major project, the 2007 movie Rocket Science, which has a special place in Kendrick’s heart,

“I know that only about 26 people saw it,” she laughs, “but because of it, I got three big movies: Up in the Air (for which she earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nod), Scott Pilgrim and Twilight.”

Twilight. There’s no getting around it. Even though she’s not a pivotal character, Kendrick’s Jessica Stanley is still a significant part of the screen phenomenon generated from Stephenie Meyer’s books.

When asked how she feels about being part of this insane magic carpet ride that the movies have become, she chooses her words carefully.

“I completely appreciate how lucky I am to be in it, but at the same time not be trapped in it. I get to be part of that experience, but the experience doesn’t rule my life. That’s the great part about playing a supporting character. My privacy has not been stolen from me, which is not the case with everybody else in the film. And that’s a real shame.”

Do the people working on Twilight take it all seriously? Once again, Kendrick is very diplomatic. “I do my silliness, but my character is fun and we all understand its escapism. But some of my friends who play other characters take it totally seriously and it does wind up playing games with their heads.”

Although Kendrick has a multitude of male fans crushing on her, it’s not something she either understands or considers important.

“Okay, I am happy with the way I look, but I have never, never, ever thought of myself as a ‘pretty girl’. Honestly. When I read some of these scripts I’m sent and they describe the heroine as ‘incredibly beautiful’, I wonder why they sent it to me. I also find myself thinking that she better also be pretty damn interesting, or I’m not going to want to play her.”

Kendrick pauses for a moment, bites her lip and decides to share another story.

“I actually went into one audition recently when the script called the character ‘an Anna Kendrick type’ and I thought to myself ‘What the heck is that, anyway?’ There was another girl sitting in the room and she was so much prettier than me and I thought, ‘Guys, just what are you looking for?’”

Although Kendrick’s projects to date have been vastly different, the parts she’s cast in share one thing in common: she’s always the outsider, the one marching to a different drummer. Has she ever thought about that?

“Not until now,” she laughs. “I do admit that I’ve never been one to fit in easily to any given pattern. It’s not my choice. It’s just the way I am. So if the characters I wind up playing are all a bit different, it must be because that’s the way I like it. Anna Kendrick is different and she’s going to stay that way.”

Five Fave Inspirations

Bette Midler: I fell in love with her Experience the Divine CD when I was 6. I thought she was so bold and brave and glamorous then. And I still do.

Bernadette Peters: She represents the ultimate classiness of Broadway to me. A woman who never compromises, but always does great work.

Wes Anderson: When I saw The Royal Tennenbaums, I was at a very impressionable age and I just thought ‘Wow, look at what films can be!’

Daniel Day Lewis: When I saw In the Name of the Father, it opened my eyes to how bold and total and complete acting could be.

Martin McDonagh: I love black comedy more than any other style of writing and no one is blacker, or funnier, than McDonagh.

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