USA Today: Anna Kendrick’s ambitious ‘Up in the Air’ role takes the cake

Anna Kendrick’s ambitious ‘Up in the Air’ role takes the cake
Anna Kendrick says she is surprised but “thrilled beyond words” about her Oscar nomination.

AWARDS SEASON FRESH FACES: ANNA KENDRICK

Getting noticed for: Her pitch-perfect performance in Up in the Air as Natalie Keener, a just-out-of-college, uptight hotshot whose teleconferencing project threatens to replace the “human touch” of George Clooney’s empty career as a corporate downsizer.

Critical mass: New York Times critic Manohla Dargis notes that Kendrick has no trouble holding her own with A-lister Clooney. “The ferocious Ms. Kendrick, her ponytail swinging like an ax, grabs every scene she’s in, which works for her go-getter (go-get-him) character.” Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan delights in the actress’s take on Natalie. “Kendrick is the film’s secret weapon, and her tightly wound character is a comic triumph.”

Medal haul: In addition to her supporting-actress nomination, Kendrick has been recognized by the Screen Actors Guild, the Golden Globes, the National Board of Review and BAFTA.

By Arienne Thompson, USA TODAY

Cupcakes may be the of-the-moment dessert, but actress Anna Kendrick has loftier culinary pursuits.

“I get fascinated by specialty bakeware. I have a really nice springform pan and a bunch of really nice tartlet molds and madeleine trays,” says the star of Up in the Air. “That’s more interesting to me than just cupcakes.”

Whipping up a few dozen cookies may be the only way for the supporting-actress Oscar nominee (and avid baker) to let loose these days, considering she’s one of Hollywood’s hottest actresses.

Kendrick is a supporting cast member in the wildly successful Twilight franchise and will soon shoot a comedy about cancer with Seth Rogen and James McAvoy. And, oh yes, she got to share the screen with Mr. Perfect — aka George Clooney— in Air.

Not that she cares or anything.

“He’s really supportive and has been incredibly kind and really sensitive to everything that I’m going through, but it’s not like I text him in emoticons or anything. That’s not really something you do with someone who’s 48 years old,” the 24-year-old says.

Kendrick’s uptight, anxious Air character, Natalie, certainly would not have been caught dead telecommunicating with a 48-year-old, hunk or not. But Kendrick says she holds a special place for her fictional alter ego, who may have initially rubbed some viewers the wrong way.

“I love her to pieces! You know, she was a nightmare, but I’ll defend her to death,” she says. “People don’t really like her at the beginning of the movie, and they really warm to her when she kind of breaks down, but I really love her even when she’s more or less an antagonist because she’s really strong and really driven.”

The actress sees parallels between herself and Natalie.

“I see the kind of control-freak thing and a desire to be taken seriously,” she says. “Hopefully, that desire manifests itself in a different way in me than it does in Natalie.”

Director Jason Reitman says that’s certainly in the cards for Kendrick.

Natalie “is a young woman frustrated by her own brilliance. She looks a decade, two decades into the future and understands the challenges she has as a woman in the workplace. I see this in the character and I see this in how Anna plays the character, and I see this in Anna herself,” he says.

He should know, considering he wrote the role of Natalie with Kendrick in mind after seeing her in the 2007 coming-of-age film Rocket Science. “In a strange way, she chose me,” he says.

Earning an Oscar nomination caught Kendrick by surprise, and she says she’s “thrilled beyond words” to be nominated with “talented and inspiring” women: Air co-star Vera Farmiga, Mo’Nique (Precious), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart) and Penelope Cruz (Nine).

Kendrick says she’s taking the attention and focus on her future in stride, although her anxiety is readily apparent as she concedes to being “not super-cool” and “basically fashion-illiterate.”

That’s not to say she doesn’t know what she likes, especially when it comes to maintaining normalcy in her hectic life.

“I am currently in sneakers, jeans and a big sweater, which I suppose is kind of my uniform — especially lately, because every day is, like, two different outfits that I can never wear again. I just want to wear my favorite jeans and my favorite hoodie all day.”

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