If you’re like me, you first fell in love with Anna Kendrick when you caught her Oscar nominated turn in Jason Reitman’s UP IN THE AIR, opposite George Clooney. Over the last year, she has starred in four separate movies, including the cop thriller, END OF WATCH, opposite Jake Gyllenhaal, and PARANORMAN, in which case she voices a vapid teenager. Kendrick also shows no signs of stopping either with four more films expected this year, including a small part in Robert Redford’s THE COMPANY YOU KEEP. And the audience shows no signs of getting sick of her either.
Kendrick’s biggest gamble in the last year would have to be PITCH PERFECT. It is her first starring role so not only did she have to prove she could carry a movie but she had to sing her way through it too. “Well, my first lead in a film anyone’s going to fucking see anyway,” Kendrick quips, when we sit down at the Toronto International Film Festival, just weeks before the film’s release. “I’m nervous about it. And I’m singing in it too, which makes it doubly nerve wracking.”
She needn’t have been so frantic about it. PITCH PERFECT became a sleeper hit at the box office, pulling in over $100 million globally. And as for the singing, she was over thinking that too. The soundtrack to PITCH PERFECT has been a permanent fixture in the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 albums chart ever since the film was released on DVD in December. Still, I understand her apprehension at the time.
“Singing is something I’m comfortable with but it’s like anything. Doing it on screen, the stakes are a little bit higher.”
Kendrick’s role in END OF WATCH is small but pivotal. In the hands of another actress, she may have disappeared into the background, but Kendrick was sure there was something she could do with the part when she read the script. “I wish I could put into words what is great about the screenplay, what’s great about the characters, but I knew reading it, that if you had described it to me, I would have felt like it sounds just like a wife/girlfriend role. It doesn’t sound like something that would be that interesting. When I read it though, even though Janet isn’t in it a lot, it felt like she was incredibly important in rounding out this world, for creating a world in which it really feels like there is something at stake and there is something on the line.”
Kendrick plays Gyllenhaal’s girlfriend in END OF WATCH and one of their most endearing scenes comes when they dance at a wedding. “Wait, what are you talking about? That was not in the script.” This was Kendrick’s first reaction when writer/director, David Ayer, informed her that she and Gyllenhaal would not be just dancing together but dancing a piece of choreography in fact. “It said ‘They do a cheesy dance.’ I don’t know what we thought that was going to be but when we saw what it was, we were confused,” she explains. All the same, Kendrick thinks that, as seemingly simple as this scene is, it was one she really needed her director for. “That was one of those moments. In a movie like this, there are so many big emotional moments where you really feel like you have to trust your director, but doing the wedding dance was the moment that we really needed to trust our director.”
And how did Mr. Gyllenhaal fare at this dance? “Uh, Jake was not great at learning it. Sometimes, he was watching me just to keep up.” (END OF WATCH is now available on DVD and you can read more about it in my interview with Gyllenhaal himself.)
Kendrick’s time on THE COMPANY YOU KEEP, in theatres in April, was even shorter than her time on END OF WATCH, just three days. “I would have delivered his coffee if he had asked me to so I was just really happy to have that opportunity,” Kendrick reveals of her desire to work with Redford. “It was really interesting working with a director who is such a fantastic actor and such an experienced actor. He is a very intimate director. It was a very brief experience for me but a truly fascinating process.”
Kendrick is always learning and growing and, at just 27 years old, this Maine native still has plenty of time to do both of these things. Now, she just has to calm her nerves and enjoy the ride. “It’s going to be awesome but I’m still nervous,” she jokes when asked about the prospect of her future. “I kind of feel like I’m on the verge of throwing up all the time.”
Did I mention that Kendrick is absolutely adorable in person?