Twilight fans have known about Anna Kendrick since day one of the franchise (she plays Bella’s school pal, Jessica) but the rest of the world is now catching on.
Last year, she delivered an Oscar-nominated turn opposite George Clooney in 'Up in the Air'; this week we’ll see her in Edgar Wright’s cult feature, 'Scott Pilgrim Vs the World'. Now 25, the actress is clearly destined for the big time, with many A-list actors lining up to work with her. Not bad for someone whose dream as a young girl was simply to sing and dance...
Michael Doherty: First of all, belated happy birthday, Anna. Having just reached 25, it must be very gratifying that you’re still able to convincingly pull off teenage roles?
Anna Kendrick: Thank you very much and yes, it is very gratifying! I actually got downgraded from 19 to 18 for this film, so I don’t quite know what that says about me! I feel a little silly but as long as people can still buy me as a teenager, then I’m flattered.
In Scott Pilgrim . . . your character is modelled on the writer’s own sister, Stacy, whom you met before shooting started. Was that a bit weird or a bit daunting?
No, it was really cool. I was a bit nervous about meeting her but she is so lovely. She basically told me that the relationship between Stacy and Scott in the books is the real relationship she has with her own brother. She gave me her Stacy badge to wear from when she worked in The Second Cup, the coffee shop in the movie, so that was cool.
Edgar [Wright, director] is known for his many takes and you were also working on a movie with a heightened, comic-book sensibility Did that make Scott Pilgrim... a demanding movie to work on?
Well, for my first scene I had to turn my head, react, say my line and then wait for the crash zoom and I did that 20 times and it wasn’t quite right. I was getting embarrassed because there were so many takes, but Mary Elizabeth [Winstead], who plays Ramona, basically leaned in to me and said, ‘don’t worry, this is a rite of passage. You aren’t a real Scott Pilgrim cast member unless you have done 20 takes of one scene!’ So yes, it was really challenging, but very satisfying when you see it all come together.
Between this film and the Twilight franchise, you’ve completely captured the fanboy and fangirl markets. I’m assuming it must be difficult for you to walk around any shopping mall in the States?
I don’t know! To be honest, they don’t really say very much in LA because they are too cool for school and don’t want to bother anyone. I do get little girls coming up to me in malls and screaming but generally people are discreet in LA and they will come up to me quietly when I’d be sitting in Starbucks say ‘FYI, congratulations’. That sort of thing.
Looking at your CV, you began life as a musical star and indeed were the second youngest [at 12] performer ever to be nominated for a Tony award on Broadway, for 'High Society'. When are we going to see you in a musical on screen?
The truth is, I desperately want to do a movie musical but I have to be careful because desperation doesn’t always lead to good choices. I want to do a musical for the right reasons and not just because I’m anxious to perform in one.
At this stage in your career, how is the whole fame thing working out? Are you able to comfortably walk around or are the paparazzi starting to appear?
There was, like, a week around Oscar season where there was a paparazzo outside my house and it was terrifying. It was that moment when you realise, I thought this just happened to other people and yet, I can’t just go outside and say, ‘what the hell are you doing?’ Where I come from, my brother and his friends would beat you to a pulp if you were hanging around his little sister’s house. It was essentially a guy in his 40s stalking a girl in her 20s and in most places, that’s bordering on criminal activity. It was definitely really weird but, touch wood, they’ve left me alone after that. I also think that the more boring you are, the less they follow you, so all I had to do was to be myself for a week and they were like, this girl doesn’t do anything cool!
You did do something very cool with your Twitter page; photographing yourself holding your username (AnnaKendrick47), thereby negating the other 46 false sites in one fell swoop.
That might seem so silly, but I was really proud of myself for thinking of that! I saw a picture once of an actress holding a sign that read, ‘yes, it’s really me’, and I thought that was so clever, but in theory anybody could take that photo and copy it to their site. I don’t come up with many good ideas but that was a killer way to dispel the imposters and all the misinformation on the net.
Speaking of the net, there’s a story doing the rounds that you’re working on the new Tom Cruise movie: is that more misinformation or is it a runner?
No, that’s one of those stories that popped up and is now impossible to take down when it’s out there. The role in question is for Reese Witherspoon but she was not in town for the table read so they asked me to do it. I knew it wasn’t leading to a job but I was happy to be in that company. To be honest, the first rumour wasn’t that I was in the Tom Cruise movie; it was that I was being recruited for Scientology!
In terms of your career to date, are you following a grand plan?
Definitely not! I can’t think in terms of a strategy. I would make a terrible agent! I’ve just been really lucky to work with very good people. In the last year, I’ve turned things down that a year ago I would have killed for. It’s a weird position to be in, because I would rather be on a film set making a movie than not making a movie but I don’t want to keep doing the same role and I tend to get offered the same sort of things. There are only about 20 actors in the world who are able to stick to a global strategy and I’m not one of those 20. I just count myself lucky to be working.
How exciting was it for you to appear on the famous Vanity Fair cover last March as one of Hollywood’s Hottest Young Stars?
Oh my God, that was amazing. That was so much fun! Believe me, I have grown up looking longingly at those covers and I couldn’t believe that my mug was on the cover of Vanity Fair. I got to meet some really cool actresses – Evan Rachel Wood, Rebecca Hall, etc. I thought it would be very competitive on the shoot that day but in fact there was a really cool vibe.
You featured on the third fold of that famous gatefold. I suspect if the shot were being taken today, you’d be on the front panel...
I didn’t mind being on the third panel. I was just happy to be lying on the grass with all those talented ladies! When I was about to do the shoot, George Clooney rang me and said, make sure you stand on the far left. I told him I think it’s not up to me but thanks for the advice!
If I had spoken to you after your first movie and said to you that in six years time you’d be sitting in a posh hotel in Dublin eating scones with clotted cream and talking casually about George Clooney ringing you, would you have believed me?
Well, first of all, I would have thought that clotted cream sounded gross! It took me years to figure out the heavenly joys of clotted cream. I probably would have yelled at myself because it sounds like I’m totally name-dropping! I don’t pretend we text or that we’re BFFs, or anything, but George is such a cool guy and he genuinely seems to care about everybody. I’m really inspired by how hard he works and how cool he is with people because everybody wants something from him. They want their experience of George Clooney to be really interesting and he makes sure that it is. That takes a lot of energy, and it’s so inspiring.
Finally, Anna, when you first got the script for Up in the Air, did you realise this would be the film that would change your life?
I definitely read it and immediately felt I could do this. I wasn’t a name, quote unquote, at that point, and I didn’t know that Jason [Reitman, director] had, like, written it for me. When I went in, there was only one other girl in the waiting room and she’s an actress who is very, very beautiful and I got there and thought, ‘oh, they want, like, a model/actress; they aren’t looking for me’. Thankfully, I was wrong! I think there are always movies that need interesting girls and I think that’s when I’m most valuable. My future roles will come about from me being asked to do something interesting rather than just asking questions and looking pretty.