By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Actress and singer Anna Kendrick has followed up an outstanding performance in the big screen adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods,” with yet another memorable musical piece. Though less grandiose, the big screen version of Jason Robert Brown’s acclaimed “The Last Five Years,” proved to be much more demanding as it mostly revolves around her and one other main character in the film.
She plays Cathy, an aspiring actress, who falls in love with young novelist named Jamie (Jeremy Jordan). As his career takes off and hers flounders, they drift apart.
The Maine native explained that she was thrilled to be starring in the contemporary musical, whose 2001 stage version won a Drama Desk award, and has been staged in various countries around the world ever since. Though she is a fan of Brown’s other work, Kendrick says she was unfamiliar with “The Last Five Years.” She made it her job to go by director/adapter Richard LaGravenese’s screenplay.
Having appeared in the “Twilight” series, Kendrick also starred in the music-filled comedy “Pitch Perfect,” the upcoming sequel “Pitch Perfect 2.” The 29-year-old insists that it is simply coincidence that some of her more recent films have involved music.
She was nominated for an Oscar for her supporting role in the 2009 film “Up in the Air,” in which she co-starred with George Clooney—and did not sing.
Her other film credits include “Life After Beth” “Rocket Science” and “Camp.” In 1998, at the age of 12, Kendrick was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for “High Society.” She also has the upcoming film “The Hollars” due out later this year.
Kendrick is scheduled to perform at the 87th Academy Awards, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, which will air live Sunday, Feb. 22, on ABC. The gala ceremony is expected to draw millions of viewers around the globe.
At a recent press conference, the perky and petite actress couldn’t say what exactly she would be doing at the Oscars.
“I couldn’t divulge secrets if I tried because it was described to me very vaguely,” she insists.[private]
Q: What was your relationship with Jason Robert Brown’s music coming into this?
Kendrick: I saw “Parade” when I was 13. It was, and remains, my favorite musical. But, miraculously, in one of those weird, meant to be things, I didn’t know this music, which I think is fantastic because I didn’t have burden of having to try to unlearn someone else’s performance, which, if I were to do “Parade,” would be a massive undertaking. So, that worked out really beautifully for me—to know his style and love his style but not know this material.
Q: How difficult was “The Last Five Years” in comparison to the other musicals you’ve done, given that everything is not shot in order and then within this you are tracking in different directions?
Kendrick: In one sense, it was like every other film because every other film I’ve shot or likely will ever shoot will shoot out of order, that’s the nature of things. But at the same time it is trickier to track where she is especially in “A Part of That.” But it also it meant that it was like everybody was just really focused on it. It sort of meant that everybody from Richard to the boom operator was like, “I’m pretty sure at this point Cathy is upset.” It was a team effort.
Q: In the scene where you perform “Still Hurting,” your character is crying. What is the secret to crying and singing, without messing up the singing?
Kendrick: If I knew the secret there wouldn’t have been so many takes where I sounded like a ******* dying chipmunk. We were open to the idea of sacrificing a certain amount of vocal quality for performance for “Still Hurting,” so that was sort of fine. But then something like “See I’m Smiling,” by the end of that day I was screeched; I was absolutely undone. So we just had to kind of go through it and hope for the best because in that scene she is powerful and she is expressing herself. We kind of just had to go for it then by the end of that day there was nothing going on in the old throat center.
Q: I heard you sang the song “Still Hurting” 17 times.
Kendrick: Sure. I don’t remember.
Q: Richard LaGravenese, who directed you in this, says it wasn’t because of your voice but because of the camera. It kept hitting the table.
Kendrick. Urgh! The camera! That’s the real problem with movies—the camera. If they could just find a way to make movies without cameras…
Q: How do you keep the song fresh when you have to sing it that many times?
Kendrick: If I had trained at RADA, I might actually be able to verbalize that kind of thing. The fact is, I didn’t. I’ve only ever learned by working, and I’ve been working ever since I was a little kid. I don’t know. To try and put it into words would be to destroy the thing. I guess you try to find the balance between going into the material and going into a personal place because you never want to pitch too much into one direction. I feel I drew a lot of energy from the support of the crew who unbelievably compassionate and understanding, and nothing gave me greater inspiration than seeing the 40-year-old dolly operator in his classic Hawaiian t-shirt who had the same earpiece in his ear that I had. I was watching his face as he counted and I could feel his body (counting the beats). So all of these people are honoring the thing you’re trying to do and that gives you an unbelievable reserve of energy.
Q: How does this experience compare with the other musicals you’ve done?
Kendrick: I think it’s a cute tag line for people to say I’m doing all of these musicals all in a row but they’re such different movies that they don’t feel the same at all, especially because “Into the Woods” was this enormous production and we had the time and resources to be perfectionists and I was very grateful for that. This was much more of a situation that was held together with love and duct tape—and that’s exhilarating, actually. If anything I found the waiting on “Into the Woods” one of the many challenges. To be on a time budget and to have to stay that focused was incredibly helpful. If I’m honest, I prefer this way of working but (a tight shooting schedule) it is just not conducive to telling a story like, “Into the Woods.” They were very very different experiences but equally rewarding.
Q: Jason said his most challenging song was “The Schmuel Song,” because the two of you were indoors wearing Christmas sweaters and the temperature in the room was about 95 degrees.
Kendrick: I was so smelly and he had to pretend to like me that day. I was the smelliest.
Q: What was your favorite song and what was the most challenging for you?
Kendrick: I really did enjoy doing “A Summer in Ohio,” because it was kind of a fantasy. It’s one of the only pieces in the film that’s actually a fantasy. That’s not happening (in that reality); I’m not dancing on stage with these guys. And I guess the most challenging was, “See I’m Smiling,” just by the nature of it. I’m trying to be honest in that song and trying to belt it.
Q: This seems like a great movie to take your significant other on Valentine’s Day if you’re going to break up soon. How do you see this? Is it a date movie or a movie you go to see with your girlfriends?
Kendrick: It’s also the kind of movie where at the end, you can turn to your (significant other) and say, “I’m so glad that our relationship is so healthy.” If you’re going to break up, this movie will help speed it along. I would argue that our movie has a happier ending than “Fifty Shades (of Grey).” I have read that book. It ends with him spanking her too hard and then she leaves him.
Q: Can you talk about your Oscar performance coming up? Have you started rehearsing yet?
Kendrick: I have not started rehearsing. They were like, “Don’t tell anyone,” and I was like, “I don’t even know what you’re describing” But it sounds great. Can’t wait.[/private]