Anna Kendrick Breaks Down Her Career, from ‘Pitch Perfect’ to ‘Twilight’ | Vanity Fair

published on July 2, 2020

– I realized that the
way that I'm going to try

to think about it in
the future is actually

not so much about ticking
boxes of like this kind

of movie or this kind of character,

because the more that
I've been able to work

and work with really incredible people,

the people that really
leave an impression on me

are the people who seem happy,

people who are working and
loving their work and also loving

the life that they live

And they've found this balance

I'm Anna Kendrick And this
is the timeline of my career

Excuse me, is there some place
we're supposed to check in?

– Over there, is this
is your first summer?

– No, I was here last year


We were at night, mother together

So camp is the first movie I ever did

Well, I actually got
involved in that project

because the director was cousins

of Randy Graf,

who was in the Broadway show that I did

when I was 12 years old

So she was like, "If
you're looking for a girl

"who could play my character in that film,

"the creepiest, most of
obsessive weirdo of all time,

"I've got just the girl for you"

The blessing about that
film was that it was

because it was non union, it
was everybody's first film

So it was a lot of anxiety,
but we had the blessing

of like no cast member knew anything

So you were allowed to ask
questions and be an idiot

and not feel quite as much shame

And at the time, I mean,
you couldn't tell me

that these people were not my family

and that we were not bonded for life

Like this was the most
significant experience

I had ever had

And when I left, I was sobbing

It was like a break-up, I cut my hair,

I did like all the breakup stuff

I was inconsolable

Like I'm used to it now,
but it is a really bizarre,

like all consuming


And that's why you get these
kind of heightened things

Then that's why people fall
in love with each other

And that's why Christian
Bale yells at his GP

And it's all just part
of like what happens

You just go slightly crazy

You're Joe Simmons, my name's Christie

– She's got a great spike, huh?

– Yes

I'm Jessica by the way

Hey you're from Arizona, right?

– Yeah

– Aren't people from Arizona supposed

to be like really tan?

I auditioned for Twilight
because Katherine Harvick

had seen me in a film at
Sundance called "Rocket Science"

and asking me to come in and audition

And I really thought it was
such a blow off audition

I just thought like well
I'll you know, do as well

as I can so that the
casting director like thinks

of me for other stuff and
I actually saw my friend

Mae Whitman at that audition
and we were both like,

"What are we doing here?"

Like we're obviously not going

to be this like mean girl character

Yeah I got that job, which was I mean,

truly like such a shock

The first movie we filmed
in Portland, Oregon,

and I just remember being
so cold and miserable

And I just remember my converse
being completely soaked

through and feeling like, you know,

this is a really great
group of people and I'm sure

that we would be friends
in a different time,

but I want to murder everyone

Although it was also kind of bonding

There was like something
about it that was like,

you know, like you go through
like some trauma event

Like you imagine like people

who survive like a hostage situation

And you're kind of bonded for life

The second movie, for whatever reason,

like the weather wasn't quite as intense

And that's sort of, I
think where we all got

to know each other a little bit better

I was shooting "Up In the Air" by the time

that we were making that second movie

So they rearranged a
lot of scheduling stuff

Cause it would have been a real dick move,

but you know, they have
legally they had the right

to stop me from doing "Up In the Air"

so shout out

to those guys

[mumbles] anyway, so we're supposed

to like draw a parallelogram

Our answers were things
like astronaut, president

or in my case, a princess

When we were 10, they asked again,

we answered rockstar, cowboy

or in my case, a gold medalist

But now that we've grown up,
they want a serious answer

They all start to blend
into one at some point

because my whole job was
just to go like this family

of very pale people who
we never see eating

They're really weird, right?

Anyway, what did I do in the third movie?

Oh, I did the graduation
speech in the third movie

That's right and I remember thinking like,

"Oh, why did they make my
character the valedictorian?"

Like she's very obviously
not a good student

But you know, they just wanted
me to like have something

to do because it was a
speech so I just like did

what was scripted and I swear that scene,

people are like,

"You know, that speech that you give in

"that third movie, it's really sweet

"It's really moving"

And I swear to God, I'm like
the thing that is happening

is you are looking at
Kristen Stuart's reaction to

that speech and that is the
thing that is moving you

Because I was like, "I did all right,"

but I was just kinda like I
dunno, I'm reading the speech

and then it cuts to
Kristen, she's so moved

because she's so talented that I was like,

Oh, people are like, "That
speech is so amazing"

And I'm like, "No, it's
just her and she's great"

So I was in the fourth grade and it was

just like a wedding scene
where again, I'm like,

"Hmm, these people are so weird,"

and you're in like just half frozen mud in

what was the final scene
of filming for everybody

You know, it's like I get
to come in and you know,

work for a week or two

And everybody else has been like giving

their blood, sweat and tears
to the project for months

I show up at the end and I'm like,

"Guys, we did it's over"

[laughs softly]

[laughs softly] That's so funny

Never want to get married

– Nope

– Never want kids

– Not a chance

– Ever?

– Never

Is that so bizarre?

– Yes

So "Up In the Air" was, you know,

a script I got, it was like
this really high profile thing,

this amazing part opposite George Clooney

And well I'll go in and I'll
do my best and you know,

they'll give it to somebody more famous

I remember my agents calling me a couple

of days after my audition and being like,

"Okay, we're pretty sure
that an offer is coming in"

And I was like, "You weren't in the room"

Cause I was just totally convinced

that I'd left no impression
and basically spent

the first weeks of filming thinking like,

I'll just enjoy this and
you know, I'll be like the,

is it Eric Stoltz in "Back To the Future"

where it's like a funny
story that like initially

they hired somebody else

Clooney was so classy,


I know that everybody
describes him that way,

but it's just you know, on
my first day he was like,

"So do you get nervous?

"I get nervous"

In retrospect, bullshit

No he doesn't

But it was such a generous
thing to say to me

and I believed it at
the time and I was like,

"Oh, we're the same"

Which is the whole point,
you know, he's so good

at disarming people and
trying to get them to forget

that he's international
movie star George Clooney

I just couldn't have asked for a better,

I guess like Sherpa, you know,

in that situation, to just see like

how does somebody handle themselves?

You know, everybody's
looking to them for the tone,

and you know, the kind of
manner in which we're all going

to treat each other

I was doing one of my first
interviews about the movie

with Jason Bateman and he made you know,

an innocuous comment to
me about how I might need

to be picking out a nice
dress in the spring

It just totally threw me

that anybody would
genuinely be thinking that

So it felt like a little funny joke,

I guess, in retrospect to like of course

I wish I could have just accepted that

and seen it for what it was,

which was just a compliment that anybody

would be saying that

I'm kind of glad that I at
least had the presence of mind

at the time to go, "Anna, you
might look back on this time

"and get mad at yourself
for not enjoying it more

"So I want you to actually
take in like how overwhelming

"this is and how much pressure there is

"and how you have no
idea how to navigate it

"and that's okay"

It kind of lets me at least kind of

let my younger self off
the hook a little bit

Yes it is

– I just don't see the value in it

– You know what we
should really talk about

is you have trash on your
floor and there's no reason

I mean, you know, at least
have a bag in the back

to put the trash in

– Adam, your girlfriend cheated on you

We don't have to talk about
it, you don't have to

"50/50" was like the
first time that I felt

like I kind of pulled a
little bait and switch

on someone because on paper she felt

really similar

to my character from "Up In the Air"

and I knew that that was
like, why they hired me

I just wanted to make
her like really soft,

you know, Natalie and "Up
In the Air" it's like trying

so hard to be a hard ass

And this wasn't a far cry
from that just on the page

I did worry that I would get there

and that Jonathan Levine, the
director would like tell me

to basically play it
more like my character

from "Up In the Air"

And he, I feel like is this
weird, like Jedi master

where like, it doesn't
feel like he's doing a lot

And then every movie he does is like,

why does this have this much heart?

You know, things like "Warm
bodies" or "The long shot"

Those movies have no right to make me cry

Yeah, he just really like, didn't shy away

from that vulnerability

I just broke up with
somebody recently, myself

– You did

– Yeah

[phone ringing]

– 17 years old, scandal

– That's not true, who told you?

– Wallace, duh

So "Scott Pilgrim vs The World" I just did

because I loved Edgar Wright's movies

I loved "Shaun of the dead"
and I loved "Hot Fuzz"

and he knows this that to this day,

"Hot Fuzz" is my second
favorite film of all time

"The Women" is the first ever film

"Hot Fuzz" is the close second

Often when I read a
script like the pace at

which I can get through a script is a test

of like how exciting the movie is to me

And there are exceptions to that rule

and "Scaffolder" was
one of those exceptions

That movie on paper is so bizarre

and like, there's like
nothing to hold onto

It's so insane and suddenly
there's somebody singing

and fighting like video game style

But up until that point,
there's been no indication

that it's like a video game movie

So why are you fighting?

How, why is he flying?

Why does he have like demon hipster chicks

as his backup fighters/backup singers?

And actually that was one of

the early scenes

that I did and I was like, "You know what,

"I'm just going to be the
audience for a second and be like,

"what is happening?

"Explain yourself"

So that was my motivation for that

And I was not surprised that
it ended up in the movie

because I do think that it
just lets the audience go,

"Okay so this is insane

"We're all on the same page


Oh my God, you guys haven't–

– No, no, no, no

– What do you teach?

– I teach at board, I teach special ed

– Oh wow

– Yeah

– Yeah that's–

So you really teach?

– And then "Drinking Buddies"

I didn't receive a single piece of paper

the entire time that we were filming

There's no paper

I would just show up and Joe Swanberg,

the director would be like,
"We'll just see what happens

"We'll just like, see the scene"

I go for this hike with Ron Livingston

and I kiss him and I'm in a
relationship with Jake Johnson

And just before we started to shoot



Joe came over and you know,
Ron and I kind of knew

what the scene was about and Joe came over

and was kind of talking to
us about it and was like,

you know, "And then you
guys will kiss at some point

"and whatever"

And Ron was like, "Yeah

"I mean, if we kiss, if that feels right"

And Joe was like, "Sure"

And walked away

And I was like, wait, I think we have to,

I think we have to kiss for

certain scenes later

to feel right

But then I knew that my
character wouldn't ever kiss Ron

And so I was like, "Oh, I
have to get Ron to kiss me"

Like the actor and the character

I have to get him to kiss me
without betraying my character

So I did this thing

We sat in silence for a long
time and I did the thing

that's in the movie of going like,

"I'm having a really
nervous feeling right now"

And then he kind of asks
me what I'm talking about

and then I'm kind of falling
all over myself to apologize,

like, "Oh, I've misread this situation"

And then he ends up kissing me

We called cut and Joe was
like, "Great, do you want

"to do it again?"

And I was like, "No"

Because it was really nerve wracking

Like it felt like the real
stakes of when you are misreading

a situation where you
want someone to kiss you,

like it felt that real
and alive because like

nobody told me how to do it

And I started crying

Like I have really
cheated and I really like

had to tell my boyfriend now

So it was so fun and terrifying

Like you have all those
body responses that you

have in real life where like
the hair on your arms stands up

and stuff like that So

it was terrifying and like the best

– I find that really impressive

– Well, thank you

♪ Shorty get down, good lord ♪

♪ Baby got 'em open all over town ♪

♪ Strictly biz she don't play around ♪

♪ Cover much grounds,
got game by the pound ♪

– I mean, every cast member
we've all talked about how

the thing that got us
excited about that movie

is Kate Cannon's writing, you know,

she wrote for "30 rock"
and this script was

the kind of thing that you
read and you think you know

what it's going to be

It's like, okay, it's a competition thing

It's a college thing

We know the beats of this
and then the script was

so funny and dark and weird and really

kind of pushed what was okay

to say, because at the time
I hadn't sung in a film

So I just kinda needed to
prove that I could sing

And I actually brought
in a cup and was like,

"I can do this dumb thing, like the cup"

And so they put that

in the movie

Originally, that was the
audition song and the first movie

was I'm a little teapot,

which I still to this day,
I keep meaning to ask,

Hey Cannon, like what
would that have been?

How would that have worked?

The director, Jason Moore
and I were like going around

like collecting cups that
we would just see on set

to see like what would make
the best sound for that scene

And we had this little
collection of like a dozen cups

to try once we actually
got to that location

and I could test them out on that stage

Well, coming back to "Pitch Perfect 2"

it had been several years

The funniest part of
it to me was going back

to rehearsals and you know,

learning music again,

learning the dances again

All the producers and stuff
had this mantra of like,

"Well, we're well well machine this time

"cause we're older and wiser and we know

"that we're not going to get
into the last minute changes

"to all the music and the dancing

"that we had on the first movie"

And it was so much worse

It was so much more changes

Like the finale number we
learned like the weekend

before we had to shoot it,
it was so fun to be back

with the cast and also,

to be like,

"Oh my God, it's exactly
the same as the first one

"It's even crazier"

But I mean, I guess that's the thing

That's the exciting thing

That's why you have all the adrenaline,

it's cause it's like it
might fall apart up until

the second that you're
actually filming it

♪ Come Santa Clause ♪

♪ Santa Clause come tonight ♪

– Oh my God, Magical ears


– Hello

– How beautiful

– Oh, thank you

Yeah, the third one again,
you would think like

this time we are going to
lock the music and we're going

to lock the choreography
before like with weeks to spare

and no, right up until the last second

But by that point we were just like,

"Yeah, but we knew, we knew
that was going to happen"

– Have a seat, make yourself a home

[soft music]

♪ Come little birds ♪

♪ Down from the eaves and the leaves ♪

♪ Of our fields out of castles ♪

I think "Into The Woods"
might be the only movie

I've ever gotten where I
actually cried, like cried

when I found out that I got the job,

it's such an iconic show and
it just means so much to me

And it never even occurred to me

that I could play Cinderella

When I found out that they were making

"Into The Woods" and they
asked me to audition,

I was like, "Oh, for a little red,"

because when you do a stage version of it,

usually like an adult woman
plays little red riding hood

They were like, "No, we're
going to use an actual child

"for that"

The idea of playing soft,

open, vulnerable,

full of heart and full of hope Cinderella,

you know, just kind of blew me away

that Rob Marshall saw that in me

because Rob is so different from me

Like there are people that
you meet and you're like,

[fingers snapping] one brain man

And Rob Marshall and I are not that

And like he's so generous

He is so optimistic

He so sees the good in everyone
and I'm so [laughs softly]

the opposite

so there was a day where
James Corden and I,

were watching Meryl
Streep do "Last Midnight"

and we were like just overwhelmed

with like

this sense of people
would pay so much money

to have

the view that we have right now

To see Meryl Streep this far
away performing "Last midnight"

and like we're the idiots
who get to just like be here

You know, this is the kind of thing

like you should charge crazy prices for

And we just like get to be here

Yeah, that was an exciting day

♪ Castles and horns ♪

Hi slut

– Oh, hey

Thanks for the Parkisons's

– What are you doing here?

He doesn't even like you, I
mean, he's in mourning for me

The thing that really stands
out to me about "Cake"

is basically how it's just one

of the all time great performances

from Jennifer Aniston

And I even remember when
we were doing press for it,

feeling like she was so humble
and she really downplayed

everything that she put
into that performance,

like to the point that I was
like at press conferences

with her like trying to
grab all the microphones

and be like, "Do you guys
even know what she did?

"It was incredible"

The research and the
commitment, which isn't my place

or my business

So Jennifer Aniston plays a
woman who has lost her son

and she's in chronic pain
in her body all the time

because of an accident that she was in

and she's self-medicating
and eventually she

has these hallucinations about this woman

who died

Who was like the perfect wife and mother

and kind of everything

that Jennifer Aniston
imagines that she's not

And I played that character

And at first, the director
and I were kind of debating,

is she like a supernatural

like a real kind of apparition?

Is she a she a ghost basically?

Or is she just a hallucination?

Is she just a reflection
of Jennifer Aniston's

like self hatred

The more that I really
watched her prepare,

I was like, "Yeah, this is just about

"her inner voice

"that tells her the worst things"

You know?

And it was really
interesting to realize like,

oh, I'm not my own character actually

I'm not like playing a
character, I'm just tethered

to Jennifer Aniston's
performance and her performance

was so good that I just
let that like lead me

And I was just like a mirror
of like her self hatred

And I wanted to like
shout from the rooftops,

like how much work she had
put into it and how it was

just such a gift to watch her work

and to basically play a
reflection of her performance

You just use people

♪ Her eyes are beautiful ♪

♪ Like a rainbow ♪

I went into Dreamworks and
they pitched me on the idea

of a "Trolls" movie and the
character of Poppy optimistic

to the point of being a little crazy

I'm a little unhinged

And I was like, "I'm
just waiting for you guys

"to take a breath so I
can say yes, please"

I was just so excited

I've always wanted to do
an animated film like that

and I just felt like that was
such an amazing opportunity

to just fall in my lap

So after several months of recording my


they were like, "What do you
think about Justin Timberlake

"coming on to play branch opposite you,

"and also like maybe being
an executive music producer?"

I was like, again this is
one of those crazy situations

where like, why are you
asking my permission

as though I was going to be
like, "Ooh, I don't know"

I just felt like very lucky to have JT

like come in

and well, I frankly like to be a vocal

producer on it,

you know, like at that
point I have recorded

for "Pitch Perfect" and you know,

it's usually like

a music person and a
sound person going like,

"Yeah, it sounds good"

And to have like, you know,

international recording
superstar, Justin Timberlake

going like, "Why don't you try this riff?"

and like singing it,
you know, into the cans

I know the lingo

And then like having me
just repeat it was so cool

♪ Like a rainbow ♪

♪ Ooh, like a rainbow ♪

[soft flute music]

– Herb's announcement makes sense

She wants to reunite the strings

so the troll world can
be one big party again

I was just so excited when they said

that they wanted to do a second movie

because not only do I love
doing the musical element of it,

where I'm just playing like
a little pink character,

there's something so cathartic
about like going into a room

and playing this kind of
unhinged happy character

It feels like a weird
therapeutic exercise

Like how some people like
picture a happy place,

I'm like, I get whatever that thing is

I get that from like playing Poppy

because she's this kind of unfiltered ball

of like happiness, energy, joy

And also like I'm not going
to take it from anybody

You know, it's like she's
like my own inner child

or something and I get to
go and like play with her

– That's all you heard, one big party?

– Stephanie, put down the gun

You don't want to do this

– I really do though

I think Blake and I had a
really similar experience


the script for "A Simple Favor"

because we could not put this script down

and it just like raced
through it because it was,

there were so many twists and turns

and so much like

humor and darkness

And there was a lot of
like, kind of going back

and being like, is this a drama or comedy?

Like, what is it?

And that was also the
experience on set like Blake

and I got to set and basically
every day asked each other,

like, "What movie are you in?

"Cause I want to make sure
that we're in the same movie"

Because I actually said to
Paul Feig early on in shooting,

like most movies you
know basically the tone

and you know the genre and you're on

kind of a sliding scale of
like how big and small are

the choices we're going to be making

And with "A Simple Favor" it felt like,

Oh, I can just take the
knob off and just do

whatever I want with it

because there's just
no rules in this movie

It wasn't really until
we saw the finished movie

that Blake and I were
like, "Got it, love it

"So great"

I really do though

– Hey,


– Um,


– Who's Kimiko?

– Holly shit

So "Dummy" the real challenge
ended up being the part

that we thought was going
to be the easiest part,

which is that I'm acting
against an inanimate object

Like that seems like,
yeah, like we can have

the shortest shooting schedule

I show up, I talked to a potato

It's great

Except that a real sex
doll is not like just a,

like a potato or a dish or whatever

This diva would not sit still,
would not hold a position

Ooh, everybody on set was
like, "I'm going to kill her

"I'm going to kill her"

So Meredith Hagner, who plays
the character of the sex doll

is so brilliant and she had got to act

opposite each other,

like actually look into each other's eyes

I think once and the rest
of the time I'm acting

against this doll that
has like dots on its face,

because they're going to replace it

with Meredith's performance later,

we had to hire a second
prop person just to help

deal with



Because like, it seems like,
yeah you throw her in a closet

And then we do a whole scene
where I find her in a closet

and she talks to me and she
just doesn't want to do that

And it took like two and a
half hours to get her set up

to the place where she would
just freeze like a mannequin,

which you think would be the
whole thing that she does

I really tip my hat to people who commit

to having a sex doll in their lives,

because it's a handful

They're so much heavier
than you think they would be

and unruly, really good for
you for being that committed

I like jokingly named you Kimiko

So, what about you?

– Uh, my parents are
the complete opposite,

high school sweethearts that
are somehow still in love

– That's nice

– They're satanists, so
this is not all good, right?

– So "Love Life" I was
just really blown away

by this thing in the script where

you get

that uncanny feeling of,

I know that guy,

I've been in that situation

Oh, that's exactly how that feels

I hate when that happens

I love when that happens

Like that came up a lot
in the pilot episode

And then, you know, it
was my first experience

with episodic TV so I
didn't realize how much

the show really transforms as you go

So in the end, like so many
talented people came on

to work on the show and gave
their personal experiences

as well and it all got
remixed to the point

that I have plausible deniability

So no, it wasn't about you

I mean, it was, but I
can say that it wasn't,

and that's the really beautiful
thing about the show is

that because people were
so willing to give like

the specifics of really vulnerable

or funny

or romantic things that
had happened to them,

it feels universal the more specific it is

and it feels intensely relatable

So there's so many of those
like uncanny moments on

the show and that's, you know,
one of the things I love most

about it

The more that I've been
able to work and work

with really incredible people, the people

that really leave an
impression on me are the people

who seem happy

I've worked with people
who I really admire

and they turn out to be kind of miserable

And you know, somebody
like John Lithgow though,

like I work with him and
I'm just blown away by

how generous he is

So encouraging and supportive
and really generous,

like with himself he's so
open and so vulnerable

And I feel like I sometimes
get the self preservation

instinct and I kind of get guarded

And the kind of career I
want to have is the kind

where I can be as full of love

for my life

and for my work as
somebody like John Lithgow

So that's the kind of
thing that I want to model

Thanks so much Vanity Fair
from watching the timeline

of my career

I hope I was less pretentious
than you were expecting

[soft violin music]

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