IF IT SEEMS you’re seeing Anna Kendrick everywhere these days, that’s because you are. Which is a good thing. Since making her big-screen debut in 2003’s Camp, the 28-year-old Portland, Maine, native has taken Hollywood by storm, amassing nearly 30 film credits—a third of them in the past year alone. This would explain why she currently has two films to promote: Joe Swanberg’s improv-heavy indie Happy Christmas, which came out in early July, and Jeff Baena’s zombie comedy Life After Beth, in theaters Aug. 15th.
While Kendrick has played everything from an uptight junior executive (in Up in the Air, for which she earned an Oscar nomination) to the BFF of a fang-banger (in the Twilight franchise), she goes with her gut when it comes to choosing her next role. And she’s always up for a challenge, like channeling her inner dude for the latter half of the interview below (her idea). Just don’t ask her to take a day off. “I forget what that is like,” Kendrick says of the elusive concept of downtime.
In the few minutes she had between wrapping on Pitch Perfect 2 and heading off to Mississippi to begin shooting John Krasinski’s The Hollars, Kendrick talked to us about working without a script, embracing silence, and the underappreciated arch of a woman’s back.
DETAILS: In the case of a sequel like Pitch Perfect 2, do you feel any additional pressure knowing that there’s already a huge existing fan base anxiously awaiting the film?
ANNA KENDRICK: There is just this sense that we can do no wrong, in a way. I mean, a song with a plastic cup went triple platinum. So I think we’re going to be okay.
DETAILS: And on any given day, how many times are you asked to sing “Cups”?
ANNA KENDRICK: Normally, people don’t ask me to sing it. They say that their kid does it. And they have this sort of half-smile, half-grimace. I’m like, ‘I’m so sorry!’
DETAILS: You’re obviously no stranger to sequels or franchise films, but is there anything different about your process when you’re revisiting a character that you’ve already played?
ANNA KENDRICK: I’ll think: ‘How did I do this on the first one?’ And I just try to think about the headspace that I was in, which was probably, ‘Fuck. I don’t want to be doing this fucking exposition!’ Luckily that character is pretty grumpy, so it worked.
DETAILS: In general, what is it that attracts you to a character?
ANNA KENDRICK: In the movie that I’m about to do, I’m nine months pregnant for the entire movie. And part of me can’t wait to do that because I can just be feeling whatever I’m feeling, and that’s okay because she’s pregnant. To be crying in a scene where I’m just having a conversation with my boyfriend is no big deal. It’s all possible.
DETAILS: You have two new movies about to hit theaters. So first, what was it that drew you to Happy Christmas?
ANNA KENDRICK: Joe [Swanberg] texted me the day we wrapped Drinking Buddies and asked if I wanted to do another movie with him in December. I had such an incredible time making Drinking Buddies that I immediately said yes.
This movie was weird because it honestly felt like we were getting away with something. It felt like we were at school afterhours making a science project with no teachers around. To just be making this movie for ourselves was such a frigging miracle.
DETAILS: Is it completely freeing as an actor or is it terrifying to do totally improvisational sets, like with Happy Christmas and Drinking Buddies?
ANNA KENDRICK: I thought that the hardest part of doing an improv movie would be coming up with things to say. But the hardest part is knowing when to listen and knowing when to be still, because you can always fill the air with nonsense. It’s embracing silence that’s the really lovely part.
DETAILS: Does working in that way connect or bond you with your cast in a different way?
ANNA KENDRICK: You end up learning a little bit more about your scene partner because you definitely end up drawing from your own life. And then there are times when someone will say something to you off-camera that you can use. Melanie [Lynskey] and I were doing this scene where we were talking about the kind of guys we liked, and she had admitted to having a crush on Oliver Platt off-camera. So later on, in the scene, I said, “I just can’t get over the fact that you have a crush on Oliver Platt!” You’re allowed to do that kind of stuff.
DETAILS: You’ve also got Life After Beth coming out with Aubrey Plaza. What was it that attracted you to that project?
ANNA KENDRICK: Aubrey texted me one day and asked, “Do you want to fight me as a zombie in a movie?” “Yep. Just tell me where to be.” That’s basically how that whole movie happened.
DETAILS: So basically your deals are all happening via text.
ANNA KENDRICK: Yeah. And my agent didn’t even know I was doing Happy Christmas. I forgot to tell him. I was talking to him a week before I left for Chicago to shoot, and we were talking about the next year and what kind of stuff would be coming up. And I just said, “Oh and by the way, in a week I’m going to Chicago to make another movie with Joe Swanberg.” He paused for a second but then was like, “Fantastic. I love that guy.”
DETAILS: Are you strategic when it comes to plotting out what’s next in your career? Do you think far ahead or long-term?
ANNA KENDRICK: Well clearly I don’t, since I’ve made, like, four musicals, which I did not mean to do. You’re not supposed to make four of the same kind of movie in a row. [But] the opportunities are so beautiful. I’m not going to not do The Last 5 Years and I’m not going to not do Into the Woods. How stupid would I have to be?
DETAILS: You’re one of the few actors who is really tough to stereotype. Is there one type of character that you feel like you never get offered—a certain kind of person you’d love to play?
ANNA KENDRICK: Well, it would have been the drunken mess. You know, the slacker ne’er-do-well. So I was so excited when Joe [Swanberg] saw that potential in me. I think it’s always exciting when people can see you stepping outside yourself; I think that’s the sign of a really creative mind. Or maybe I’m a drunk mess in real life, and he doesn’t have a creative mind.
DETAILS: If you had to choose between making a movie with an incredible director, an amazing cast, or the world’s greatest script—but can only have one of those things—which would it be and why?
ANNA KENDRICK: Oh, man. That’s the thing though—it’s so easy to make a bad movie. George Clooney always said that you can make a bad movie out of a good script, but not a good movie out a bad script, so you’ve definitely got to have the good script. And I’ve seen directors work miracles on cast members—hell, it’s probably been done to me—so I’ll go with great script, then director, and roll my dice with the cast. That’s a brutal question though. I’m going to wake up in a cold sweat tonight thinking about that question.
DETAILS: As your Twitter account can attest, you certainly have a way with words. With that and all this improve experience, do you have any desire to step behind the camera—write, produce, or direct?
ANNA KENDRICK: No, no. That seems to take years off of people’s lives in a way that I can’t reconcile. So I’m fine not doing that.
Always ready to play a part, Kendrick wanted to channel her inner guy to play the role of “The Modern Man” for this “Modern Man’s Guide.” We happily played along.
DETAILS: Who was your first celebrity crush?
ANNA KENDRICK: Jennifer Lopez. That video where she’s all in white and she’s saying that her love doesn’t cost a thing? I just felt like she’s a really real girl that I could take home to my mom.
DETAILS: What’s your favorite female body part?
ANNA KENDRICK: The arch of a girl’s back is very sexy. And underappreciated.
DETAILS: What’s the most embarrassing fashion trend you’ve ever tried?
ANNA KENDRICK: The popped collar. The pink polo shirt with the popped collar. I was trying to prove that I was secure in my masculinity, but it was a mistake.
DETAILS: What’s one current fashion trend you wish would go away?
ANNA KENDRICK: Summer scarves. It’s not a good look for a self-respecting male like myself.
DETAILS: Speaking of your maleness: Do you work out regularly?
ANNA KENDRICK: I do. I bench like 350. Wait, is that a lot? [laughs].
DETAILS: What’s your never-fail pick-up line? The one that works every time you use it?
ANNA KENDRICK: Every time? Umm … Hey girl …
DETAILS: I hope you’re a lot smoother when you’re using this one in real life, because so far I’m not going home with you.
ANNA KENDRICK: Those clothes are very becoming on you, girl. But then again, if I was on you, I’d be coming, too.
DETAILS: All right. Sold.ANNA KENDRICK: Let me just take you home and worship the small of your back, girl!