Saturday 7 December 2019

Kendrick delivers again

At 26, and with an Oscar nomination on her CV, Anna Kendrick has the world at her feet. So why did she choose 'a cream puff' of a movie, 'What To Expect When You're Expecting', for her next move?

The normal course of a film junket interview goes something like this. You arrive at a hotel and make your way to a designated room. You wait a while and drink a lot of coffee. Eventually you are whisked off to the next staging post, a chair, usually in a corridor, where you wait some more. Finally, you are brought into the inner sanctum of the hotel room, where the interviewee is ensconced in a large couch feigning enthusiasm at each new arrival from the conveyor belt.

Today, everything seems to be going to plan. There has been the first waiting area, the coffee and now the second waiting stage. I know that behind the door Anna Kendrick is in the final stages of another interview and shortly I will be summoned.

Suddenly, the door bursts open and a petite brunette bursts out carrying a shrieking mobile phone. "I'm sorry. This phone keeps on ringing and I don't know how to turn it off," she says, to no one in particular, before dumping the phone on the ground and turning on her heels and re-entering the room.

A few moments later, time at an end, the other journalist leaves the room quickly followed by Kendrick to retrieve the phone. She studies it for a moment and puts it to her ear. "He didn't leave a voicemail and now his phone is off, so fuck him."

She then turns and flashes an ever-so-innocent grin in my direction. "I'm sorry about that," she says and departs back into the inner sanctum. If this is a glimpse of the real Kendrick then I would think she's not someone to be messed with.

Inside the room, normal service is resumed, as she sits curled up in an oversized sofa, a tray of half-eaten food, which she immediately apologises for, is sitting on the table. Food, in the world of Hollywood, is something worth apologising for.

At just 26, Kendrick has already passed the stage of rising star. She has an Oscar nomination under her belt for her role alongside George Clooney in Up in the Air.

As one of the stars of the Twilight movies, she has a hit franchise to her name and has also gained rave reviews for her performances on the well-received offbeat "cancer comedy" 50/50, and Scott Pilgrim vs the World, where she met her boyfriend, the British film director Edgar Wright.

On top of that, she has a string of movies in the pipeline after a 2011 which she describes as "fucking crazy".

It's no real surprise that she seems to be conquering all, given that she made her Broadway debut at the age of 12 in High Society and swiftly earned a Tony Award nomination, making her the third youngest nominee in the history of the awards.

Now she is one of the stars in What to Expect When You're Expecting, an ensemble comedy based on a pregnancy handbook. Not so much a rom-com as a Mom-com, it also stars Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez and Chris Rock among many others.

Kendrick has perhaps the meatiest role among the fluff. She plays Rosie, owner of a gourmet food truck which pitches up at open-air film screenings and other impossibly quaint looking events.

A fling with another truck owner (played by Chace Crawford) leads to an unexpected pregnancy, which in turn brings about unlikely and traumatic events.

"It's a cream puff of a film, but there were pieces of it that were emotionally brave as far as my storyline was concerned," she explains. "I was surprised that it explored some of those things and I found that interesting, certainly for a glossy studio movie.

"It was a funny thing to try and do research for, because it's difficult to try and talk to friends and family about what could be an embarrassing or painful memory. But one really interesting thing that happened was that, on days when we were shooting the more emotional stuff, all the female crew members would start telling me about their experiences, which was lovely and made me realise how many women go through this and go through it silently."

Her search for the "chemistry" with Gossip Girl star Chase Crawford led to some unlikely nights out during the shoot.

"For my birthday, the crew and everyone went out to Clermont, which is a famous Atlanta strip club where older ladies do novelty stripteases. Chace thought it would be hilarious to get me a lap dance from a 60-year-old woman dressed as Bo Peep. I didn't think it was that funny and I wasn't quite sure how to turn her down without hurting her feelings, because she's a perfectly sweet lady and she didn't do anything wrong. But it's a difficult thing to get out of."

The nature of an ensemble movie also made for an interesting experience.

"It's like you get to shoot your own short film and then sit down and see what everyone else has been up to in what, at one point, you thought was your movie. You think you're the star of the movie, even though you know that you're not, but because you're the only one on set with your significant other and then you see the movie and you're like, 'who are all these people in my movie?'"

The movies could well be all hers pretty soon if things keep going as they are.

The Oscar nomination for Up in the Air gave her more weight than many of the other young starlets struggling to make themselves heard among the noise, but it also threw a light on a certain side of the business that wasn't quite as endearing.

"There was a point around Oscar season where I felt like Anna Incorporated," she explains. "There were all these people being paid to make sure I wore the right thing and my hair was the right way and I was at the right things and I felt like I'm just this chick who's very excited to be in this position, but all of a sudden you're the little product and they want to package you and put you out.

"It's not like there's this evil tyrant pulling all these puppets, but there is a feeling, even though everyone is trying to help you, that you're not in control of your life. And because who the hell would I be to say I don't want to go to these things?"

The furore also threatened to knock her off centre, to distract her from the focus that, from the outside at least, seems to have been a constant in her working life.

"After the Oscars, I got into this panic where I felt paralysed by the pressure to do the right thing. What are you supposed to do next as an Academy Award nominee and all that that is supposed to imply? Now I've relaxed a little bit and now I'm making choices based on whether I will find it fun and fulfilling. On those mornings where you have to get up at 3am, are you going to want to do it?"

What to Expect brought her into proximity with the major female stars of the business and, with the film's obvious slant on motherhood, got Kendrick thinking about what happens when parenthood and fame combine.

"Honestly I can't imagine being in a position like Jennifer (Lopez) or Elizabeth (Banks) where people are interested in their children.

"I hadn't really thought about how horrifyingly disgusting that is until someone brought it up at a press conference. I can't imagine how that feels to have people interested in your baby.

"It's one thing as an adult you can process how you can deal with that attention. But when people want to take pictures of your baby? I can't imagine how complicated that gets."

But, I suggest, this could be her experience further down the line. "I could just have dogs," she quickly fires back. "You don't know."

Dogs can be even harder work than babies, I propose from a child-less position of ignorance.

"I don't even want a baby but I don't know what to say to that," she says.

"My advice to you would be to not say that to someone with a child."

But now, with an easier workload as she takes a small step back from the job-to-job existence of the past couple of years she is content to occupy herself with other matters.

"I just bought a house so I do have a project. I think if I didn't then I'd be going a little stir crazy. If I'm building a piece of Ikea furniture then I can at least pretend that I'm productive."

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