Monday 20 November 2017

'Sexism is a f**king problem... Women everywhere deal with this s**t' - actress Anna Kendrick

She's a Twitter darling, box office goldmine and an all-singing, all-dancing feminist It girl. Scarlett Russell meets actress Anna Kendrick

Funny girl: Oscar-nominated Anna Kendrick has found her groove
Funny girl: Oscar-nominated Anna Kendrick has found her groove
Anna Kendrick with George Clooney in Up in the Air, for which she was nominated for an Oscar
Range: Anna Kendrick with her Pitch Perfect co-stars

If you've found yourself wondering why the beautiful, well-paid actresses of Hollywood talk so much about sexism, Anna Kendrick has an example she casually mentions when we meet to talk about her latest film, 'Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates'.

She read the film script over a year ago, and immediately wanted the role of badly behaved party-animal Alice. "After playing the cynical girl so many times, I thought it would be fun to play someone who was so… I'm trying to think of a nicer word than stupid, but… stupid," she says.

Alice's best friend Tatiana is played by Anna's real-life best friend and fellow actress Aubrey Plaza, and the two knew they could nail the roles of an outrageous pair who scam their way into an all-expenses paid wedding trip with rich brothers Mike and Dave. There was just one problem: "You have to go through the process. We had to wait until the boys were cast. Then we got the parts we knew we would."

It's nearly unbelievable that a star of Anna's success - Tony nominee at 12, Oscar nominee at 24, lead in a box-office no.1, 'Pitch Perfect 2', just last year - had to wait for the approval of the film's director Jake Szymanski and the titular male stars (eventually played by her 'Pitch Perfect' co-star Adam DeVine and Zac Efron). But Anna denies any slight. "We knew we had it in the bag," she says. "Besides, I like letting men think they're in control."

Anna Kendrick with George Clooney in Up in the Air, for which she was nominated for an Oscar
Anna Kendrick with George Clooney in Up in the Air, for which she was nominated for an Oscar

Anna may downplay the situation, but at the same time she won't pretend it didn't happen - and as such she's part of a new wave of stars that are drawing attention to the industry's sexism.

From Patricia Arquette's barn-storming Oscar acceptance speech calling for equal pay (which had Meryl Streep rising from her seat to cheer) to Jennifer Lawrence's essay on how it felt to learn that she was paid less than her male co-stars, women in Hollywood are becoming less and less willing to stay silent and play nice.

Of course, these are enormously well-paid women, and Anna is aware of the privileged position she occupies - though that doesn't mean she won't speak out. "Sexism exists and it's a f**king problem," she says. "But pinpointing it to Hollywood isn't helpful. Women everywhere deal with this s**t; it's a global problem.

"Resisting diversity is bizarre but it's good that [some stars] are bringing that issue to light. Hopefully that will trickle through all areas of the workforce."

Certainly the rise of female-led comedy, and its poster girls Tina Fey, Amy Schumer, Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy, making combined billions at the box office, are helping to close the film industry's gender gap.

"Tina Fey is an influence on every man, woman and child alive and Amy Schumer is a genius," says Anna.

Range: Anna Kendrick with her Pitch Perfect co-stars
Range: Anna Kendrick with her Pitch Perfect co-stars

Anna's Twitter biography reads, "Pale, awkward and very, very small. Form an orderly queue, gents". Her most notorious posts include, "Ugh - NEVER going to a Ryan Gosling movie in a theater again. Apparently masturbating in the back row is still considered 'inappropriate'," and "I've always heard that Tom Cruise is tirelessly positive and upbeat and I'd love to work with him one day. I think I could break him."

In November, her collection of essays and anecdotes, 'Scrappy Little Nobody', will be published. "There's a lot of me trying to navigate Hollywood and high school," she says. "I embarrass myself constantly. I was once at a party and started telling Colin Firth a story about watching 'Bridget Jones' on a plane after taking [the prescription sedative] Ambien. I thought the story was going to sound funny but he was like, 'So the movie was better when you were on drugs?' I was like, 'No, that's not what I meant. Never mind.' I shouldn't be allowed to talk to people."

The fact that Kendrick is disarmingly small and feminine, 5ft 2in and wearing a beautiful blue Prada shift dress when we meet, may help her get away with such embarrassing moments. But she is somewhat conflicted about the publicity aspect of the job. "It's awesome at first, getting trussed up. Then you're thrown in front of the cameras and it's really overwhelming. It's a skill I'm still perfecting."

It has deadened any dreams she might have had of a big wedding (Anna has been dating cinematographer Ben Richardson since 2014, when they met on the set of 'Drinking Buddies'). "I've been to so many fancy events in fancy dresses, the idea of planning an event just makes me tired," she sighs. "I'd probably go to City Hall in a pair of Converse. Fortunately, my day-to-day life is still pretty simple."

Unlike some of her more tabloid-friendly colleagues, Anna's life isn't tainted by lurking paparazzi following her every move. "Dating someone out of the [acting] industry helps. There isn't too much attention. I'm glad I'm not in Zac [Efron]'s position. Perhaps if I had abs that tight and biceps the size of my waist paparazzi would follow me around constantly, too."

Her next role is another change of pace: the voice of Poppy in family animation 'Trolls'. "I was surprised when they offered me the part," she admits. "Because it's a kids' film [and] I don't really 'do' relentlessly cheerful. But they were happy that I brought some psychotic energy to Poppy. And I love that I get to go in between all these different kinds of movies and characters. The idea of sticking to one genre is so boring I want to scream."

Not much danger of that, with roles in the past two years in everything from a zombie movie ('Life After Beth') to a fairytale ('Into the Woods'). The latter in particular, an adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's cult musical, was a dream come true for the accomplished singer, who began her career on Broadway aged 12 in the musical 'High Society'.

"Broadway kids freaked me out," says Anna. "I know that I was one of them, but I would be around these very intense actor children and think, 'Why are you so concerned with headshots and stage names? Are you guys on cocaine? What's happening?'"

But the experience, she says, instilled the work ethic that powers her career. "I had my first bout of unemployment when I was 12 and genuinely thought I was already a has-been and might never work again," she says. "That feeling stayed with me. When I was filming 'Up in the Air', George Clooney told me that a lot of actors feel that when things are going great for them, it'll always be that great - or better. But that's not how the world works.

"That reassured me that I was right to be paranoid, which is why I'm never entirely comfortable. That's what drives me. People who are ambitious and successful are the ones who feel uncertain."

But after such moderate, sensible words, Anna's inner rebel can't resist a final punchline. "Unless they're freaks and everything goes well for them. But f**k those people." © Telegraph

'Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates' is in cinemas now

Irish Independent

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