The double-decker bus slows to a standstill in a queue of traffic. A chorus of “Oh my God, Anna!” causes the woman opposite me to self-consciously pull her hair across her face, attempting to hide from view. The security guard, standing at the door, eyes the squealing group and weighs up the need for action.
It’s a relief when the lights change and the London bus-turned-afternoon-tea-tour pulls away. Not because the group were at all threatening, but because Anna Kendrick’s embarrassment is uncomfortable to watch. The 30-year-old may be one of the most successful actresses of her generation (a part in the Twilight franchise; an Oscar nod for Up in the Air; the lead in global smash Pitch Perfect…) but she certainly isn’t in this for the attention.
“There was never a point where I was like, ‘If I could just be in a room with a bunch of famous people, that would be great,’” she says. “So I’m not surprised that I find myself riddled with anxiety over award shows and stuff…”
With Kendrick, this isn’t ‘I’m-a-woman-of-the-people’ shtick. Acting comes naturally, but schmoozing strangers, lapping up compliments and posing in a designer dress? Bye bye, comfort zone. Luckily, when it comes to fans, she has found her people: “Teenage girls are just excited to see you, it’s so sweet. It’s women, mid-20s to mid-30s, who are a bit boisterous. I think, ‘I’m going to have to watch out for you…’”
“I got to the point where I was like, ‘My life has been falling apart for four years, I need to get my act together’”
Twilight brought her the teen masses, but it was Pitch Perfect, in all its female-bonded, comedic geek glory, that swept up everyone with two X chromosomes and a fair few without. And those are only the mass-distributed projects: Kendrick is something – nay, everything – of a workaholic. Since 2009, she has worked on an average of five movies a year. Has anyone ever taught her to say no? “I definitely got to the point where I was like, ‘My life has been falling apart for four years, I need to get my act together,’” she admits. A surprise break, due to the rescheduling of Pitch Perfect 3, forced the vacation-averse actress to take some downtime: “The world didn’t come crashing down, so that’s a lesson that I don’t need to be working every day.”
“I would be terrible at being Taylor Swift, the perfect Miss America, interacting with fans”
But ‘downtime’, in Kendrick’s mind, means something different: she used the hole in her diary to write a book. “I was so happy to create something that was all mine. Although, my editor kept saying, ‘It’s up to you, it’s your book.’ And I was like, ‘But could you tell me what to do?’”
The book, Scrappy Little Nobody, largely came about because a legion of new fans found and fell in love with the actress via Twitter. Her scripts may be sharp but, as it turns out, that irresistibly sarcastic sense of humor is all her own. We’ll find out in November if what is genius in 140 characters translates to long-form prose, but the odds are good. On The EDIT’s New York shoot a week before our bus tour, despite a vile cold, Kendrick’s comedy is front and center. It’s not something she can switch off, she explains. “I could play Madame Bovary and I’d still end up being dry and cynical. There are times where someone will be like, ‘Do that thing! You know, do your thing!’ I get mildly annoyed by that. But on a greater scale, I’m lucky that’s my reputation; when I’m snarky with people, they know that’s just how I communicate. I’d be terrible at being like Taylor Swift, the perfect Miss America version of interacting with fans and making sure they have a good experience. I mean, I don’t want people to meet me and have it f**k up their day, but I’m glad I can say something weird to them and they know that’s just me.”
“Everybody is a little bit okay with themselves and a little bit obsessed with what other people think”
Her latest film, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, is another fiesta of punchlines. Kendrick herself says she found it very funny and not only is she a tough audience, she’s unfailingly honest. Have you ever heard an actress admit that she’s preoccupied with others’ opinions – “Everybody is a little bit okay with themselves and a little bit obsessed with what other people think” – or that she didn’t understand a film she starred in? You have now. “I did Scott Pilgrim because I was obsessed with director Edgar Wright’s work. On paper, I did not get the script at all. I trusted it would be up to the level of work he had created before, and it was. But the entire time we were making it, I had no idea what was going on!”
In Mike and Dave..., Kendrick’s real-life hang-out go-to, Aubrey Plaza, plays her best friend, forming a party-hard duo who con their way onto a free vacation to Hawaii as the dates of Mike (Adam Devine) and Dave (Zac Efron), brothers in need of good women to keep them on the straight and narrow at their sister’s wedding. That the film is a feature directorial debut for a Funny or Die alum, Jake Szymanski, should give you an idea of what to expect. Says Kendrick: “We did so much improv that when we first saw the movie, there was a good 15% of jokes that we were like, ‘I have no memory of saying that!’”
The crew decamped to Hawaii for the duration of filming, which has to be one of the sweetest deals in in movie history. Kendrick, however, was the “square” of the group. “I was like, ‘Is everyone wearing sunblock?’ I had an app for finding sharks in the area. Zac is such a daredevil that I developed this phobia he was going to get himself killed before we finished the movie. One day we did some cliff jumping and started out small, but by the end of it I was like, ‘Zac, don’t jump off that! Please!’”
As well as his cliff-jumping prowess, Efron, says Kendrick, is one of the good ones. “Adam’s the funny guy. Zac is the sincere guy. Sincere, kind, helpful, generous – and then just so good at being an idiot on screen.” It’s a ringing endorsement, so when the actress laments the inability to be honest about everyone she works with, we can be confident Efron isn’t who she has in mind. “I’m surprised I don’t have blisters on my tongue!” she says of keeping counsel while on promo circuits. “Some people have a funny reputation, and they are so lovely that I want to shake people and go, ‘No, he’s one of the good ones!’ Then there are the ones who have these stellar reputations and I’m like, ‘That is an a**hole of the highest order!’ But I cannot say it.”
“There are actors with these stellar reputations and I’m like, ‘That is an a**hole of the highest order!”
Another ex-co-star (The Voices, 2014) on the “lovely” list is Ryan Reynolds. “Ryan is one of the most authentic people I’ve worked with; I can’t think of a person more deserving of a hit like Deadpool. He worked for so many years to get that film made because it’s a character that was inside of him.”
Would she take on the spandex suit that goes hand-in-hand with superhero status? “My brother sent me a Squirrel Girl comic because he thinks I should play her. I don’t know what Squirrel Girl does other than be half squirrel, but I could be half squirrel!”
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