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From Portland to Hollywood, Anna Kendrick is on a meteoric rise

(Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff)
By Meredith Goldstein
Globe Staff / August 8, 2010

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Anna Kendrick has become “that girl.’’ Most notably, she’s that girl from “Up in the Air,’’ the peppy one whose sparring with George Clooney earned her a nomination for best supporting actress at this year’s Oscars. To the indie movie crowd, Kendrick is that girl who played spitfire Ginny Ryerson from 2007’s “Rocket Science.’’ And to a different segment of the population — the one that’s still debating Team Edward vs. Team Jacob — Kendrick is that girl from the “Twilight’’ series, the too-peppy, self-absorbed Jessica, who steals many a scene from her brooding costars, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson.

And now, because of her small-but-sharp role in the film adaptation of the comic book “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,’’ Kendrick will be a geek-love hero for bringing Scott’s endearingly judgmental sister, Stacey Pilgrim, to life on the big screen. The movie tells the story of Scott, who must fight his new girlfriend’s evil exes in order to win her heart. Those exes are played by a number of familiar faces, including “Fantastic Four’’ star Chris Evans, Brandon Routh of “Superman,’’ and Jason Schwartzman of “Rushmore.’’

For Kendrick, a 24-year-old Mainer who began traveling to New York to audition for Broadway shows when she was a kid, it’s been a weird and fast journey. What started with a Tony nomination for her role in “High Society’’ when she was just 12 has become a busy, A-list movie career that had her filming “The Twilight Saga: New Moon,’’ “Up in the Air,’’ and “Scott Pilgrim’’ at the same time. She just wrapped a movie (“Live With It’’) with Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon Levitt up in Canada. And soon, she’ll be back on the road to film yet another installment of “Twilight.’’

But the other day — during a stop in Boston to promote the Friday release of “Scott Pilgrim’’ — the very approachable and sensitive Kendrick was just happy to be home in New England.

AK: [Looking skeptically at a cappuccino that was delivered to a hotel conference room before her arrival.] Is this for me?

MG: It’s not for me. I didn’t order it. I think they brought it for you.

AK: I didn’t ask for it. It’s funny — there’s a cappuccino here as though I demanded it. I didn’t. I asked for nothing. It looks like, “She’s such a diva.’’

MG: I’ll make sure I put that in the story. “She did not make a demand for coffee. Not a diva.’’

AK: Good [laughs].

MG: We should have done this interview years ago, when you started your career, because you’re basically from here. We consider Maine “here.’’

AK: I feel like I’m from here. When I was growing up [in the Portland area], Boston was like, the big city — sort of in starry lights, like the proverbial starry lights. I have spent quite a bit of time at the bus station — South Station. Most of my time in Boston was spent taking the bus to New York or the bus from Boston back home. I’ve had a lot of lonely nights with, like, a crappy Discman.

MG: You know, there’s a difference between a kid who decides she likes acting and tries out for theater in Portland and a kid who says, “Get me on a bus to New York.’’ That was you.

AK: I sort of marvel at myself. Maybe at a certain point everybody feels like the person they were when they were younger is a stranger. Because I seemed to be much more driven and focused at that age. I had the intention of being on Broadway. I am just very grateful that my parents treated me with respect . . . and really, really supported me.

MG: You were so young. Did they go to New York with you?

AK: At first, they drove me down, and then sometimes we’d take the bus. They were both working parents, so they eventually started sending me with my brother. When I was 14 or something it was just me.

MG: You were going to school at the same time?

AK: Sick days. I went to public school, and God bless the public school system, but if you ever missed a few days, it was never that big of a deal.

MG: Which public high school?

AK: Deering. Go Rams.

MG: Any plans to return to theater or will it be movies from now on?

AK: I have no plans to go back to theater — but I feel that it’s definitely something I’d like to do. . . . It becomes scarier the longer you’re away from it. I want to do it again before it seems too daunting.

MG: You’re a part of this huge, crazy “Twilight’’ thing, and then all of a sudden you’re an Oscar campaign. How have you maintained any normalcy?

AK: I’ll tell you, the really humbling moment is the moment that you get home from the Golden Globes or the BAFTAs or the Oscars, and you sit on your bed, which is the same crappy IKEA bed you’ve had since you were 18, and you put on an old episode of “Family Guy,’’ and you have a frozen meal . . . and you’re trying not to get macaroni and cheese on your thousand-dollar gown.

MG: There is something about you — and this could be the roles that you play — but you’re approachable. I’ve heard women, young women, talk about how you could play them in the movie of their lives.

AK: People say that? That they want me to play them in a movie?

MG: Yes.

AK: That’s the best thing I’ve ever heard! That’s amazing. I’m not trying to be Cameron Diaz and I would never claim to be Cameron Diaz — because that would be ridiculous. I would never want to accidentally present myself as someone who is unapproachable or unattainable. I don’t think anybody would be fooled into thinking that anyway. . . . My favorite actresses are people like that — like Patricia Clarkson and Laura Linney. In a reverse world, those are the people I’d want to play me in a movie — not necessarily, like, Gwyneth Paltrow.

MG: In every interview I’ve read with you, you get asked something about your costars Robert Pattinson and George Clooney — like, what does one smell like versus the other. Or if you were on an island, who would you bring? You always play along. It must get annoying.

AK: I’ve always tried to be nice and not to dismiss that question, but I’ve gotten to the point where I’m wondering why I don’t. . . . It’s one of the things that really makes me hate doing interviews. If somebody said that about me all the time or asked, “Who’s sexier, Anna or Kristen Stewart?,’’ it would make me feel terrible. And I would imagine it would make her feel terrible, too.

MG: You know, I actually went to “Scott Pilgrim’’ last night thinking it might not be for me — that it might just be for comic-book boys. But I laughed a lot.

AK: Honestly, I feel like, when you see this movie, you realize why there’s no trailer or TV spot in the world that can accurately capture the tone and energy of it. I think it’s going to be one of those word-of-mouth films.

MG: As Scott Pilgrim’s sister — and in all of your movies — you have these quotable moments, these scene-stealing moments. You’ve become comic relief. Is that surprising to you?

AK: I guess I don’t think of myself as funny. I do think of myself as awkward. I’m like a total one-trick pony. I have a lot of fun being awkward and that’s the easiest way for me to be funny. I don’t know how I would fare being everyone’s favorite funny girl in a movie. It has to be that thing where the character isn’t aware that she’s funny.

MG: You just filmed another movie, “Live With It.’’

AK: And honestly that’s the same thing where [my character is] very sweet and very vulnerable and very soft, so I was very excited to play that after “Up in the Air,’’ but at the same time, I think a lot of that comedy comes from her lack of self-awareness.

MG: How often do you get home? Who’s still up there?

AK: My mom and dad still live in Portland. I haven’t been home in, shockingly, a long time, which is a bummer. It’s like, when I got off the plane last night, it just feels different. The air feels different.

MG: Do you still have friends up in Maine. Are you in touch with them?

AK: I’ve still got a couple of friends from childhood. And a couple of people who I was never really friends with got in touch around Oscar season.

MG: And you were nice to them?

AK: It was funny to see that the people who I was really friends with didn’t get in touch because they didn’t want to be “that guy’’ — and some people I never really knew made sure to get in touch. It was really strange. It was interesting, who felt the need to give me space and who felt they had a right to hit me up for . . .

MG: For what? What did they want?

AK: I don’t know. You know, “If you’re home . . .’’ or “The next time you’re in New York . . .’’ And it’s sort of like, “I don’t think we knew each other that well . . .’’

MG: Who was your Oscar date?

AK: My mom.

MG: And there have been lots of pretty dresses since then. Is that part of your world shocking?

AK: I have fun with it, but sometimes it felt really — like a lot time and energy wasted. Because if you put a good girlfriend in the position of spending hours picking the right dress and having it tailored and having your hair and makeup done . . . and then you have some snarky style blog tear that to pieces, then it’s like, “What did I do that for?’’

MG: You read those blogs?

AK: I looked a lot during that [Oscar] season, which was the biggest mistake I could have made. I’ve been a lot better about not looking.

MG: I thought the blogs loved your dresses.

AK: But that’s the thing. I don’t see the nine positive things. I see the one negative. That’s the thing I remember.

MG: No one has ultimate control of their own destiny for roles. But if you did, what would you want for the future?

AK: I’d really like to work with another female director. I’ve only worked with [“Twilight’’ director] Catherine Hardwicke and it was this very large cast in a very cold and rainy environment. It wasn’t quite the love fest that I was anticipating. I’d love to work with another lady director.

MG: Who has been a surprising advocate for you? I just imagine it’s very intimidating, knowing who to trust — walking into some of these parties.

AK: There are a handful of actresses who have been very generous with their time and their words. It felt like the generation before me was sort of popping up every now and then to say, “It’s going to be OK.’’

MG: And do you feel like it’s going to be OK?

AK: Yes. I have a very small role in this movie, and I’m very proud of it, and that makes it very easy because I have everything to gain and nothing to lose. I don’t know if I will always feel that way. I almost feel like I got thrown into the deep end, and at this point, the hard part’s out of the way.

Meredith Goldstein can be reached at

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