Anna Kendrick is pitch-perfect in ‘Into the Woods’
LOS ANGELES—While Anna Kendrick sings in “Pitch Perfect 1 and 2” and “Into the Woods,” she said that her experience in these films couldn’t be more different. “I sang pop music in ‘Pitch Perfect,’ and that was so much fun,” said the actress in an interview at New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
She reprises her role as Beca Mitchell in the sequel to the hit about an all-girl singing group. In Rob Marshall’s film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s beloved stage musical, “Into the Woods,” Anna plays Cinderella.
Anna stressed the challenge of singing Sondheim and Lapine’s complex, tongue-twisting songs, as compared to the pop pieces she and her group perform in the “Pitch Perfect” movies. “Singing Stephen Sondheim isn’t even in the same ballpark,” the 29-year-old actress began. Among her numbers as Cinderella is one of the musical’s showstoppers, “On the Steps of the Palace.”
Most challenging songs
She admitted, “I was terrified, especially because people were like, ‘You’ve done this before. You got this.’ I was singing what the music team would agree was one of the most challenging songs in the film, and in a vocal range I had not sung in before.
“That was completely terrifying, but the beauty of Sondheim is that, as challenging as his
music is, it just means that it’s alive, present and written for actors and performance. It’s not written to make you feel warm and cozy, and send you out of the theater humming something. It’s written to give you a peek into the inner life of these characters. It’s more exciting to perform his music, because it forces you to be present.”
Anna relished the opportunity to collaborate with Sondheim, considered one of the greatest composers in musical theater. “Every little thought in Cinderella’s head is laid out for me in melody,” said the actress who earned a Tony Best Featured Actress nomination at the tender age of 12 for “High Society.”
“Musical theater has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember,” shared the actress, who got the acting passion as early as when she was 10.
But, film breaks like “Twilight” and “Up in the Air,” for which she bagged Oscar and Golden Globe Best Supporting Actress nominations, took Anna away from singing.
Anna shared how she prepared to record “On the Steps of the Palace.” “Rob said, ‘Your song is important. We’re going to get you in to record around 10 a.m. I was like, ‘Could I come in and record at, like, 8 p.m.?’ He said, ‘That sounds awful.’ I said, ‘That’s when I feel comfortable in my voice.’
“The princes (Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen) ran long in their recording, so I had to do it the next day. I locked myself back in my apartment.”
Nonetheless, the experience was exhilarating for the Maine native. “It was great to be challenged. Nothing’s more boring or draining than when you’re like, ‘Can we just shoot the thing? I know what I’m going to do.’ It was so exciting! It kept me on my toes for four months.”
“Thank God, I haven’t met Prince Charming,” she said with a smile. “As it turns out, Prince Charming is into himself. I’m so grateful to my parents. I don’t know what they did, but I grew up wanting to save boys. My playground fantasy was that, a boy would fall off in the playground—and I would catch him! I would bring him back up. I didn’t have the ‘being saved’ fantasy. I had the ‘being hero’ fantasy. It’s cool that there are girls out there who want to be the hero of their own story.”
The women ruled even on the set, according to Anna. “What was nice about it is that the princes are Cinderella and Rapunzel’s princes. The boys didn’t really like that! Chris saw the back of his chair. Mine said, ‘Cinderella.’ His said, ‘Cinderella’s Prince.’ Chris said, ‘Why don’t I have a name?’ I was like, ‘Women have gone without names for a long time—just the ‘damsel in distress.’ So, this is payback.’
But, one fairy talent element stayed. Anna volunteered, “The funny thing about my Cinderella is that the dress really goes back in the morning. I get a dress, and I give it all back in the morning—the shoes, dress, jewelry.”
Anna expressed gratitude to her parents for her career’s fairy tale-like happy ending so far. “My parents were so supportive. They were bewildered, because they’re not in the entertainment industry. My dad (William Kendrick) was a teacher, and my mom (Janice) was an accountant. I was so young, but I had this clarity of what I wanted. My parents were willing to drive me to New York from Maine, for auditions. They believed in my dream. They just gave and gave of themselves. Once I was old enough to take the bus by myself, they let me do it.”
Now that the reviews for “Into the Woods” are in—they are generally very enthusiastic, especially about the performances, including Anna’s, she can now relax. Come May next year, her other much-awaited music-themed film comes out. “I can’t wait for ‘Pitch Perfect 2’ to come out,” she enthused. “Hopefully, it’s going to be great. We had a lot of fun doing it!”
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