Anna Kendrick enters our suite at the Park Hyatt in Toronto, which is quite cold, dressed to the nines - an outfit which is quickly covered up by a hotel terrycloth robe.
Kendrick first wowed in Twilight and its subsequent films as a friend of Bella’s (Kristen Stewart). She then went on to star in Rocket Science and earned an Oscar nomination for Up in the Air opposite George Clooney. That performance caught the eye of 50/50 filmmakers who thought she was perfect to portray Katherine, the therapist of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character who has spinal cancer that is seriously threatening his life.
The actress is quickly becoming one of our favorites and in person, she is as gracious as she is talented. Kendrick talks to Movie Fanatic about 50/50, if she feels like a Toronto Film Fest veteran after her star-making turn during Up in the Air’s Toronto run and her emotions as the cameras have shut down on the Twilight saga with the arrival of November’s Breaking Dawn Part 1.
Movie Fanatic: You are so convincing in Twilight as a high school student and in 50/50 as a doctor. When you first read the script, what was your interpretation of the character so that people would see you believably as a doctor?
Anna Kendrick: I was so excited to be offered the part. I read the script and so wanted to do it. It was an early Christmas present, just before Christmas they offered me the part. I was so excited. I do feel like, Jonathan had seen me in Rocket Science, but ultimately everyone was happy with me getting the job because of Up in the Air. I felt like I pulled a little trick because the role felt a little more like that character. I tried to make her feel different, feel vulnerable and soft. That’s how I saw her. A lot of people on the page are saying there’s this great role in this movie. She’s really confident. She’s this young professional, a know it all. No, she has the facade of a know it all, but she knows she’s an idiot, and she’s just trying to get through the day without anyone calling her on it. That was a fun angle to explore. I did meet a woman who does work similar to Katherine, who was extremely generous with her time. She wrote out a file for Adam as though Adam was her client -- which was incredibly helpful. Especially, she talked to me about all the mistakes she made when she was starting out. She did say that wanting to touch your patients was something that she did and something she had to learn to fight as she got more experienced. Just all the things that would be running through her head, particularly when she was just starting.
Movie Fanatic: Tell me about getting your head around the romance that may or may not be developing between you and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Adam. How did you play that so it developed so naturally -- which it did on screen?
Anna Kendrick: I’ll tell you what. It was this funny thing where it felt like this parallel thing happening as actors -- where neither of us wanted to be the one initiating the relationship. That was going on with our characters too. Obviously the patient doesn’t want to do anything inappropriate. The therapist doesn’t want to do anything inappropriate. As actors, I thought, “Adam would be this way.” It was more I don’t think Katherine would do that. He kept saying, “I don’t want to say that because what if it comes off as disrespectful. I should treat you like a professional.” We both kind of like wanted the other one to be the aggressor -- the person who initiated the relationship. I think that’s a testament the way that Joe was raised. He was so nervous as coming across as somebody who didn’t take a professional woman seriously. He would never see her as a piece of meat or whatever. I thought that was so sweet. I didn’t want to come across as the worst therapist in the world [laughs]. There were actually some scenes where there was a discussion about whether we should or shouldn’t do this, I think it’s inappropriate. Those scenes were trimmed down because all of that is a given. To discuss it onscreen, either you’re going to walk away from it rooting for them or you’re not. Just because they have the perfunctory we probably should do this, but let’s do it anyway conversation doesn’t win anybody over. We had to hope for the best.
Movie Fanatic: How was having Will Reiser, the screenwriter, on set as compared to other roles you’ve done where maybe the writer wasn’t there?
Anna Kendrick: For me, after meeting him and speaking to him, I thought of him as a writer and producer, and a great one at that. I didn’t feel like weird about him being here -- especially because my character is totally fictional. I was just happy to have a good brain in the room. He’s just warm and funny. He has certainly taught me the lessons to treat sick people like normal people.
Movie Fanatic: You were in Toronto two years ago for Up in the Air, and now you’re here for 50/50 with an Oscar nomination under your belt. What advice would you have for a first time nominee?
Anna Kendrick: This was before True Grit came out, I met Hailee Steinfeld. She is such a lovely person. I started to say to her, “Oh, that movie will be so great.” It was clear that movie was going to be amazing for her. I just told her this is going to be so great and enjoy the ride. I realized that everyone had said that to me two years ago for Up in the Air. I stopped myself and said, “Totally scratch that.” [Laughs] "Have fun, but if you’re not having fun, that’s OK. It doesn’t mean you’re an asshole. It just means that you’re tired.”
Movie Fanatic: What was not fun about it?
Anna Kendrick: It’s not that it wasn’t fun. I just wondered when I would get to sleep. Every time I’d look at my schedule and I’d see that tomorrow was my day off, it would turn into one of those days where everyone came out of the woodwork looking to schedule something on that day. It just cut down on time with family. I just talked all day, every day.
Movie Fanatic: So do you feel like an expert now?
Anna Kendrick: The funny thing about having Will Reiser ask me what to expect at the Toronto Film Festival, I realized he was looking at me like I know what’s going on. I’m the veteran? That was a new experience. But it made me feel like I should try to be a rock. I totally know what he’s going through right now.
Movie Fanatic: How was working with Joseph on this film. You guys, as we’ve discussed, have such electricity together. How was he personally and professionally?
Anna Kendrick: Personally, kind and interested in other people and really musical. He just wants people to be open and be creative, which is a great person to have around. Professionally, I would say I was so impressed with his ability to track a movie. It’s hard. You shoot a movie out of sequence. We all try our best and try to figure out what it’s going to look like in the end. I found myself watching his performance and thinking about how in our scenes he goes from being relatively healthy to being extremely sick. We shot all those scenes in a matter of days. I was impressed with his ability to really think about what this is doing in the movie, not just how he was feeling that day. He was thinking about more than his performance.
Movie Fanatic: Joseph’s character makes light of your car being such a mess. Is your own car a mess or completely neat?
Anna Kendrick: Sometimes, it’s pretty good… right now, really bad [laughs]. I have not washed my car. Oh, also, I never put air in my tires, so I am blowing tires constantly [laughs]. It’s not as bad as Katherine’s car, but it’s pretty bad.
Movie Fanatic: Switching gears, can you describe your very last day of filming the Twilight pictures?
Anna Kendrick: The last moment was like 5:30 a.m., in a summer dress in the woods. It was raining and it was 40 degrees. We were dancing. The sun was coming up, so we were trying to get the last shot and then they called cut and called a wrap on the whole series and we all just ran to warmth. There wasn’t a lot of time to get weepy. It was an ending in true Twilight fashion. I was glad the last movie wasn’t cushy and lovely. It was freezing your butt off in the middle of the woods.
Movie Fanatic: At the very end, were you crying or smiling?
Anna Kendrick: Smiling! Everybody was smiling. It felt celebratory. It didn’t feel melancholy.
Movie Fanatic: How was it as an actress having different directors along the way for the Twilight saga?
Anna Kendrick: It was a little nerve-wracking. These people didn’t choose you. You have no idea if they think you’re a decent actor or you do a good job. It was lucky that it felt to me that everyone that came in felt like they just wanted us to keep doing what we were doing because they liked what we did on the last one. Nice and easy for me.
Movie Fanatic: Can you compare and contrast the sense of humor of George Clooney and Seth Rogen? Everyone who works with them say that those two actors constantly crack them up.
Anna Kendrick: I would say Seth is more mature than George Clooney.
Movie Fanatic: [Laughs]
Anna Kendrick: George is such a little rascal at heart.