Anna Kendrick on Beca’s ‘Surprising’ Character Arc in ‘Pitch Perfect 3’
Pitch Perfect 3 feels like something of an anomaly. In an age of increasing cynicism, here’s the franchise that dares ask, ‘What if everyone was, just, like, nice to one another?’ They’re the ultimate hang out films, less concerned with plot than in the moment-to-moment interactions of its cast. The best scenes in Pitch Perfect (and Pitch Perfect 2 and Pitch Perfect 3) are always just the ‘Bellas’ chatting and laughing with each other.
Sure, there’s a plot to Pitch Perfect 3 – jumping three years ahead, The Bellas are having trouble acclimating to post-college life, aimlessly pursuing unfulfilling careers. When Aubrey (Anna Camp) informs The Bellas of a military singing competition (the winner of which will open for DJ Khaled), it offers an excuse for the crew to reunite and sing one last time. The conflict though comes when Beca (Anna Kendrick) is picked as the opening act sans the rest of The Bellas. In any other film – this would immediately divide the group, any simmering tensions boiling over; but Pitch Perfect 3 actually goes the opposite route – the team immediately supportive of Beca. Instead Beca herself questions whether it’s right to sing without The Bellas backing her up.
Let’s be honest though – the plot is just the connective tissue to see this group of women (Kendrick, Camp, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld, Brittany Snow, Ester Dean, Hana Mae Lee, Chrissie Fit) sing and dance and joke. Sometimes it’s good to see friends just enjoying one another’s company.
In the following interview with Anna Kendrick, she discusses Beca’s arc through the series, how the script for Pitch Perfect 3 changed, and whether the film feels like the appropriate conclusion of Beca’s story. For the full interview, read below.
It’s really good to see a movie where everybody is just nice to one another…
Anna Kendrick: It’s funny because I referenced a movie to Trish [Sie], the director, when she first showed me the script [for Pitch Perfect 3]… Attack the Block. One of things, Joe [Cornish] did that was so smart was that he never had that moment where they’re all on a mission together and then suddenly everybody goes, ‘Well who put you in charge anyway, Moses?’ and they all turn on each other and then they have to come back together to complete the mission. I never like those moments. As a viewer – they feel like total screenwriter-book shit. ‘Heroes Journey’ or whatever. There were a lot of hardcore Pitch Perfect fans online who tweet at me… I did see a couple girls being like, ‘What I didn’t like about the second movie was that they made fun of each other the whole time and were at each other’s throats.’ They’re supposed to be friends. I think conflict should come from outside the friend group not from within. That was something I had lots of notes [for the script] about.
How often do people tweet Pitch Perfect notes to you?
Kendrick: Not all the time, but I’ll be on threads where they’re talking to each other and I’m tagged – so I’ll see it and be like, ‘This seems to be a real issue for our base.’
Do you look at the Pitch Perfect reddit?
Kendrick: Oh no…
Is there even a Pitch Perfect reddit?
Kendrick: One has to assume so, but I would never seek it out because then you’re asking for trouble. You’re asking to see things you don’t want to see. I’ve been very fortunate that generally when people tweet and tag me, they’re saying something at the very least that’s constructive. Seeking that out though seems like a mistake. I don’t want to hear my ear looked weird in a scene.
Was there a moment when you knew that the Pitch Perfect franchise had become a cultural touchstone for people?
Kendrick: There was a moment when Cups was climbing the charts, which is the weirdest fucking sentence I’ve ever said, and Pitch Perfect had just been released on HBO. People had seen it in movie theaters to some degree, but everybody somehow managed to catch [Pitch Perfect] when it was on HBO. The movie wasn’t at the forefront of my mind anymore yet suddenly people were talking to me about it almost every day.
You mentioned the script changed. How did Beca’s arc change from the initial draft?
Kendrick: One of the big changes was that the guy who shows up [Theo] originally was written as a romantic interest. I pushed back pretty hard on that because I thought it was a little problematic that a guy was coming into [Beca’s] life and being the more active character. I already was a little… I had to be sold on [Beca’s solo career turn] because Beca, while she has dreams, she’s not especially ambitious. She’s not particularly driven in that she would ask for things she didn’t feel like she deserved — so, I guess, a character would have to open her up to that idea. But I really pushed back on the romantic part because it’s not great that this character comes into her life, tells he she should take this other path and then his motivation is, well, a little blurry…
Yeah – does he think Beca is talented or does he just want to hook up with her?
Kendrick: Yeah… Even when we were filming, there was a ‘can’t you do [a take] where they kiss at the end?’ And I was like – ‘No – we for sure can’t.’ I didn’t even want to… There’s this end moment where he asks ‘Is this going to happen?’ and I’m just saying ‘No’. I didn’t love doing that because I didn’t want it to be about romance at all, but people want what they want. I don’t know. So that changed a lot. Originally there were a couple of versions with a romantic storyline. Originally Beca was so in love with [Theo] and thought he was so cute, she was tongue-tied and falling over herself in front of him. I was just like, ‘No, no, no.’ The idea of Beca being really intimidated by dudes just didn’t work well.
When you’ve been playing Beca now over three films, is there anything new you learn about her?
Kendrick: We all know our characters so well [that] we’ll act instinctually in certain situations. That means you’re discovering things as you go because you’ve never been in that situation with your character before. After having a really contentious relationship with Anna Camp in the first movie, there was a scene we shot in the first week where she turns to the group and she’s like, ‘Ok we’re going to split up and here’s the plan and here’s what we’re going to do.’ And I just beamed at her, ‘Ok, sparky!’ That was just how I felt about it. I asked if it’s ok that that’s my reaction, that I’m on board but I’m not really taking it too seriously. I love the crazy, intense enthusiasm Anna Camp [Aubrey] has. That was a really fun dynamic to pick right back up. What does a real friendship between Beca and Aubrey actually look like?
Does the film feel like an appropriate end for Beca? Do you see this as the culmination of her story?
Kendrick: I was surprised they wanted to do an ‘artist thing’. I was a little like – ‘That’s confusing but ok.’ But yeah – it’s a nice and I hope satisfying & cathartic ending for viewers. I think there was definitely some… I wrestled a little bit in my head about the idea of Beca in the spotlight because it’s just not really who she is, but I think the support of the rest of the group changes things for her. The idea of them saying essentially ‘We knew you were special’ is a really powerful thing for those characters to put on [Beca].
Pitch Perfect 3 opens everywhere Friday.