Now playing in theaters is director Jason Moore’s great musical comedy Pitch Perfect. Written by Kay Cannon (New Girl, 30 Rock), the film tells the story of Beca (Anna Kendrick), a goth-like rebellious teen that dreams of being a music producer, but instead finds herself in an all-female a cappella singing group at Barden University. Led by great performances from the entire cast and fun takes on classic and new songs, Pitch Perfect is definitely worth your time this weekend. The film also stars Rebel Wilson, Skylar Astin, Adam Devine, Anna Camp, Brittany Snow, John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks. For more on the film, here are seven clips and all our previous coverage.
At the recent Los Angeles press day I got to sit down with Anna Kendrick for an exclusive interview. We talked about how she got involved, her reaction to the finished film, the great script, if she was nervous to sing and dance on camera, what it was like to sing live on set, how much changed during production, the rehearsals, The Breakfast Club, what it was like to film in Baton Rouge, End of Watch, TIFF, Twitter (follow Kendrick here), her love of Reddit, and a lot more. Hit the jump for what she had to say.
Collider: I’m going to hit you up with some fun stuff, at least I think. True or false, I’ve heard through the grapevine that it was your interview with Collider for Rocket Science with the guys on the singing acappella on the street in park city that got you this job—
KENDRICK: Oh my god, that is so funny. You know, over the years I remember the first couple of times running into you after doing that weird video. That was obviously the first thing we talked about. But then over the years I didn’t know if you had like, disassociated me with that and forgotten about it. So that makes me laugh so much, first of all. And, no, I wonder… No, I’m sure none of the people on this film even know about that. But yeah, that was kind of amazing. I don’t have a witty retort to that. It was just really fun to remember.
I just wanted to remind you that that did happen years ago.
KENDRICK: Oh, I haven’t forgotten.
Okay so, I’ll be honest. I saw this last night. I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed this movie. I thought it was great.
Obviously when you sign on to something, you hope for the best.
But, what was your reaction when you finally saw it?
KENDRICK: Well, I mean from the get go I understood the potential pitfalls of doing a college movie about singing, and just how badly something like that could turn out. Kay Cannon’s script was so unbelievably surprising and subversive that, it felt like she was always like ten steps ahead of me. Just when I was reading a scene where I thought, “Okay, I understand what she’s doing with this character, and I understand where this scene’s going.” You know, she would surprise me and I would be completely won over continually throughout reading the script. So obviously I knew that the people who were involved in it wanted to make something special and something that rose above what most people would think of when they heard the kind of tagline—or you know not the tagline, the logline, I guess. So I was really happy that all that humor came across. And the musical numbers are definitely a guilty pleasure/feel good thing, but they do it. They get the job done. I had a great time watching it.
It was very funny, and I agree with what you’re saying. Every time I thought it was going to do something it did other things
KENDRICK: I think 30 Rock is one of the greatest shows ever made. So I could really feel that voice and I think that’s something that 30 Rock does really well where just when you think you know the punch line, it’s something… It once again turns that joke on its head, or that character on its head.
This really showed another side of you in terms of singing, dancing, just a whole bunch of stuff, right? How intimidating was this gig for you signing on to this?
KENDRICK: I started in musical theater and Camp was a musical movie, so I’ve sung on film before. But obviously I knew that being the lead in a studio movie was going to be a completely different animal. Not only was I worried about performing my best, but if things had gone haywire I’m like the face of this movie and I’m singing and dancing all over a total nightmare. So I was really nervous about that. I think there were days I would come in a little bit on my back foot, trying to make sure that we were doing service to the intelligence and the wit of Kay’s script.
But I was excited about singing. One of the things I was really insistent on was that whenever I’m singing alone in the movie, I’m singing live on set. Because I think something is a little bit lost in the recording studio, and frankly I’m just not good in the recording studio, like I don’t know how to do that. I think I’m just, I’m used to singing in front of people and singing in a recording booth was a little isolating and sterile. So, I was looking forward to the days when I got to sing live. Somebody would just blow a pitch pipe and then I would do the thing.
Did you know that on Les Mis they were also singing live?
KENDRICK: I heard that, yeah. “No Diggity” isn’t exactly Les Mis, but I did my best, yeah.
There’s an audition scene in the movie where you have a little bit of a show number.
KENDRICK: Yeah, that’s actually, that was just a viral video that I found on reddit. I am a huge fucking loser so I decided to spend an afternoon learning to do that thing with the cups and learning that song. When they found out that I could do that, they were like, “Oh my god, that’s going in the movie.” Originally that scene was going to be like “I’m a Little Tea Cup” or something. It was supposed to be weird and funny and the second that they saw me do that, they were like, “Okay. That’s your audition song.”
Yeah, it’s real good.
KENDRICK: It is fun, I’m glad I got to do it. It took so long to learn from that video! Like, I could teach a person to do it pretty quickly. But when you’re just watching a video of somebody doing it, like not doing it slowly, it took me a long time.
How often are you spending time on Reddit?
KENDRICK: I could get my phone, I’m sure it’s open on my phone right now. I’m sure it is.
Are you one of these people—because they have pictures, they have videos, they have everything; are you across the board interested in everything?
KENDRICK: Yeah. Well, when I first got an account I chose my sub-reddits and stuff, but I find more and more I just go to all. Which ends up I accidentally click on some pretty gross stuff sometimes. But I’m realizing more and more I just go to reddit-all.
Yeah, I hit that front page every once and a while. I’m not going to admit how much. Just once and a while. Another true or false question: This was an audition for Glee?
KENDRICK: I’ve never seen Glee.
KENDRICK: Never. I’ve seen like scenes and stuff. Some of my friends watch it so I’ve like, walked in on watching scenes.
I’m just bullshitting. I guess my thing is—and this is actually a serious thing—they do something every week on that show. Now after doing this, to do that every week, are you sort of like “wow”?
KENDRICK: Yeah, I mean even before I did this, the idea of, you know—it’s an hour long right?
KENDRICK: So, the idea of being in an hour long show where you’re singing and dancing, and you’re not doing it live so that means you’re also spending time in a recording studio outside of your you know twelve hour work days, fourteen hour work days, or whatever. That seems like cruel and unusual treatment.
Were any of the songs changed in pre-production or was it pretty much you knew what was coming?
KENDRICK: A lot of the songs were different in the original script, but I kind of knew that the songs were place holders. So I was really excited when I found out that I was singing “No Diggity”, because that wasn’t in the script. That is my jam and I was really psyched. The one song that I—this was kind of a last minute change and I was a little hesitant about it because I just don’t have an emotion connection to the song is “Don’t You Forget About Me.” To me it’s like “Take my Breath Away” from Top Gun, where it’s almost a parody of itself and I didn’t know how to emotionally connect to the song. So I was a little resistant to it, but I think it’s probably fine. I kept asking to go back into a recording studio and re-do it, because that was the only time I played it for a friend and they were like,“You don’t even sound like you.” Because I was just kind of singing it by rote. And I wanted to keep going back and try and make it feel like it’s actually me singing.
You guys have a lot of group numbers. Was there one that you especially enjoyed? Was it the Miley Cyrus on the bus?
KENDRICK: Well, I mean I’m not going to say that “Party in the USA” was my most enjoyable number, but I thought that was such a genius moment for the character. Because my favorite thing about this character is that she comes into it thinking that she’s too cool for school and fancies herself kind of a badass. Which she’s really not. And I liked, at every possible opportunity that I had, showing the cracks in the surface and showing that she’s kind of secretly, you know pretty ordinary, and that she has this shameful love for pop music. So, I loved that somebody who would rather pretend that she’s the girl with the dragon tattoo you know secretly knows all the lyrics to “Party in the USA.”
I enjoyed that.
KENDRICK: I think that that was one of the things that I really wanted to do with her. I thought if she comes across too cool, no one is going to like her. They talked about this in Community with Britta, that people didn’t start to like Britta until they started to mess with her and show that she’s kind of an idiot. You know that first half of the first season where she’s just supposed to be the cool, indignant one—no one’s going to like that character. You can’t tell an audience to like a character. And I think the best way to get the audience on someone’s side is to embarrass them. Because we can look at that and we’ve all been there. We’ve all been thinking that we were hot shit and then we kind of embarrassed ourselves.
And it’s also interesting because the first half of season one of Community is… It’s okay.
KENDRICK: And then it has to kind of let its freak flag fly.
Episode thirteen or so, fourteen, somewhere around there the show just figures itself out. And then that’s just a fantastic show. Speaking of TV shows and other movies, what do you watch that you’re like, “Oh my god if they called me I would be there tomorrow?”
KENDRICK: I mean, obviously so many. I’m a little nervous about saying it to Collider, because I don’t frankly want to read an interview—a headline that’s like “Anna Kendrick’s desperate to be on blah blah blah.”
I give you my word I will not put it in the headline.
KENDRICK: I guess my silly dream is to be on Game of Thrones. I don’t think that I can do that, but that’s my silly dream. And there are a lot of American comedies, particularly on NBC, that I would, I would love to do.
Yeah, the Thursday night lineup?
They were filming—Ron Swanson was down the street from me yesterday, and I thought about bringing a pile of bacon, and just being like, “I need to hang out with Ron, please.” You know?
KENDRICK: He did an AMA that was amazing.
Yeah, he’s amazing. I interviewed him once and it was like, I was so fucking happy. He’s amazing.
KENDRICK: I’m in love with him.
Yeah, I am too. I have a man crush.
After you see Homeland, I think you will also say Homeland. I’m pretty confident on that.
KENDRICK: Okay, cool.
Obviously you prepare differently for every role. In this one, how early on did they have you doing the rehearsals and figuring things out?
KENDRICK: Well, we had like a month of rehearsals and I actually showed up late for rehearsal because I was promoting 50/50 and probably shooting something. I think I was probably shooting End of Watch, actually. But I was nervous coming into it because a) I was late, and B) being the lead of the movie I wanted to show up and sort of prove myself and be good enough, and show the rest of the cast that I was going to be able to support them and I wasn’t going to be the dead weight that they had to carry. So I really threw myself into the music and dance rehearsals. So I’m glad that we had that time period to do it. But, it was really just rehearsals. In the press notes they were saying it was like a cappella boot camp, but no. They taught us the music and they taught us the dancing.
Is it rehearsals that are nine to five, or is more like four to five hours?
KENDRICK: Well, now I can’t remember, because everybody else is saying that it was like ten hour days. But I don’t remember it being like that. But I don’t know, maybe I was just in a time warp.
When you’re doing rehearsals and getting ready, because there’s a lot of numbers in the movie, are you rehearsing all the numbers? Or are you rehearsing “one number until we get it, then another number until we get it”?
KENDRICK: Well, the finale number for us kept changing; which actually was really terrifying and really frustrating, because they just kept changing the music. I mean, I’m sure they kept just trying to make it better and better, but it was obviously a frustrating, cyclical thing. And so we would rehearse the first number, but by the end of the first week we knew the first number. If it’s all you’re doing for a week, you know it. And the finale number was really the bane of our existence for a while. Because things kept changing and it felt like no matter how much you drilled it, some piece of old choreography would fall into the dance. So it was tricky.
Let’s talk about The Breakfast Club.
The person sitting next to me at the screening, when Judd Nelson at the end raises his hand, the person next to me raised their hand.
KENDRICK: No kidding?
They were really into it. It’s obviously an iconic movie, everyone loves it. What’s your thing? Did you grow up with The Breakfast Club? Did you have—like how real is that emotion you’re showing in the movie?
KENDRICK: Well, I saw The Breakfast Club when I was a little older, like probably sometime between sixteen and eighteen.
But that’s like the right age for it.
KENDRICK: Yeah, I guess so. I remember thinking… Because I saw it on TV and I didn’t know what I was watching really, until the end and then I was like, “Oh, that’s The Breakfast Club.” I don’t know, that happens sometimes. Oh, and that happened to me also with Terms of Endearment. Where, I finally watched Terms of Endearment and I was like, “This is unbelievably incredible.” And then you think “Yes, Anna, of course it is.” Like, of course The Breakfast Club is amazing; everyone talks about it as being an iconic film, a game changer of a film. But you see it and you want to go out and tell your friends, “I just saw this amazing movie.” But they all know about it. So I didn’t have quite as visceral reaction as Beca does.
Was that always in the script, The Breakfast Club?
KENDRICK: No, it was Say Anything for a while.
Ah, there we go, these are both classic 80s movies.
Now, have you seen Say Anything?
That’s okay. So it was better that is was The Breakfast Club in the movie.
KENDRICK: Yeah, I mean, obviously I would have watched Say Anything. I’ve seen pieces of Say Anything.
I think Breakfast Club is actually a better fit. Talk a little bit about the rest of the cast. Off set, is this one of those movies where like everyone was hanging out?
KENDRICK: It was definitely a little gross how much we hung out. Because we’re in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Oh, I know Baton Rouge.
KENDRICK: There was nothing to do. So after work it was like, “Okay, where are we going?” And for a lot of people it was one of, if not their first movie. So all the girls and the boys in the singing groups were just like, “Okay guys, now what? Now where are we going?” And for me sometimes I was like, “Home! I have another fourteen hour day tomorrow.” So at a certain point I actually had to request to be put in the hotel across the street. Because I was like, I need to sleep at a certain point and these kids can party. And like I actually have to be responsible and get up in the morning. You know, because they would have days off and they would be like, “Come on Kendrick!” So I was kind of the party pooper of the group, I felt like a real old lady.
I can sort of understand.
KENDRICK: But I was in every scene.
If you speak to musicians, good musicians who go on tour for a long period of time. As soon as they’re done with the meet and greet after the show, they’re at their hotel sleeping. It’s a misconception that they can party every night because they’re doing another show the next night.
KENDRICK: I suppose if I were twenty and it was my first movie, I would have the energy to just give a hundred and ten percent every day and go out every night. But, I don’t. It was the seventh movie that I had made that year, so it was like…
You’re also front and center singing and dancing.
KENDRICK: Right, that was the other added thing. I couldn’t get sick because I wanted to do as much as I could live. So I didn’t have the option of getting sick.
Do you take home any props from all the things you do?
KENDRICK: I have a snow globe from this movie. It was on a desk, I’m sure no one would ever see it. But I sat and stared at it for several weeks and I was like, “Can I have this little snow globe?” And they said yes.
As you mentioned, you have been in a lot of things in succession. Do you want to keep going at this pace?
KENDRICK: I don’t think doing that much in one year was the best thing. Nothing is worse to me than feeling like I wake up the next morning and I realize that there was a certain moment that I didn’t land because I wasn’t really there. Or a moment where I was just being me, and I wasn’t being true to a character like Janet in End of Watch. And that is so frustrating. So I think over-tiring myself, or pushing myself this far was my limit, and I had to do this to learn what my boundaries are. So, I don’t think that I could do that much again in one year. But, at the same time I love working, I love working more than being at home so it’s hard.
I completely understand that. Speaking of End of Watch, congratulations I think it’s going to be number one?
KENDRICK: I’ve got my fingers crossed, yeah. I didn’t know what was going to happen. When we were making it I did not feel like it was a number one movie. It didn’t feel like one of those movies that’s a blockbuster movie.
But you know, the reaction at TIFF…
KENDRICK: So awesome. So amazing.
We spoke for, like, a second on camera about TIFF, but overall experience this year at TIFF was…?
KENDRICK: Was really good. I’ve been absolutely spoiled rotten with the screenings of Up in the Air, 50/50 and End of Watch at TIFF because the audiences have gone crazy for the movies. So I’ve definitely been spoiled. And then I kind of had to do double duty at TIFF because I also went to see The Company You Keep. I don’t have a big role in it, but obviously the premiere was there. But then I got to see Seven Psychopaths, which kind of made the whole trip for me because getting to see somebody else’s thing kind of makes the whole trip worthwhile. Because otherwise it just feels like it wasn’t even a film festival, it feels like you just were at work in a different city.
Everyone I speak to, all the actors that go to promote, they all tell me they come in for like a day or two and then they’re gone. And I always am like, “How can you not stay for an extra day or two and just see some of the movies?”
KENDRICK: Well, usually because they’re sending you off somewhere else to do press.
Oh, there you go.
KENDRICK: I had to come back for the End of Watch premiere. I didn’t have the choice to stay longer.
I will tell you that Cloud Atlas, kind of good.
Kind of good. That was my favorite at the festival. The Wachowskis. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Cloud Atlas.
KENDRICK: I was reading everybody’s tweets after the first screening of Cloud Atlas. I couldn’t believe my Twitter feed. Everybody was saying, whether you love it or hate, it’s one of the most ambitious films they’ve ever seen. So that’s enough for me, I’m sold.
Speaking of Twitter, are you addicted? Describe the level of interest.
KENDRICK: Well, I didn’t tweet for, like, six months. And then I just decided I don’t know why I’m being so precious about this. What am I why am I not just spouting nonsense? It’s Twitter for heaven’s sake. So I’ve been actually doing it more than I ever have recently, and I’ve been trying to interact more. Before this six month break, I really almost never replied to people. And I was like, “What is wrong with me?” You know? So I’ve been trying to read my @ replies.
Have you thought of taking questions?
KENDRICK: I don’t know, because the thing is I have a lot of young followers and I feel like it would turn into a press conference where I would have to be really diplomatic and really positive. Because I don’t want to… I can’t really, really be myself, probably. So I don’t know how much fun that would be.
You could also be selective. You could also pick certain questions not to answer. Just throwing that out there.
KENDRICK: But the fun thing about doing it for me, and I think the only interesting thing about it would be like to be myself and kind of be honest. And knowing that I’ve got thousands of like, eleven-year-old followers, I don’t know if I would feel like I shouldn’t. And then it’s not interesting for me or for the people asking questions.
The other thing though, of course, is that everything you say on Twitter can be used in People Magazine or US Weekly.
KENDRICK: Well whatever I say anywhere. Whatever I say in this interview can be pulled. So I’m constantly playing this game in my head where I’m thinking, “Can this quote be pared down and misinterpreted?” It doesn’t matter what outlet I’m talking to and how comprehensive the interview is, because I have to think in terms of, “Right, but People Magazine could just take this one quote and take it out of context.”
A hundred percent. They quote me all the time. It’s a real, real problem. Especially when I start insulting people and stuff, it gets me in a lot of trouble. My last question. What are you getting ready to do next? What is your next ambitious undertaking?
KENDRICK: I have a couple things, I don’t know, that are sort of—I’m trying to think of another expression for “up in the air.”
Basically you have contracts that are offered that you have not signed.
KENDRICK: Yeah, I have things that are in development that I’m attached to and I’m excited about, but I’m a little superstitious about talking about. Because I don’t want them to go away.
Or you know my site. You know the way I work—headlines.