In between filming The Accountant in Atlanta and doing voice-over work for the new animated movie musical Trolls in Los Angeles, Anna Kendrick is spending a few days doing a smattering of press for her new movie, The Last Five Years, including the film's L.A. premiere, a jam-packed junket (which is basically dozens of 10-minute interviews, back to back); appearances on Conan, Ellen, Extra, and E! News; and a photo shoot. Then, she'll begin the early stages of press for Pitch Perfect 2, due to hit theaters this May, and will start rehearsing for her performance at the Oscars on Feb. 22.
It's a marathon, not a sprint, for Kendrick. "That's been my last three years," she told BuzzFeed News, settling into the expansive couch inside her publicist's L.A. office.
But all that aside, she can't stop talking about the cake decorating class she had just taken. "My cake was fucking gorgeous. Gorgeous. I'm going to show you a picture," she said. (She did. It was.) But the real accomplishment had nothing to do with the stout, delicious-looking pink-and-white confection she created; it was that Kendrick actually made the time to do something that had nothing to do with her career.
"Almost everybody in my life — like stylists and publicists — was like, 'You have this free time. Can we schedule a fitting or a quick phoner?'" Kendrick said. "And I was like, this is why I have no friends. This is why I have no relationships. If I hadn't scheduled this class, I think I would have caved. I would have been like, 'Yeah, fine, I'll meet my friend for drinks next week.' And then, next week. And then, next week. So I took the class and it's like, oh my god, is this what it's like to have free time? Like, you get to do stuff and hang out with people and make memories?"
Kendrick performing "Cups" in Pitch Perfect, in the accompanying music video, and on The Late Show with David Letterman.
While Kendrick has been in high demand since she earned an Oscar nomination for her performance as an overly ambitious, totally type A professional firer in 2009's Up in the Air, everything changed following the surprise success of 2012's Pitch Perfect, which earned more than $100 million globally, produced the best-selling soundtrack of 2013, and gave Kendrick a hit single with "Cups." The accompanying music video currently has more than 179 million views on YouTube, and it spawned — roughly — 179 million hand-clapping, cup-flipping covers as well.
"For the first couple weeks of filming, me and [Pitch Perfect director] Jason Moore were grabbing cups wherever we saw them to see if that could be good [because] we were the only two people who gave a fuck," she said with a laugh of the film's most unassuming performance. "And then, in the recording studio, me and the sound engineer were the only two people who gave a shit. And now, like, Universal released a special edition of the DVD that had a cup? They probably put more thought into designing that cup than anyone put into me doing it in the recording studio or doing it on film. So the idea that it's on the radio like a serious song is like, no, no, no. This was all a bit of a gag."
The song and movie emerged as the biggest sleeper hits of the radio and screen in 2012, and what followed for Kendrick was a result was a string of well-reviewed low-budget films, like 2013's Drinking Buddies and 2014's Happy Christmas. During that time, her painfully funny and refreshingly honest Twitter account also captured the attention of many, inspiring posts like "40 Reasons I Want To Be Anna Kendrick's Best Friend" and "35 Life-Changing Things Anna Kendrick Tweeted In 2014" all over the internet.
"It's sort of helpful to say, 'This is my weird personality. It's not like you have to agree with it or like it, just don't be surprised,'" Kendrick said of her Twitter account, which now has more than 3.4 million followers. "It's a silly thing, and sometimes I think that too much is made of it, but, for me, to be totally honest, it was huge for me that I got to use it in the way that I have, because people's personalities need to have a context."
"I want to be the Taylor Swift — I want to find the way to be really gracious and really open, and every time, I mess it up," she continued. "It's so helpful to me that these are people who already know I'm awkward and weird. Nothing would upset me more than thinking a kid walked away from an interaction with me, like, thinking that I was annoyed by them or that I was mean to them. I'm glad that it's out there in the world that I'm socially awkward and will probably say something where you're going to be like, 'What the hell was that?'"
But Kendrick's "what you see is what you get" attitude will be tested more than it ever has been on Feb. 13 with the release of The Last Five Years, an emotionally ravaging film adaptation of Jason Robert Brown's beloved stage musical. Kendrick plays Cathy, an aimless, unsuccessful actress attempting to reconcile the end of her marriage to Jamie, a publishing wunderkind, played by Smash alum Jeremy Jordan. Here, Jordan is the film's discovery and Kendrick is the film's draw, a fact underscored by the movie's trailer, which predominantly featured Kendrick singing.
The Last Five Years is sandwiched between the December release of Into the Woods and the upcoming May opening of the Pitch Perfect sequel, and while it's reasonable to assume any actor might bristle at the potential typecasting that could come from starring in back-to-back-to-back movie musicals, Kendrick never gave it a moment's pause.
"I'm not really worried about becoming the movie-musical girl," Kendrick said. "I joke about it, but I'm obviously not in meetings with my agent going, 'Oh no, what have we done?' Movie musicals don't get made a lot, and I'm really happy I get to be a part of the ones that are happening."
Typecasting was only something Kendrick was concerned with after Up in the Air. "I got offered every uptight, too-big-for-her-britches business type," she said. "If I had said yes to those, then it would be like, 'She only does one thing.' And that's not on you; that's on the people who are offering you those roles. I was offered 50/50, and I think they were expecting me to do the same thing [as Up in the Air], but then they let me be a little more messy and a little more heart-on-my-sleeve, which was great. But other times, I don't see the potential to do anything other than being Natalie from Up in the Air, and then people would loathe me."
But beyond avoiding playing Natalie after Natalie, Kendrick was quick to add that there isn't a strategy with which she has approached her film choices. "You know, what's so funny is that people seem to think I have been doing that, but I just think people project whatever they want to on your career choices anyway, so why try?" she said, nonplussed. "People are always like, 'You've managed to choose a variety of projects that all are this,' and I don't even know what they're talking about. My suspicion is not that I'm doing it subconsciously, it's that other people just put what they want to see onto you. You could say Jennifer Lawrence does franchise movies and dramas or Shailene Woodley does franchise movies and dramas. It's like, that's not part of the plan; it's just what happened."
Though Kendrick isn't one to let her previous roles dictate what she chooses to do next, the people with whom she's worked certainly have an effect on her decisions. "I always want to make time in my life to make movies with Joe Swanberg because I trust him more than most family members," she said of the writer and director of Drinking Buddies and Happy Christmas. "Jeff Blitz, who directed me in Rocket Science — which basically was the break before the break — we're going to make a movie this year that we are going to be squeezing in between The Accountant and Pitch Perfect 2 press."
Hence how insanely busy Kendrick is right now. "There was a point where my agent was like, 'You know you don't have to do this,'" she said. "But I've wanted to make another movie with Jeff for 10 years, and if I didn't do it, I would regret it forever."
The benefit that comes from repeatedly working with the same creative teams also means Kendrick knows her character is in capable hands. "Sometimes women in film have to save the cat too many times," she said of the flat women she's passed on playing. "I am interested in women who are actually a little unlikable."
The lack of compelling roles for women in film is certainly no secret. Reese Witherspoon said she began a production company because she "started seeing this complete lack of interesting female leads in film." And in her recent Golden Globe acceptance speech when she won for Still Alice, Julianne Moore said that "no one [in Hollywood] wanted to see a movie about a middle-aged woman."
"Even Meryl," Kendrick said, referring to Streep, her Into the Woods co-star, isn't exempt. "People asked her why she took this role, and she would always make jokes about the flood of scripts coming in for women in their sixties. You sort of laugh at that because you think she's kidding, but if it's true for everyone, then it's true for her too."
"There is a paucity of good roles for women and there is a surplus of fantastically, unbelievably talented and gorgeous women," Kendrick continued. "I celebrate those women and yet have to professionally loathe how freakin' fantastic they are because we're all fighting for the same great roles. When something really good comes along, the whole community knows it ... You always have to fight for the good roles."
With The Last Five Years, however, that wasn't the case. "They asked who might be good for Cathy, my name got brought up, they offered it to me, and I said yes. Like, it all happened in a week," she remembered, adding that the head of CAA's theater department called it "the fastest deal he's ever made."
It's clear that after six years of working nonstop, Kendrick is now in a different class, whether she realizes it or not. "What's meant to be is meant to be," she said modestly. "But sometimes things fall in your lap and it's a blessing."