There are few actresses these days that inspire more goodwill than Anna Kendrick. The pint-sized pitch-slapper is currently toplining a beloved franchise as the de facto leader of The Barden Bellas in the Pitch Perfect films, earned a Billboard-charting hit for song “Cups (When I’m Gone),” and is about to star as a classic character in one of the most hotly-anticipated films this holiday season.
That film is Into the Woods. Directed by Rob Marshall, it’s a blockbuster adaptation of the Tony Award-winning Sondheim musical of the same name that sees several of your favorite Grimm fairy tales crossover, and explores what happens after “happily ever after.” Into the Woods centers on a baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt), who have a curse placed on them by a vengeful witch (Meryl Streep). In order to break the spell and bear children, they must collect four items from the mysterious woods. Along the way, they cross paths with Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk, and last but not least, Cinderella, played by Kendrick.
The Daily Beast spoke with the lovely actress about the holiday movie, in theaters Christmas Day, and much more.
This was supposed to be an End of Watch reunion, with Jake Gyllenhaal playing one of the princes.
I know! I was so pissed at Jake, let me tell you. I texted him and said, “You’re abandoning me, and I’m never going to forgive you!” And then I saw the trailer to Nightcrawler and texted him again and said, “Wow, you inspire me every day.” But Billy [Magnussen] is really fantastic.
Did you grow up as a big fan of the Disney flicks?
Sure, but I was more of a musical theater geek than a Disney fan. I did High Society on Broadway when I was 12. I was a little freak. All kid’s sing, and I think it’s the ones who are told not to shut up who keep doing it. I just thought singing was really fun. I did a production of Annie up in Portland and played one of the orphans singing, “It’s a Hard Knock Life.” And my parents just gave and gave and gave of themselves to support this insane ambition that I had when I was a little kid. They drove me to auditions from Portland into New York. I’m actually about to make that drive soon for Thanksgiving…but all I’m bringing them is pumpkin pie.
This is a more subversive take on the Disney fairy tales. In the original play, the Big Bad Wolf even had a floppy penis attached to his costume.
I know! It’s sort of like when you see The Simpsons make fun of Fox. In some ways, I was surprised to see Disney do it because it takes their classic tales and skewers them, and says it’s dangerous to tell children these stories and that it’s important to infuse pieces of reality. People talk about how there’s so much tragedy in Pixar movies and questions about whether or not it’s a children’s movie, but it’s important to show kids that that’s what happens; there’s no perfect world to escape to, and tragedy exists in every dimension. Into the Woods takes on the responsibility of saying, “Stuff happens after happily ever after.”
It also gives the female characters more agency. The Disney princesses are really, in a way, seeking validation through men. They don’t even have mothers, are raised by overwhelmed single fathers, and are basically in search of a father figure.
That’s interesting. To me, what’s interesting about this particular Cinderella story is that not only does she say, “Getting a man isn’t everything and I choose something else,” but she’s also saying, “Just because my lot in life improved a bit doesn’t mean I don’t deserve better.” She goes from being the lowest of the low in society to being a princess, and even though she knows people envy her situation, she chooses “the unknown” over the “security” of that situation. And that’s very brave.
That’s also the name of that really great theme song to Rocket Science—Clem Snide’s “I Love the Unknown.” “I Love the Unknown!” Yeah! God, I love that song. That’s so funny. But there’s something to be said about women standing up for themselves. I know there are women who stay in relationships because they’re afraid of the devil they don’t know, and for somebody who comes from a home of abuse and neglect to marry a prince and then say, “This is not good enough… I want something authentic” is very brave.
Right. The women of Into the Woods are pretty damn modern. There’s oddly been a lot of hand-wringing of late over the word “feminist,” to the point where Time even included it on a potential list of words they’d like to see “banned” in 2015.
For real? Ugh. That’s a fucking bummer. It’s hard because words confuse me sometimes. There isn’t a word for a member of an ethnic minority who is pro equal rights for all races, but there is a word for gender equality—and that’s feminism. It’s a very female-centric word. I understand that the implication is that “I’m a woman who supports women” and not “I’m a person who supports gender equality.” I feel like the word can be appropriated by the wrong people for that reason and misinterpreted by those people, but you just have to fight back and own that word. It’s practically become a curse word. Somebody says, “Oh, you’re being such a feminist,” and you’re supposed to be like, “No I’m not.” Why are we afraid of that word? It exists and we can’t get rid of it, so let’s fight for it and embrace it. That is truly a bummer.
You’ve got a very active Twitter account and there is a lot of misogyny online these days. Do you get a lot of crazy @replies?
I do get crazy shit. But I look at some of those girls who are involved in Gamergate and I think, “I don’t know how they do it. I don’t know how they handle it.” When I’m feeling bad, I look up some of the girls involved in Gamergate and I think, “You know, I feel very, very lucky and supported.” You had your photos hacked, though, which is a pretty crazy violation.
We can talk about that off the record, but I don’t want to talk about that.
Because that whole celebrity hacking episode seemed rooted in misogyny. Only young women were targeted by these presumably male hackers and had their privacy violated.
I’m happy that it seems like more people are coming around. Because it happened en masse in that way, it forced people to come around and go, “Everybody does this and victim-blaming is not helping.” Because before that, there was a lot of, “If you didn’t want naked photos of yourself on the Internet, well, you shouldn’t have taken them.” Which is total bullshit.
I know. So, the one and only good thing that came out of it is that it really shifted the conversation. Friends of mine that had taken the other attitude were like, “People should be able to do whatever they want, and it’s fucked up that that happened to them.” That’s the lone positive that came out of that whole thing.
Let’s get back to Into the Woods. Would you ever date a prince? Let’s say Prince Hot Ginge busts into this room right now and asks you out.
Well, then let’s cancel this fuckin’ interview! [Laughs] Absolutely. That’s my dream. Absolutely. A prince, or a professional athlete. I just worked with the Green Bay Packers, actually, so I’m gettin’ into that world. I’m puttin’ out feelers. Somebody just take care of me! I hate my job… somebody please just take care of me…
…Haha. I don’t think the size difference would really work with some of those Packers. You two would look like Hayden Panettiere and that huge boxer.
It’s like a fuckin’ joke! It’s a joke. You don’t see size difference like this outside of dogs. No other species has this kind of size variation. Every single one of us on Pitch Perfect 2 was going up to them and saying, “Will you pick me up? Can I get a picture of you guys holding me?”
Do you have favorite karaoke songs? I’m a big fan of “Push It” by Salt-N-Pepa.
I’m new to karaoke since I never really wanted to do it because people would be like, “Oh, Anna can sing so she should sing karaoke!” But then it’s like… what do you do? Are you just having a good time, or are you performing?
The key is drunkenness, I think.
Right! So I’d avoided it my whole life and then I did a very strange rendition of R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix)” with Jason Jones and Adam DeVine very drunk, which was the key to that one.
Got all the “toot-toots” in there.
Exactly. But I don’t know what my other karaoke songs are.
I’m also a big fan of ‘N Sync’s “It’s Gonna Be Me.”
YES. Oh yeah, that’s a great one! [sings] “You might been hurt BABE… and it ain’t no lie!” Oh, that’s when Justin was just full-fro. Yes! Rock those frosted tips!
The ramen noodle hair. Never forget. So, I saw the trailer to Pitch Perfect 2 and I’m getting a serious Mighty Ducks 2 vibe. And the baddies are basically like Team Iceland.
It totally is. Exactly! The cold, blond, unfeeling…. Totally.