Anna Kendrick is perhaps best known for her break out role as the ambitious Human Resources person in Up in the Air who suggests conducting layoffs via videoconferencing to save money. Her performance opposite George Clooney created a stir at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival, and now she’s back at TIFF with a much different movie.
The Last Five Years is a musical based on Jason Robert Brown’s Off-Broadway hit of same name. It’s the story of the five-year relationship between actress Cathy and her novelist husband Jamie, played by Smash star Jeremy Jordan. It’s told from two different perspectives. Her storyline begins with the breakdown of the relationship. His starts at the beginning (it’s a very good place to start, as they say in musical theatre) as they court and eventually marry.
Kendrick, last sang on screen in Pitch Perfect and will soon be seen as Cinderella in the much anticipated movie version of Into the Woods, says the decision to sing live in front of the cameras, instead of prerecording in studio, aided her performance of the complex role.
“Doing it live was something we wanted to do whenever possible,” she says. “We didn’t want to make a point of it or be precious about it because it was equally important for us to be visually dynamic and change locations and be outside occasionally. I thought I would feel that the pre-recorded days would be a breeze, but it was so much easier to act the songs live because you weren’t retroactively going, ‘Oh yeah, that’s how I was playing that in the recording booth four weeks ago.’ So doing it live was a physical challenge, because, you know, it’s your voice, but it was so much easier to be present and honest and all that with singing live.”
Kendrick plays a struggling actress and in one memorable scene details the pain of auditioning for roles. In the Climbing Uphill sequence she sings, “I’m up ev’ry morning at six, And standing in line, With two hundred girls who are younger and thinner than me.” It;’s a feeling Kendrick says she knows well.
“It’s a competitive business by nature,” she says. “I know that room and that line of two hundred girls. I didn’t have to dig all that deep to know the anxiety and self-doubt. That was a fun thing to perform and see inside her head and talk about the indignity of not being paid attention to when you are trying to perform for somebody.”
Even though she is a Tony nominee for her work on Broadway in High Society and has starred in high profile films like Twilight and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World she says she still auditions.
“If there is something really incredible everybody wants it so I audition,” she says. I see friends of mine and we’re all in business suits and then at the next one we’re all in leather jackets. I’m like, ‘Yeah, this is so embarrassing.’ But that is the grind.”