In 2008 Anna Kendrick landed her breakout role in the Twilight Saga movie series, and the Oscar-nominated actress has regularly graced our screens ever since. But as with many of her fellow stars, Kendrick had to pay her dues before eventually finding success. And her journey to the top is truly inspiring.
Nowadays, Kendrick is known for her versatility; she’s an actress, a singer and even a writer, having penned her own autobiography, Scrappy Little Nobody, in 2016. And she showed off some of those skills in 2018, when she starred alongside Blake Lively in comedy-thriller A Simple Favor. In that movie, we see her nail not only the light, humorous moments for which she’s become renowned, but also tensely thrilling ones, too.
By that point, moreover, Kendrick had already proved herself to be a comedic powerhouse. Mostly notably, she honed her talent through the smash hit Pitch Perfect, which sees her character, Beca Mitchell, join the ranks of competitive college a cappella group The Barden Bellas. And the actress impressed critics with both her vocals and her sharp one-liners.
And as it happens, Pitch Perfect established Kendrick as a huge box-office draw. With a budget of $17 million, the movie – which also stars Brittany Snow and Rebel Wilson – ended up raking in nearly $100 million over that amount. What’s more, Pitch Perfect 2 was an even bigger hitter, pulling in as much in the first five days of its release as its prequel made overall. In fact, it’s the highest-earning comedy musical ever made.
Yet while Kendrick is certainly appreciated for her on-screen prowess, she’s also amassed a devoted following thanks to her off-camera persona. As The Guardian’s Sanjiv Bhattacharya described her in 2016, “She’s affable, down to earth, one of the girls.” Not only that, but she also apparently “drives a pre-owned Prius… she does her own shopping… and she flies economy.” Why, then, has the star remained so seemingly grounded in the face of fame?
Well, Kendrick’s reputation as somewhat being “normal” for a celebrity can perhaps be traced back to her humble beginnings. Born in Portland, Maine, in 1985, she was raised by an accountant mother and a dad who taught history. At just six years old, however, Kendrick had her first foray into acting. And according to the star’s autobiography, it had been her childhood dance teacher who had encouraged her to audition for a local theater production of the musical Annie.
Kendrick recalled her artistic beginnings, too, when speaking to pop-culture site FanBolt in 2015. “I danced when I was a little kid and sang all of the time, too, and I was just one of those kids [who] wanted to perform and wanted to be on stage. And when you’re six, you just want to jump around,” she said.
Perhaps, then, it was Kendrick’s affinity for performing from such a young age that helped her nab the role of Tessie in Annie, thus setting her on the career path she’d follow into adulthood. “Doing the show [Annie] was the best,” Kendrick added in her memoir. “Being tiny was a good thing; being loud was a good thing. In everything else I’d done in my six years on earth, I’d been told I had too much energy. But here, I had somewhere to channel it all.”
Then, after that, Kendrick leapt from local productions to statewide shows, with a role as Baby June in the the Maine State Musical Theater’s version of Gypsy. And by the time she was ten, Kendrick had taken her hobby to yet another level; specifically, she was trekking back and forth between Portland and New York City for TV commercial auditions. The little actress appeared to have more than her fair share of confidence, too.
“At ten, I stood in a modest office in Manhattan and sang ‘Tomorrow’ from Annie,” Kendrick said in her book. “At that age, I didn’t have a big resume, and I wasn’t expected to… I had a big voice that stood in exponential contrast to my size. I could learn a melody, [and] I didn’t sound like a dying cat.”
As it turned out, though, commercials weren’t right for Kendrick. With that in mind, then, her agent made the decision to switch gears and send the ten-year-old exclusively to theater castings. And as Kendrick has recalled in her book, she was elated by the change – not least because it meant that she frequently got to travel to New York City for try-outs.
Interestingly, however, Kendrick’s enthusiasm for Broadway didn’t necessarily come from personal experience. Indeed, at that point, she had never seen a show that had directly inspired her to jump up on stage. “It wasn’t as though I went to New York and saw a Broadway show and thought, ‘That’s what I wanted to do,’” she told FanBolt. “It was more of an idea – just the idea of being on stage in front of real theater fans.”
And Kendrick’s dream came to fruition in 1998, when she appeared in a Broadway musical. Furthermore, as Dinah Lord in High Society, she made a big impression on theatergoers and critics alike. At just 12 years old, in fact, Kendrick was nominated for a Tony Award; she also bagged a Theater World Award and earned a Drama Desk Awards nod for her supporting role.
Plus, although High Society didn’t exactly line Kendrick’s pockets – she earned just $250 for her time – the preteen nevertheless took a lot away from the Broadway production. “It wasn’t a financial win, but the experience was incredible,” she has recalled in Scrappy Little Nobody.
After that, Kendrick made the leap from the stage to the screen with a role in 2003 musical comedy Camp. And the then-17-year-old’s performance as Fritzi Wagner – a nerd seeking the approval of her summer camp’s most popular girl – ultimately earned her an Independent Spirit Awards nomination.
What’s more, Kendrick’s film debut in Camp gave her the chance to meet one of her idols: Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim, who makes a brief appearance in the movie. The eight-time Tony Award winner actually remembered his first interaction with Kendrick, too, when she was working on his Broadway musical A Little Night Music. And needless to say, the moment gave her a much-needed boost of confidence.
“I did A Little Night Music on Broadway, and I was feeling intimidated,” Kendrick told Biography in 2016. “That’s a big show, a difficult show, and you’re doing it in Sondheim’s backyard – on the Broadway stage. But Sondheim came up to me on the first day of rehearsals – in front of the whole cast. And he said, ‘Hello, it’s so nice to see you again.’”
“I don’t think I’ve ever felt cooler in my entire life than I did in that moment,” Kendrick continued. “I was 17 and terrified, [and] I had just moved to New York by myself.” She added, “I was surrounded by these incredible actors, and it was, like, ‘Yeah, Sondheim knows me – just so you’re all aware.’”
Eventually, though, Kendrick was ready to make another big move on her own – one that would prove to be career-changing. After leaving New York behind for Hollywood, you see, she landed a part in a TV series’ pilot episode. Yet although the show never came to fruition, it did provide the actress with some welcome breathing room. “[The job] gave me enough money to stay in LA and keep auditioning for better jobs… I’ve always been really lucky. It’s strange,” she later told Biography.
But Kendrick’s luck didn’t end there, of course. In fact, one of the first roles that she landed after touching down in LA ended up producing the big break that the actress had been hoping for. Specifically, she nabbed the part of Jessica Stanley in 2008 phenomenon Twilight. That movie – which is based on the book of the same title by Stephenie Meyer – was a box-office sensation, too, raking in nearly $400 million internationally. And while the vampire romance isn’t necessarily considered an acclaimed piece of cinema, it was nevertheless an invaluable opportunity for Kendrick.
You see, Kendrick’s paychecks for the Twilight movies – in which she appears in four out of five of the series – gave her the freedom to take on other projects that came with smaller cash rewards. “The series kept me in room and board while I did other movies for no money. It was like the world’s most ridiculous day job,” she revealed in her autobiography.
And on top of that, Kendrick’s supporting role in The Twilight Saga meant that she got her foot in the door in Hollywood. She achieved this, moreover, while largely avoiding the intense media scrutiny to which a number of her co-stars fell victim. She’s grateful, in fact, not to have reached the same level of “creepy super-fame” during that time as the franchise’s leads, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson.
One of the opportunities that came Kendrick’s way as a result of Twlight, for example, was the chance to star alongside George Clooney. Yes, just a year after the release of the series’ first movie, she appeared in dramedy Up in the Air. There, her character, twentysomething Natalie Keener, joins forces with Ryan Bingham – played by Clooney – to lay off companies’ employees. And acclaim duly came the actress’ way; Rolling Stone, for example, called her “a revelation” in her role.
It’s worth noting, too, that the part felt particularly special to Kendrick. Speaking to Time Out in 2009 about Up in the Air, she explained, “I’ve played high school kids my whole life. This time, I felt like I was sitting at the grown-ups’ table.” Plus, of course, she got to work with Hollywood legend Clooney. But while acting alongside such a bona fide big name could very well have made Kendrick anxious, the veteran star had a simple way of helping her feel comfortable on set.
During a 2014 interview on podcast WTF with Marc Maron, Kendrick revealed, in fact, that Clooney had made a confession during filming. Specifically, he admitted that he, too, gets nervous sometimes. And this revelation made a real impact on the actress, it seems. “It was the smallest thing, but it, like, opened up my world,” Kendrick said. “Just a couple of words from [Clooney], and you’re like, ‘Oh, my God, he’s a person! I’m a person. We’re the same!”
In addition, once awards season rolled around, Kendrick would find another thing in common with her co-star. She and Clooney both earned themselves Oscar nominations for Up in the Air as well as nods at the Golden Globe Awards, the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the BAFTAs.
And Kendrick’s career continued to take off after Up in the Air. Between 2009 and 2011, for instance, she reprised her role as Jessica Stanley in three more Twilight installments. During that period, she also appeared in 2010 cult classic Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and 2011 dramedy 50/50. And in 2012 she could be seen in pregnancy-centric ensemble flick What to Expect When You’re Expecting.
Then, of course, Kendrick starred in Pitch Perfect – the first of the three-part series that truly launched her to superstardom. And when Pitch Perfect 3, the last movie of the musical franchise, hit movie theaters in 2017, Kendrick reflected on her experience of portraying Beca Mitchell when speaking to Elle.
“I just feel so proud,” Kendrick told the magazine. She also admitted that she and the rest of the Pitch Perfect cast wished the series didn’t have to come to an end, adding, “There’s definitely part of all of us that’s like, ‘We will do more,’ in tiny whisper voices.” No matter what the future holds, though, Kendrick seems to have cherished her time in the franchise.
And it also appears that Kendrick hopes to continue taking on roles that represent multifaceted women. “I’m definitely drawn to strong, female characters, but those characters wouldn’t be interesting or real if they didn’t have vulnerable sides, too,” she told Biography, adding that she connects with “characters who feel a little bit lost.”
Kendrick went on, “Maybe the interesting part of that job would be finding that character’s strength. That would, no doubt, be a reflection of what I’m going through in my life right now.” And thanks to her down-to-earth approach to life and the hard work that has brought her success, she presumably has plenty of strength to tap into as an actress.
Still, with all Kendrick’s success, she makes sure to step back and reevaluate from time to time. “It’s interesting to be in a place where I’m doing exactly what I want to do, and it’s all going better than I could have ever dreamed. And now I have to look at all of these other aspects of my life and figure out what it is I really want,” she said.
For instance, post-Pitch Perfect 3, Kendrick has only accepted a handful of roles. Perhaps, then, this suggests that the actress is now more discerning when it comes to the opportunities that are presented to her. In 2018, in fact, she only had one movie in theaters: the aforementioned A Simple Favor.
And, incidentally, it seems that A Simple Favor was a perfect opportunity for Kendrick. In 2018, moreover, the movie’s director, Paul Feig, told the Los Angeles Times that she had been the first woman envisioned to play the part of Stephanie. “[Stephanie] is a very hard role, because you need a great actress who’s great with comedy but who can [also] bring all these shades to it,” Feig explained.
But Kendrick proved that she was up for the challenge. And in accepting the role of Stephanie, she successfully continued her quest to play complex, real characters. According to Feig, too, it was important that the part was portrayed in a multifaceted manner. He added to the Los Angeles Times, “A movie like [A Simple Favor] can spin off the rails so fast if you don’t have people who face even the craziest stuff [by] finding the reality in it.”
Presumably, then, Kendrick will show similar skill in the four movies that she has in the pipeline as of early 2019. First up is Christopher Morris’ comedy thriller The Day Shall Come. Kendrick plays an FBI agent in the film, which ridicules the bureau’s undercover operations.
Next, Kendrick takes the lead in Noelle, which is also set to hit theaters in 2019. She stars as the titular character, Noelle Claus, who just so happens to be the daughter of Santa. Shirley MacLaine, Bill Hader and Billy Eichner are also part of the holiday-themed flick.
And Kendrick also has plans to lend her voice to a second installment of the animated movie series Trolls, which is lined up for a 2020 release. It’s fair to say, then, that the next few years look set to be busy for the star. Still, even if Kendrick’s career appears to be going from strength to strength, the actress herself remains humble.
In fact, when speaking to Biography, Kendrick said, “The world is everyone’s for the asking and the taking. I don’t have anything up on anybody.” But the Twilight star’s talent and versatility is undeniable, and her future certainly looks bright – wherever she finds herself. In fact, her next move may well see her stepping away from the big screen.
Kendrick told FanBolt, for example, “I want to do [stage] again. It just gets scarier the more time you spend away from it. But also I love film. I love the medium, and I’m having fun doing it.” And in true Kendrick fashion, she concluded that she’d make sure to find the right projects to further her career – just as she has done since childhood. “I’ll figure it out,” she explained.