Anna Kendrick has become one of the most well-liked and highly appreciated actors in Hollywood: between her hilarious, self-deprecating Twitter feed and her ever-increasing list of movie credits, Kendrick is both working hard and working her way into peoples’ hearts.
While the movie-going public knows her primarily for her roles in Twilight, Up in the Air, and the Pitch Perfect franchise, Kendrick has an impressive backstory. Born and raised in Portland, Maine, Kendrick began her acting career as a child performing in community theater. She went on to commute between Portland and New York City while she was on Broadway, and is now known for her incredible voice and impressive work ethic in the midst of the usual Hollywood antics.
From her childhood in Portland to her time on Broadway, and then on to her life as a Hollywood starlet, Kendrick’s trajectory involves some incredible stories and fascinating facts, which led to an stunning transformation through the years.
She started out in community theater
While the public primarily knows Kendrick for her roles in the Twilight and Pitch Perfect movies, she actually began her acting career at age 6. As she writes in her autobiography, Scrappy Little Nobody, she was raised in her hometown of Portland, Maine, and her dance teacher suggested that she try out for the local community theater’s production of Annie. Kendrick landed her first role as Tessie, and this started Kendrick on a path that changed her life.
Once she got her start on the stage, she knew it was the right place for her: "Doing the show [Annie] was the best," she writes. "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!" Her role in Annie led to a subsequent role in the Maine State Musical Theater’s production of Gypsy, where she played Baby June.
She began auditioning in New York at age 10
After earning her stripes in community theater, she went on to audition for commercials when she was only 10 years old. "At ten, I stood in a modest office in Manhattan and sang "Tomorrow" from Annie," she writes in her autobiography. "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. I didn’t sound like a dying cat."
However, it soon became clear that commercials weren’t the right fit for her. After months of commercial auditions, Kendrick’s agent decided that she should only audition for theater roles — a decision that, as Kendrick notes, made her much happier. The thing that made her happiest about this turn of events? "Professional auditions were in New York," she writes, "which meant that one of my parents had to take time off work, drive me six hours into the city for an audition that usually lasted ten minutes, and then drive me six hours back." Talk about dedication!
She landed a role on Broadway at age 12
Eventually, at age 12 — and after many bus trips between Maine and New York City for auditions, which were eventually supervised by her 14-year-old brother — she wound up being cast as Dinah Lord in the Broadway production of High Society. However, as she writes in Scrappy Little Nobody, wasn’t as glamorous as it sounds. The producers gave Kendrick and her father, who was living with her in New York during the course of the show, a modest per diem to keep them afloat — but when the show was over, she only walked away with $250 in cash.
Nonetheless, as she also notes in her autobiography, "It wasn’t a financial win, but the experience was incredible." The show’s cast treated her wonderfully, she notes, giving her encouragement, good advice, and help whenever she needed it — and they even sped up the tempo of the last show before her less-than-48-hour break, just so she and her dad could beat the traffic on their drive home to Maine. Her performance also earned her a nomination for a Tony Award, which is quite an accomplishment for a 12-year-old!
Her first movie role was in an independent film
At 17, Kendrick made her first foray into film, acting in the role of Fritzi Wagner in the independent film Camp. The movie, which centers on a musical theater summer camp, features Kendrick as a nerdy, scheming character who tries desperately to earn the affection of the camp’s cool girl and queen bee, Jill.
"My character in Camp is lonely, isolated, dark," she explained in an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air. "She is in love with the very blond, very popular girl at camp. And she becomes something of a servant to her, really. But that’s fine with Fritzi, my character, because she’s sort of ambiguously in love with her. And nobody really likes Fritzi, but then she gets the last laugh."
Spoiler alert: after being rebuffed and bullied by Jill, Kendrick’s character eventually gets her revenge by putting Woolite in Jill’s Snapple and, when Jill becomes sick to her stomach, quickly taking her place in the camp’s final performance.
Twilight was her big break
Five years after her role in Camp, she landed the role that started helping her bring home the bacon: playing Jessica Stanley in the Twilight saga. Writing in Scrappy Little Nobody that the role allowed her to have "all of the fun with none of the consequences," she explained that playing the role of Jessica offered her the best of both worlds because she got to participate in one of the most popular franchises in years, but only had to be on set for a few weeks per movie.
It also brought her into the big-ticket Hollywood universe without, as she describes, "saddling me with the creepy super-fame." While other Twilight stars like Kristin Stewart and Robert Pattinson couldn’t so much as sneeze without the paparazzi noticing, she escaped that particular brand of madness, while still earning a decent paycheck. "The series kept me in room and board while I did [independent] movies for no money," she wrote. "It was like the world’s most ridiculous day job."
Pitch Perfect changed everything for her
After filming Pitch Perfect 2 — which, according to Variety, grossed $287 million and is the highest-earning musical comedy film in history — followed by Pitch Perfect 3, Kendrick has been open about missing the series now that it’s done. "We went to dinner after the last night of filming, and I was all drunk and emotional," she said in an interview with Elle.
While the cast became good friends during the first two movies (co-star Brittany Snow told People that the cast members are "on a massive text chain with each other. … We all really love and support each other") Kendrick explained that they got particularly close while filming the third installment. "I just feel so proud," she said during her interview with Elle. "It’s such a diverse group. I think I didn’t fully appreciate until the third one how rare it is to work with ten women from such different backgrounds. We’re close in age, but we have such different points of view and such different senses of humor. I feel very lucky."
Pitch Perfect was was originally a low-budget film
Pitch Perfect, which is arguably Kendrick’s most prominent and popular movie, was originally a low-budget film. As the Hollywood Reporter notes, the 2012 surprise hit was produced for $17 million — which, by Hollywood standards, isn’t terribly high-budget. While it grossed a fairly middle-of-the-road $113 million in the box office worldwide, it really hit its stride outside the theater: once it was available for video-on-demand, iTunes, and other platforms, it grossed another $103 million. "The weird thing is it happened so slowly," Kendrick told Glamour UK.
The soundtrack became its own force of nature, going platinum — and, if that weren’t enough, a full year after the movie was released, Kendrick’s song "Cups" reached number one on Billboard’s adult contemporary chart and went on to be certified triple-platinum. "It completely surprised me, especially considering we didn’t promote the song at all," she said in an interview with Parade. "When it was in the Top 10 Billboard chart, I was on the charts with, like, Macklemore and Miley Cyrus at the time. They must have been like, ‘What is this dumb song?’"
George Clooney had a massive impact on her when he said this
After Twilight, she was cast as Natalie Keener in Up in the Air with George Clooney. Kendrick told Time Out UK that it was her first time playing a character her own age. "I’ve played high-school kids my whole life, this time I felt like I was sitting at the grown-ups’ table," she said. She loved playing the role of a strong, well-rounded woman who wasn’t sexualized or used as a romantic prop for Clooney’s character. Instead, she said, "[Natalie] tries to be one of the boys. … Her way of doing that is to take the hardest job going, just to prove she can do it."
She was also super nervous about working with Clooney, but he helped her relax by admitting that he gets nervous too. She discussed her nerves on the WTF with Marc Maron podcast (via Vanity Fair), saying that when Clooney said he gets nervous, "It was the smallest thing, but it, like, opened up my world. … 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!"
She still doesn’t feel like a grown-up
"There are times when I still feel like an actual toddler in a grown-up — well, semi-grown-up — body," she explained to Glamour in 2015, just before her 30th birthday. "I feel I’m masquerading as an adult when I don’t have the kind of friendships and routines that I thought you were supposed to have as an adult. It’s the ‘Friends lied to me!’ syndrome."
In fact, her feeling of not being on top of life as an adult was part of what led to her decision to write Scrappy Little Nobody. "I think there’s something that happens in my brain, and I hope I’m not alone in this, where I feel like everybody but me is a grown-up," she told Vogue in 2016. And, as she explained, the driving force behind the book was not only to entertain, but to connect with others and help them feel less alone. "My goals for this book were to make people laugh, to feel connected to people, and maybe get people to feel more connected to me," she said. You’re definitely not alone in this, Anna — we suspect many women can relate!
She broke up with a guy because he wouldn’t stop tickling her
Anna Kendrick told Elle that she used have a hard time telling people how she felt. "I thought, ‘Those aren’t facts. I can’t make an argument based on my feelings.’" She eventually had a realization that it’s not about arguing, but rather recognizing your own individual needs.
In fact, she put this into practice when a guy she was dating refused to stop tickling her, even though she had asked him to stop. She told Elle, "I said, ‘I know that’s cute and that people do it, but I really don’t like being tickled. It really makes me feel trapped and panicked. I know it’s silly and funny for most people, but I really hate it, so could you please not?’"
He didn’t take her request seriously, and he kept trying to tickle her — so, despite some concern that she might wind up being labeled "the crazy girl," she broke up with him. "I just had to go, ‘No, I broke up with you because I told you something was important to me, and you didn’t respect that,’" she said.
She’s a huge fan of funky socks
A devotee of fun, cute printed underwear and socks, as she approached her 30th birthday, she told told Cosmopolitan.com that she’d become a bit worried that once she passed the big 3-0, she might not be able to keep rocking her favorite funky socks — and would instead have to start wearing very grown-up, very serious black socks. "But no," she said with relief.
"I’ve got this really crazy thing where I feel like if I had all black socks, I would not put the sock with its original pair and I’d be able to feel how much I’d worn them," she explained. "That has happened to me before… it bothered me so much that I was like, I’m going to get all printed socks so they’re always with the original pair." In fact, she explained to Cosmo, her favorite pair of socks features two halves of a Boxer puppy’s face — and if that’s not endearing, we don’t know what is.