Interview: Co-Star Anna Kendrick on Playing a Terrible Teenager and More for ParaNorman
This Friday, August 17th, a new lovable horror hero by the name of ParaNorman (review) will be arriving in theaters everywhere, and to help get you ready, Dread Central recently chatted with co-star Anna Kendrick about her role in the film.
During the roundtable interview Kendrick discussed her experiences for her first-ever voiceover role, making a fool of herself to play Norman's overbearing older sister, Courtney, and collaborating with the directing team of Chris Butler and Sam Fell. Check out the highlights below, and look for more on ParaNorman all this week!
Question: So how much fun was it playing this dominating, older sister role?
Anna Kendrick: Yeah, this was a great first experience doing something like this. To play someone so volatile, sort of a force of nature, in the way that only a pink sweat festooned teenager can be. It was great to go into the recording studio and just make a fool of myself. I think it's a huge undertaking to play someone like Norman (for Kodi Smit-McPhee) and to have to carry the emotional story of the movie. It was great to just come in and act like a complete ass and have that be my job for a little while.
Question: Were you nervous at all?
Anna Kendrick: Yeah, I was definitely nervous going into it. I've always wanted to do it, I always wanted to try it, but I'd never done it before. And since they just offered it to me, I didn't audition. I was worried I was going to show up and they were going to be like, "Oh, you don't know what you're doing. You're bad at this." I think that kind of fear just makes you work harder. It was probably a good attitude to have going into it.
Question: For the sessions were you by yourself?
Anna Kendrick: No, my first session was actually with Casey Affleck, which was great because we were starting out together, being kind of nervous and kind of learning the process together. But by the end of the day, we were feeling kind of competitive with each other. So we were doing all of the vocalizations by the end of the day, the kind of grunting and screaming, and it felt like, "I can make a fool of myself; what have you got?" It became the stupidest looking competition. (laughs)
Question: Have you seen the film? Do you see yourself in the character? Like in facial expressions or anything like that.
Anna Kendrick: Well, weirdly her features are so different from mine that it's hard to see my own expressions, but the animators have told me that it's a lot of my own expressions. But I see it a lot in the body language. I was doing a lot of hip and shoulder movement. I was so tired that I couldn't…it was like I was being crushed under the weight of my own body. I love that she has nothing to worry about but she's so world weary. The zombies haven't even come yet, and she thinks that her life is so hard. I see some of that in the animation, which makes me happy.
Question: Were you physically acting while doing the voice acting?
Anna Kendrick: In a weird way you are because you're trying to use your body in service of getting something across, knowing that you're only going to have your voice. It creates this funny thing where it's this contained space and you're trying to physically feel like you're running or you're screaming or you're going down a hill in a car that's crashing. So I ended up doing all these weird, spasm-y movements. And Casey (Affleck) was saying that with the camera they were using, they needed a second one for my knees and feet cause I was doing a lot of "knee acting."
So yeah, a lot of physical stuff is going on, but it's easier to do that because you know that it's not going in a movie. I was doing a lot of stuff with my body and face that I wouldn't ever do on screen because it would be humiliating.
Question: Can you talk a little bit about working with Chris (Butler) and Sam (Fell)? How did they help guide you through this process?
Anna Kendrick: They were just cool and great. It didn't feel any different from making a regular film, weirdly. The great thing was having that kind of limited reaction time, where they could just come over the speaker and give me a direction and I could just spit it right back to them. If they liked it, they'd say so or they could give me direction and I could respond to that like we were having a conversation; instead of film sets where you kind of decide on an idea and you try it and 10 minutes later when all the lights are adjusted, you can actually find out if that's what they wanted or not.
Question: What made you say yes to this particular project?
Anna Kendrick: I'll admit that I was super excited to be asked to be in an animated film. There was a really great moment when I was reading the script and realized that all these kids were going to be going on this adventure and that the adults were not going to be a part of it. When I started reading the script, I didn't know if it was going to be Norman on his own or if it was going to be the whole town. I love those movies where it seems like kids band together and they have this contained adventure where the adults don't even know what's going on but they know how high the stakes are. That was my favorite thing as a kid, like The Goonies. This would be one of my favorite movies if I was a kid.
Question: One of the themes of this film is what is normal and what is different. How about you? What do you think isn't normal; what do you think is "different"?
Anna Kendrick: Sometimes I feel like I must live in such a strange bubble because I do spend a lot of time around people who are movie people, whether that means that they're in movies or they're into movies. So when I meet someone who's not really geeky about movies, I always sort of think, "Okay, what are you really geeky about?" And if they don't have a thing, I don't really know how to relate to them. I don't really know what "normal" is for me because at this point normal is a little neurotic and weird.
Question: Did you base Courtney on anybody that you know or any stereotypes?
Anna Kendrick: I guess Courtney is like the worst version of myself. When you're a teenage girl and you fight with your mom and it's awful and you're like the shittiest human being possible during those years. And you're kind of okay to other people, but you're so mean to your mom. So I guess Courtney is like my shameful revisiting of my worst arguments with my mom. Where she hasn't done anything wrong, and you're like, "You're the worst!"
Question: Your character is related to Norman, he's your little brother, you care about him, but at the same time you're this mean person. So do you have brothers?
Anna Kendrick: I have an older brother, but our relationship mostly went from…when we were little, he kind of looked out for me, and then I went through a phase where I just worshiped everything he did and he thought I was annoying. Then we went through a phase where I thought he was an idiot and I thought I was more mature than he was. Now we're kind of back at that place where he looks out for me. So I never really had the thing of finding a sibling really embarrassing, but I'm sure my brother had that with me. Maybe that's what I'm channeling, I don't know.
Question: With the Academy Award nomination [for Up in the Air], what kind of doors opened for you?
Anna Kendrick: I never know what to say to that question. It was funny because after Up in the Air people just wanted me to play that same part in their movie. Just do the same thing but for them. And I thought that was really strange because it's supposed to be this really creative industry. When people ask me that question, I'm like, "I don't know." It opened the door for me to play that part again and again and again.
I feel like I had to fight just as hard to get people to see me in a different way. Even in 50/50, that character is really different, is really vulnerable and open and excited to help people. But people would be like, "So you're basically playing the same part you played in Up in the Air?" so I think they just chose to see me that way.
So it's been interesting, and I feel like I've been getting away from that more. It was almost like people needed a little bit of time to see me in a different way. Or just time away from that movie, like being fresh in their minds and just thinking of me as an actress who did a good job in one movie and not just that one character. It's been a weird rippling effect. At first it was really strange because the thing that happened was everybody wanted me to play that character.
Question: So what else do you have coming up? You made reference to something earlier.
Anna Kendrick: That's called Get a Job.
Question: And do you have anything else coming up?
Anna Kendrick: End of Watch, Pitch Perfect, Get a Job, Drinking Buddies, The Company You Keep…I don't know. I'm tired, guys; fuckin' tired. (laughs)
ParaNorman is directed by Sam Fell (The Tale of Despereaux, Flushed Away) and Chris Butler (Coraline, The Corpse Bride) from Butler's original screenplay.
A small town comes under siege by zombies. Who can it call? Only misunderstood local boy Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee), who is able to speak with the dead. In addition to the zombies, he'll have to take on ghosts, witches, and worst of all, moronic grown-ups to save his town from a centuries-old curse. But this young ghoul whisperer may find his paranormal activities pushed to their otherworldly limits.
The voice cast includes Academy Award nominee Casey Affleck (The Killer Inside Me), Tempestt Bledsoe ("The Cosby Show"), Jeff Garlin (Toy Story 3), John Goodman (Red State, Matinee, Monsters, Inc.), Bernard Hill (Titanic), Academy Award nominee Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air), Leslie Mann (Rio), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Fright Night 3D, How to Train Your Dragon), Kodi Smit-McPhee (Let Me In), Tony and Emmy Award winner Elaine Stritch ("30 Rock"), Tucker Albrizzi (Good Luck Charlie), Alex Borstein ("Family Guy"), and Jodelle Ferland (Case 39, Silent Hill, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse).
Got news? Click here to submit it!
Speak with the dead in the comments section below.