5 things we learned from Anna Kendrick about ‘The Last 5 Years’ (and ‘Into the Woods’)

TORONTO – Anna Kendrick is giving me a look that says, “We are so not doing that again.”

For the second time in two weeks, I”ve now stood up from an interview and mistakenly deleted the audio file.* Unlike Jon Stewart in Telluride, however, I have now mentioned this to Kendrick in some bizarre attempt for sympathy (or, perhaps, trying to laugh it off to myself). In any event, she needn”t have worried. She”s got a busy day ahead of her without me in the mix and this is where those veteran reporter skills come in handy now and then. A mad dash to the next venue and you jot down as much as you can remember. In this case, sadly, without the funny quotes.

*Not sure if Apple updated the program on the iPhone, but I”m 100% considering going back to old school recorders. More annoying to transcribe, but safer, at least. Either that or I need a serious intervention.

Directed by Richard LaGravenese and based on Robert Brown”s popular Off-Broadway musical, “The Last 5 Years” follows a couple over the life of a relationship that wasn”t meant to last. Kendrick plays Cathy, a struggling musical theater actress while her husband Jamie (Jeremy Jordan) is an increasingly successful novelist. The movie has very little dialogue and features 14 songs that tell the story from both Jamie and Cathy”s perspectives.  

Kendrick, who avoided talking about the upcoming “Pitch Perfect 2” even when asked about it in a larger context of her upcoming slate, is no stranger to singing for a living, having earned a Tony nomination at the age of 12 for “High Society.” And as the next year will prove, she”s seemingly unfazed by appearing in three musical movies (something many actors wouldn”t dream of doing for fear of being typecast). Before “The Last 5 Years” hits theaters on Valentine”s Day, Kendrick will appear in Rob Marshall”s adaptation of Stephen Sondheim”s “Into the Woods” and, as noted, will reprise her role as Beca in “Pitch Perfect 2” next May.

With that in mind, here are five quick takeaways from our chat with the “Up in the Air” Oscar nominee.

Singing in “The Last 5 years” vs. “Into the Woods?”
It wasn”t easy doing so many takes in a row (that”s what the vocal coach helped with), but beyond two songs that had to be pre-recorded because of where the scenes were shot, Kendrick would prefer singing live any day. She added that they mostly sang pre-recorded on “Woods” because “it”s hard to sing when you have a corset on.”

Meryl + Tracy + Christine = heaven
Kendrick says her favorite memory of shooting “Woods” was a cast dinner before production began. She says she just was in awe of legends Meryl Streep (The Witch), Tracey Ullman (Jack's Mother) and Christine Baranski (Cinderella's Stepmother) strategizing on how to handle certain scenes. (We would have loved to have been in on that conversation, too.)

You can improv in a movie musical.
It”s hard to believe there is room for improv in a movie musical with so little dialogue outside the songs, but Jordan and Kendrick had the greenlight from LaGravenese. There is a serious argument that is completely improvised and Kendrick might have thrown in a little zinger regarding someone who probably shouldn”t have been singing in “Les Misérables.”

Huge fan of “Parade.”
One of the reasons Kendrick was so enthused to jump on board “5 Years” is because the musical”s creator, Robert Brown, also wrote the score for “Parade,” one of her favorite musicals.

Her favorite number was…
Kendrick says her favorite number to shoot (not necessarily to sing, two different things) was “A Summer in Ohio” because it was the most “traditional” of all the scenes in the movie. There”s dancing (and back-up dancers), and it”s one of the more fun numbers in the movie.

“The Last 5 Years” will open on Valentine”s Day.