The Midas touch: Anna Kendrick

The actress Anna Kendrick who co-stars with George Clooney in Up in the Air talks about suddenly finding herself in demand on all sides.

Anna Kendrick, the rising star of Up in the Air, is an old hand at awards ceremonies. She was nominated for a Tony award at the age of 12 for her turn as Dinah in the Broadway musical High Society, the third-youngest nominee ever. Now, a dozen years later, she has been nominated for the Golden Globes supporting actress honour. Having already won a slew of critics' awards for playing a management consultant employed to tell George Clooney how to do his job more efficiently, she should not be surprised if her name is pulled out of the golden envelope. Working for an outfit that specialises in downsizing companies, her character, Natalie Keener, even gets to put down Clooney's looks by telling a friend on the phone that the heartthrob is simply "too old". Nice.

Natalie spends the entire film trying to prove her value. Despite all the awards and nominations she has collected, it is an emotional state that Kendrick, now aged 24, can relate to. Sitting in a London hotel she tells me: "I feel like I have something to prove every day. I think most people feel that way even if they're successful." It's hard to feel that you're a success when every day your colleagues at work are Clooney, Vera Farmiga and the director Jason Reitman, she says. "I could relate to Natalie in that sense. She's trying to prove herself and be very grown-up. I was trying to keep up with George, Jason and Vera and prove that I was professional enough to be part of the film."

She says of her working relationship with Clooney: "It's pretty nice. I think that the relationship we have in the film - life imitates art, or art imitates life - it felt like a parental relationship. It was a very sweet working environment and I always felt like he was looking out for me, but I never thought, 'he's so dreamy'." Kendrick is obviously a quick learner, because it is she who has been winning most of the plaudits. The Midas touch has been a prominent feature of her career, as her first big venture into big-budget Hollywood movies was to take on the part of the jealous, catty Jessica Stanley in the Twilight franchise.

When they made the first Twilight film, no one really knew that it would be such a hit. The atmosphere when filming started on New Moon could not have been more different. "There are a lot more people around that don't have anything to do with the film," she says. "The Twilight fans that showed up - they might be very loud at premieres, but on set they are very respectful and the second cameras start rolling they are really quiet and co-operative. It's interesting. You have to do that theatre thing where you forget that people are there. You don't get that sense that they are there to be critical, they're there to be supportive."

Having spent most of her teenage years acting on stage, blocking out the audience comes naturally to her. She still occasionally has pangs to tread the boards again. "I've got no immediate plans but every time I see a show it makes me want to go back on stage," she says. "Film and theatre are so different. It's nice to have the immediate reaction and energy of an audience. I love what people like Jason can do with films. There's something really special about a medium you can manipulate before and after. Theatre exists for just one night but film changes so much, even after you're done shooting, and then it exists for ever and there's something spectacular about that too. I don't know which I prefer."

In 2003 Kendrick made her film debut in the musical comedy Camp, in which she played Fritzi Wagner, a shy loner who becomes a bully's slave for the summer. The part allowed her to show off her considerable prowess as a singer and dancer. The actress believes that it was the perfect part for her debut. "It was a film about musical theatre and so it was a nice transition." Others took note and she was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Debut Performance.

Playing Ginny Ryerson in Rocket Science in 2007 was Kendrick's big breakthrough. She excelled as the bright, articulate debating star who persuades a stutterer to join the debate team. Suddenly, demand for the young actress became so high that at one stage it looked as though she had taken on too much work, as the filming dates for the Twilight sequel and Up in the Air looked likely to clash. "There was a moment where I didn't know if it was going to work out," she admits. "I asked everyone to keep me out of the scheduling negotiations because I was so terrified of not being able to do Up in the Air that every daily update would send me into a frenzy."

This was especially difficult, as she confesses to being a control freak. Suddenly she was in a situation where her life was in the hands of others. Thankfully, as most things in her life seem to do, everything turned out well and she found herself flying between the sets of New Moon in Vancouver and Up in the Air in St Louis. She can now joke about it: "I guess that's what they pay make-up artists for."

Being friends with Kendrick can be beneficial at the moment, especially as she seems to be receiving a lot of unwanted gifts. "Do you need a perk when you get to work with George and Jason?" she wonders. "You get, especially with Twilight, a lot of clothes and face cream, but it's never the thing you needed or wanted, so I end up giving most of it away. My friends think I'm generous but I'm waiting for them to realise that it's because I didn't want it that I'm giving it to them."

So now she has all this success, I wonder if she has to worry about hangers-on. She says intuition helps to keep her in safe company: "I think you'd be surprised by how quickly you realise who is competitive with you and who is going to be your friend. Most of the time people are supportive of you, and those that are really friendly that are in the same business turn out to be the people who are really talented and driven. Competitiveness comes from insecurity."

The Kendrick juggernaut shows no signs of abating. She tells me, "I'm finishing Eclipse, the third Twilight. I have to go to Vancouver straight from here. They're shooting it now so they can have it ready for the summer, I imagine. There are four books - I don't think the mortal characters will be back for the fourth one. I could be wrong but as a group we suspect this will be our last chance to make trouble."

The rising star, born in Portland, Maine, is also starring in another of the most eagerly awaited films of 2010, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, the new project from Edgar Wright, the director of Shaun of the Dead. In the adaptation of the Scott Pilgrim graphic novel, she plays Michael Cera's younger sister, who turns up mostly to scold him for his life choices as a lovesick rocker. She says that the shoot had extremely long days and that Wright was very exacting in his demands.

"He knew exactly what shot he would use for every line, how he wanted your head and hand to move - especially with my role. A lot of it was shot on split screen with me being on the phone to Michael and he wanted everything to look a certain way. Michael had already shot his piece so I had to mirror the body language of a performance that had already been shot." It was a tough assignment. "I had to really study his performance quite a bit. I had to time my lines to match his timing," she says.

"It was like having a conversation with an actor off-screen and I had to listen to what had already been decided in the direction of his performance and time my lines exactly. There are plenty of takes where I either overlap or finish too early." The only real misstep that Kendrick seems to have made in her career was her recent appearance opposite Jason Schwartzman and Ben Stiller in The Marc Pease Experience. But this was one of those understandable decisions where, on paper, the film sounded as though it had serious breakout potential but sadly fell short of its promise.

The near future could see Kendrick with little time to act, as she trots from one awards ceremony to another, totting up more air miles than Clooney does in their movie. It's hard to second-guess what awards she will actually win, but one thing is for sure, it's unlikely that anyone will want to call on a consultant to fire the hottest young talent in American film from a role any time soon.

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