Obviously to do what I do I have to really enjoy travel and entertainment. When I get invited to do press trips for movies where I get the opportunity to interview the movie makers including the cast, costume designers, animators, directors and producers, I am known to be the one that really loves the movie making process so I tend to really enjoy talking with the directors and producers. Being a fan of Anna Kendrick from the musical comedy, Pitch Perfect, Disney’s Into the Woods marks Anna Kendrick’s first full-blown movie musical. She was nominated for a Tony when she was just 12, so musicals are definitely in Anna’s comfort zone. Director Rob Marshall, nominated for both an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Chicago, really wanted to bring Stephen Sondheim’s legendary fractured fairy tale Into the Woods onto the big screen. Speaking to both Anna and Rob together – ahhh, such a treat!
Anna Kendrick and Rob Marshall: Into The Woods Interview
Taken by surprise as Anna and Rob walked into the room by a loud applause, they sat down and instantly Rob was asked about about him talking about how the cast was such a surprise to him especially in relation to their talents. We wanted to know what surprised him most about Anna Kendrick?
Anna: I’m so embarrassed. I should leave the room.
Rob: It’s easy to talk about Anna ‘cause I adore her. The truth is that her voice is extraordinary and I think everybody looked up to her in the cast because of that, everybody because, you know, she comes from that in a very rich background with her Broadway experience as a child. So to have that gift is amazing and the thing I guess what surprised me the most about Anna is her range as an actor. The fact that she was able to with this piece open up and show such depth and vulnerability and agility and complexity. Meryl Streep called her role the most complex character in the film because of what she’s dealing with and she’s right because and it needs a great internal depth and I knew Anna. Listen, Anna’s an Oscar nominated actor who’s done an enormous amount of beautiful work on film and on stage but to see the full range of what she has and to be able to open that up, you know, it’s an exposing thing as an actor, to be able to let you in and Anna lets you in this movie. She lets you into this person who’s indecisive and not sure and wrestling with her, with what she’s feeling and it’s a very brave personal, beautiful performance and I’m very proud of it. Very proud of her.
Anna: Thanks, Rob.
Last night you said that you called this cast a company. So what defines the company and what made this cast that definition?
Rob: You know, company is everyone working together. I mean it’s as simple as that. That’s what it is. Everybody working together for the same thing and when I cast people I not only cast them for the talent and for playing the roles but I also cast them for who they are and I have to have around me people I like and people that are wonderful to work with and are there for the right reasons and I’ve certainly come across actors that sometimes aren’t exactly there for the whole, you know what I mean? It’s about them and this piece in particular in an ensemble piece. You always have to be feeding the piece and this gorgeous Sondheim, James Lapine piece and we were all aware of that from the very beginning and this cast understood that. There was a sense of honoring this beautiful piece. We’re all very lucky. Musicals are few and far between anyway. A Sondheim musical is really few and far between and so we felt very lucky to be doing that and I felt everybody supporting each other. Rehearsals helped enormously, having that time to create that company because that’s when everybody’s doing things for the first time and it’s exposing and everybody’s working hard to do it together and, that I think during that time wouldn’t you say Anna that during the rehearsal was a bonding experience for people?
Anna: It was an equalizer ‘cause we were all terrified and there’s nothing like terror to make you forget what you thought the hierarchy was going to be when you arrived, you know. That there would be a feeling of a food chain or something and to be just in it doing the work, especially when we were all so intimidated by the music. It just made you realize we’re all in the same boat here.
Rob: Totally, totally.
How much time of rehearsal did you guys have before actually shooting?
Rob: It’s interesting. We had four weeks of rehearsal and then two weeks of prerecords but continued to rehearse while we were prerecording so we kind of I guess all together, sort of six weeks before we started really filming.
Every girl dreams of playing Cinderella. How did it feel playing a different kind of Cinderella, almost like a modern day Cinderella in a way? What’s the thought process?
Anna: It’s funny because I think a lot of girls’ dream of playing Cinderella and a certain kind of girl dreams of playing Sondheim Cinderella. And, yeah, and we love those kinds of girls and I think that she is very modern, you know. I mean I’m glad that some people are surprised by her but it is a Cinderella that has existed since about 1987 so I didn’t have that sense of responsibility or anything about it. I think that something that we do to ourselves as women, especially modern women, instead of trusting our instincts I think we have a tendency to feel a responsibility to weigh every option and look at things from every angle and ask our mom and ask our sister and ask our friends and we find ourselves in situations or committing to certain things that, you know, our gut is telling us is not gonna make us happy or is gonna be harder in the long run. So that was kind of really fun to play that she’s talking herself into things and out of things and I think that by the end of it for her to really realize what’s important once she is in a situation where an entire community has to come together and decided what’s really important to them then it becomes pretty easy to say goodbye to this guy who’s sort of a tool.
You’ve done a really good job at creating a large fan base, especially on Twitter. Is there anything in particular that you do to keep your fans engaged?
Anna: I don’t know. I mean I think that when I first started working consistently and doing press I felt like I was supposed to be a kind of really composed, very diplomatic version of myself and I remember Rob said something to me when we were doing ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement) about Twitter or talk shows or something, and he said it’s so great that you can be yourself and I was like it is great that I can be myself because not being myself was a lot harder. And so I guess I’m really, really grateful and I feel seriously lucky that I’m able to do that. It wasn’t like I just decided one day I’m just gonna be myself and that people will like that better. It was sort of a tentative process and I feel really lucky that people have embraced my sense of humor and honesty I guess because I assumed that I was gonna have to be sort of Miss America my whole life and it’s a relief that I don’t.
Besides the live audience obviously, what is the biggest difference and or challenge directing and/or acting in a musical piece on film versus theatre?
Rob: You know, when you’re doing a movie musical it’s almost like doing two films at once in a way because you have that huge musical side of it. It’s a big portion of it and it just takes a lot of time to sort of do well. On stage, you know, the eight shows a week thing is incredibly tough. On film, the difference is I guess that you have to do it with such specificity and you can’t lie on camera. What’s a beautiful thing about this piece is that it’s really a combination of live and prerecorded. I meant the test for me is it should always feel live. Like when you’re watching it, it should seem like it’s happening in the moment. You shouldn’t know where it’s live and where it’s not. It should all feel live, every bit of it but Anna certainly sang live a lot of it and ‘cause she can and, but, you know, I guess you have to just make sure that the material that you’re doing is in honesty. I mean film doesn’t lie. You know, there’s a theatricality sometimes on stage that you can kind of push and put across but you have — if the camera’s so close and it’s taking in so much there’s an honesty to the work that has to be there.
Anna: And the microphone doesn’t lie either. People I think, think that if something is pre-recorded that means that you got to cheat a lot but the microphone hears everything. I was amazed when we would hear playback that I thought I was doing the same thing take after take and there would be so many different colors…
Rob: So many colors.
Anna: It catches everything the way that the camera does.
Rob: You know, it’s interesting. Someone asked me, ‘so did you enhance these performances in any way shape or form’ and I thought what are you talking about? I mean, no. I don’t even know how to do that. I don’t even know what that is. The joys of the piece is that you feel the character, even the imperfections of the voice. I don’t want perfect voices. I want the emotion and the actor to come out. That’s the most important thing. The fact that they all sing so great is a testament to the incredible work they put into this piece and they all can really sing, even people that were new to singing for the first time like Chris Pine or Emily Blunt or James Cordon. These people that are new to singing, they just worked incredibly hard to make it happen and, you know, Anna’s role as Cinderella is so difficult to sing. She’s belting the last note of her song. I mean what is that an E?
Anna: It’s an E flat. It’s the Let It Go note. I’m sure you’re all familiar with that song.
Speaking of the musicals you’ve done, Pitch Perfect, which really wasn’t a musical and then your next film, this film, is a musical. You’re kind of bringing it into a whole new generation. What is it about musicals in general that, you know, why are you doing them?
Anna: I mean I’m doing musicals ‘cause they’re making musicals. It’s a grand time to be alive and working. I’m so grateful that, you know, frankly that Rob ushered in an age when people would make a movie musical and I do feel quite greedy at times but it’s only because I am worried that I’ll have these handful of opportunities and you know, these things are cyclical and people get spooked and what if they stop making movie musicals? So, it’s not the plan to make them exclusively for the rest of my life but they just mean so much to me and I just love being a part of it as long as anybody will kind of let me.
Rob: It’s in your blood. Anna has it in her blood. You either have it or you don’t. What does Mama Rose say? You either have it or you ain’t. I mean, you know, that’s what she has.
Is there a musical that you want to see become a film that you would like to be a part of?
Anna: I’m not even sure that I would wanna be a part of it or want it to be, you know, I actually have that thing that a lot of musical theatre fans have where it’s like I wanna see the movie but what if they mess it up? I have that feeling about Parade which is my favorite musical so I would just love to see that made. But, you know, when I first saw that I was attached to the, the role of Iola Stover, and sadly I’m no longer 13 so, you know, but I would just love to see that on film. Not sure that it’s gonna happen.
Do you think this role changes how little girls will view princesses?
Anna: I hope so and I love that girls now seem to be asking for that and embracing that. And to me the idea that we’re seeing a princess who chooses the unknown over security I think is an important message for girls but I also think that the idea that it’s not as simple as right and wrong and who’s a good guy and who’s a bad guy especially when breakups and divorce and separation are a part of our lives all the time. They happen all the time and I think it’s a really outdated notion that one person is right and one person is wrong and I hope that Cinderella’s journey in this is a reflection of that and a reflection of forgiveness and compassion.
You guys have such great respect for each other and it’s obvious. Do you have any future collaborations?
Rob: Listen, it’s been joyous working with this amazing woman next to me who is very special and I would say the best word about her is authentic, and I think people feel that and embrace that and that’s why she’s so loved and that’s why she’s so great on film as well. I feel very lucky to have worked with this company across the boards starting with Meryl Streep who sets the bar incredibly high for everybody and it was one of those projects we were all very aware the entire time we were working on it that we were very lucky to be there, all of us serving this piece and we were careful with it and there was a joy every day and we worked really hard ‘cause it was a fast shoot. We had a limited budget and a limited amount of time but that never stopped us. We were all there to do the right thing and it was, it was one of those special ones for sure.
This is fantastic! Ten questions in 90 seconds with Rob Marshall.