SPOTLIGHT: December, 2014 – Anna Kendrick, Actress and Ascending Star

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awfjspotlightsmallsmallThis month’s AWFJ’s Spotlight is focused on multi-talent Anna Kendrick, 29, who is having quite a moment at year’s end. Whether as a standout as Cinderella in the much-anticipated movie musical Into the Woods (opening Dec. 25) or a button-cute spokeswoman in a bit of a bind for Kate Spade’s high-end fashion line in the ho-ho-haute holiday ad titled The Waiting, this star is ascendant. Read on…

All About Anna

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Pert, petite and packed with talent, Kendrick has been a pro who put work first from the get-go, becoming the third-youngest Tony nominee at age 12 for her role in the 1998 Broadway production of High Society. She would move onto movies and raise her profile considerably as Jessica Stanley, one of Bella Swan’s high-school chums, in the supernatural soap-opera phenom known as the Twilight franchise. The rare film series driven by female moviegoers that ended in 2012 took in a total $1.4 billion at the box office.

In High Society
In High Society

She stepped up her game considerably onscreen in 2009 as a fledgling corporate downsizer learning the ropes from George Clooney in Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air. She earned rave reviews (“The ferocious Ms. Kendrick, her ponytail swinging like an ax, grabs every scene she’s in,” wrote New York Times critic Manohla Dargis) and a supporting Oscar nomination

In 2012, Kendrick would land what has become her defining lead role in Pitch Perfect, one that fully capitalized on her musical gifts and screwball comedy chops. She seemed born to play college freshman Beca, an edgy outsider who becomes the MVP of the Bellas – her school’s all-girl a cappella group. The sleeper hit, whose first-weekend ticket buyers were 81% female and under 25, doubled its box office overseas for a $133 million total. Its cultish popularity continued to boom on cable movie stations and on DVD.

Big Career Scores

In Pitch Perfect
In Pitch Perfect

Kendrick also scored a hit single off the film’s platinum-selling soundtrack with a novelty tune called Cups – a rendition of 1931’s When I’m Gone that employs the rhythmic use of claps and a plastic cup – that sold more than 3.5 million copies and reached No. 6 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in August 2013.

The actress will reprise her starring role in a sequel to Pitch Perfect, due May 16, 2015 and directed by Elizabeth Banks, who once again co-stars and produces.

The film’s success has made Kendrick a most-wanted player in other movie musicals. Besides Into the Woods, she is front and center in The Last Five Years, an adaptation of a nearly all-sung 2001 off-Broadway show about a disintegrating relationship. It arrives on Feb. 13 next year. The movie received a mixed reaction when it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September but the glowing praise for her performance as a struggling actress married to a hotshot writer was nearly unanimous.

in Into The Woods
in Into The Woods

Why we chose her: It is impossible not to admire – if not adore — someone as blessed with talent and self-effacing humor as Kendrick.

As she recently told Marie Claire magazine about being judged for her looks: “The most common thing I get is, ‘Am I the only one who doesn’t think Anna Kendrick is pretty.’ And you’re like, ‘No, you’re not the only one. Arguably all the boys in my high school agree with you.’”

Unlike many up-and-coming actresses, she actively shuns celebrity while exhibiting a strong work ethic. Somehow, she manages to maintain a highly entertaining Twitter account — @AnnaKendrick47 — that has drawn 3 million followers. She good-naturedly swears, admits to drunk tweeting occasionally and yet still exhibits a highly relatable girl-next-door appeal with the slightest hint of mischief.

That she is now part of a potentially ongoing franchise with Pitch Perfect, a rare series aimed at young women that is not based on the YA collection of books and also features a female director for its sequel, is also something to applaud.

And if her participation in movie musicals boosts the genre, which more often than not puts women in the forefront, we salute her efforts.

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Susan Wloszczyna

In her nearly 30 years at USA Today, Susan Wloszczyna interviewed everyone from Vincent Price and Shirley Temple to Julia Roberts and Will Smith. Her coverage specialties include animation, musicals, comedies and any film starring Hayley Mills, Sandy Dennis or hobbits. Her crowning career achievements so far, besides having Terence Stamp place his bare feet in her lap during an interview for The Limey, is convincing the paper to send her to New Zealand twice for set visits, once for The Return of the King and the other for The Chronicles of Narnia and King Kong, and getting to be a zombie extra and interview George Romero in makeup on the set for Land of the Dead. Though not impressive enough for Pulitzer consideration, she also can be blamed for coining the moniker "Frat Pack," often used to describe the comedy clique that includes Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. Her positions have included Life section copy desk chief for four years and a film reviewer for 12 years. She is currently a senior editor for the online awards site Gold Derby. Previously, she has been a freelance film reporter and critic, contributing regularly to RogerEbert.com, MPAA’s The Credits, the Washington Post, AARP The Magazine online and Indiewire as well as being a book reviewer for The Buffalo News. She previously worked as a feature editor at the Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, N.Y. A Buffalo native, she earned her bachelor's degree in English at Canisius College and a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.