Anna Kendrick sings again in The Last 5 Years

2014-09-12 05:00

Toronto - Anna Kendrick is done with musicals. No really. She swears.

"After the last couple of years, I'm so done singing," says Kendrick. "It's so stressful and so much work. It's like being an athlete. It's something you have to maintain and think about."

But the problem is that Kendrick keeps getting offered parts in musicals she can't turn down. At the Toronto Film Festival, she premiered The Last 5 Years, an independent musical based on Jason Robert Brown's cultishly adored off-Broadway musical about a young couple's out of sync romantic life.

It's almost wall-to-wall singing, alternating parts between Kendrick's aspiring actress and Jeremy Jordan's rising novelist. Directed by Richard LaGravenese (P.S. I Love You), The Last Five Years was received rapturously at its premiere Sunday night by an audience full of devoted fans to the musical. The Weinstein Co.' boutique label Radius acquired the film ahead of Toronto, with plans to release it on Valentine's Day next year.

On a musical roll

For Kendrick, it's one of three upcoming musicals. She plays Cinderella in the anticipated Disney treatment of Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods (due out Christmas) and she recently finished shooting the sequel to her breakout, Pitch Perfect 2. (Kendrick's rendition of Cups from the first film was one of last year's biggest pop hits, selling nearly 3 million tracks.)

Just when she thought she was out, they pull her back in.

"What kind of idiot is like, 'Ooo, it is like a dream role, but I didn't want to do any more musicals, so ....'?" Kendrick said in an interview the morning after The Last 5 Years screening. "I mostly feel really grateful that I keep getting sucked back in, even though it wasn't part of the plan or anything. The opportunities have just been mind-boggling."

Kendrick started out in musicals, debuting on Broadway at age 12 in High Society and earning a Tony nomination for her performance, and continuing on in other productions. But while her love for musicals runs deep (Brown's Parade is her favorite, she says), Kendrick has typically resisted full musical-theater geekdom.

"After being on Broadway at 12, it was like everybody who had musical theater interest at my middle school or high school was like, 'Oh yeah? Well, do you have the original, original London recording of the workshop of the musical?'" says Kendrick. "I was like, 'Oh, this is a competition all the time? I'm not doing this.'"

Unlike most movie musicals, The Last 5 Years is distinctly independent, shot quickly and simply in New York and imbued with an underdog, off-Broadway spirit.

"This is obviously a very intimate story, so it made sense to make it feel intimate," says Kendrick. "And also we had no money."

Faithfully adapted, The Last 5 Years was made to sing to its choir. In one scene after an unsuccessful audition, Kendrick vents about the show's rejecting producers, disparaging them as "the people that cast Russell Crowe in a musical. The line — which Kendrick ad-libbed after discussion with Brown — substituted the Les Miserables star for Linda Blair.

"I had been thinking Russell Crowe because I thought Linda Blair was maybe too esoteric," says Kendrick. "The syllables are correct. I didn't say anything because I was like, 'I'm going to get in trouble.'"

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