Did I ever tell you about that time that I met Rob Marshall and Anna Kendrick?
BECAUSE I TOTALLY DID!!
While in LA for the Into the Woods press junket, we were able to interview this dynamic duo and find out what it was really like to bring the famous musical to the silver screen with the help of Walt Disney Pictures.
I am a fan of Anna Kendrick - I have been ever since Angeline and I saw Pitch Perfect. She is such a talented actress and has always seemed so down to earth and likable. When we saw that she was going to play Cinderella in Disney's Into the Woods, I was so excited! She has such a lovely voice and I just knew that she would rock the part!
She came in totally humble and caught off guard by our applause - of course we applauded, how often do you have Rob Marshall and Anna Kendrick walk into a room to meet you?!
We Asked Rob Marshall: You talked about how the cast was such a surprise to you and especially in relation to their talents. What surprised you most about Anna Kendrick?
Anna Kendrick: I'm so embarrassed. I should leave the room.
Rob Marshall: It’s easy to talk about Anna. I adore her. The truth is, that voice is extraordinary and I think everybody looked up to her in the cast because of that, you know, she comes from 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 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 Kendrick: Thanks, Rob.
We Asked: You called this cast a company. So what defines the company and what made this cast that definition?
Rob Marshall: 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, you know, 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, you know, 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, this piece in particular in an ensemble piece. You always have to be feeding the piece and, 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, uh, everybody’s working hard, you know, to do it together and I think during that time, wouldn’t you say Anna, that during the rehearsal was a bonding experience for people?
Anna Kendrick: It was an equalizer. 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. 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 Marshall: Totally, totally.
We Asked: How much time of rehearsal did you guys have before actually shooting?
Rob Marshall: 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.
We Asked: 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 Kendrick: 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, 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, you know, 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, you know, 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, uh, 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.
We Asked: Besides the live audience obviously what is the biggest difference and or challenge, this is for both of you, directing, acting, about doing a musical piece on film versus theater?
Rob Marshall: 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 takes a lot of, it just takes a lot of time to sort of do well. On stage, the eight shows a week thing is incredibly, you know, that’s 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, 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 Kendrick: And the microphone doesn’t lie either. People 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 Marshall: So many colors.
Anna Kendrick: It catches everything the way that the camera does.
Rob Marshall: You know, it’s interesting. Someone asked me, you know, so did you enhance these performances in any way shape or form and I thought what, 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, you know, they just worked incredibly hard to make it happen and, you know, Anna’s role as Cinderella is so difficult to sing, you know. She’s belting the last note of her song. I mean what is that an E?
Rob Marshall: It’s an E flat. It’s the Let It Go note. I'm sure you’re all familiar with that song.
We Asked: What is it about musicals in general? Why are you doing them?
Anna Kendrick: I mean I'm doing musicals ‘cause they’re making musicals. It’s a grand time to be alive and working. I, 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, you know, it’s only because I am worried that it’ll be, you know, 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, you know, loving being a part of it while as long as anybody will kind of let me.
Rob Marshall: 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.
Anna Kendrick: You got it.
We Asked: Do you prefer making musicals?
Rob Marshall: Well, Anna and I both come from very similar background in a way because we both come from theater, you know, and I feel the way Anna does. I feel like we’re lucky to be making them. It’s an American born genre and we’re, you know, I never believed even when I did Chicago when they were saying that it’s a dead genre. I just never believed it. I never think it is. I mean look at Gladiator. They said the swords and sandals movie was dead and it’s not. It’s about the execution and, and the material and making it work. I believe in it. I think there’s nothing like it. There’s nothing like the joy of it, you know, that beautiful thing that said which I love about the rule of musicals and that is that when you can’t speak or when speaking isn’t enough you must sing or movement isn’t enough so you dance to sort of express.
You know, and what I love about this piece and the way it’s written is that hopefully you’re not even aware when they’re singing in a way because the expression, you know, comes because they have to sing, you know. Anna’s character gets stuck in the steps of the place and she has to make this enormous decision. It’s not enough to speak a monologue. She sings and it should feel organic and it’s what a beautiful way to express yourself and there’s a joy to music that you just can’t get from anything else.
We Asked: Do you anticipate any original musicals being created for film because I mean I'm a huge fan of musicals and it’s great to see them from stage but do you think there’s a possibility that could happen at some point?
Rob Marshall: Listen, I love you saying that because the truth is seriously because the greatest musicals, the sort of golden era of the musicals in the 50s and the 40s and 50s was the MGM musicals. When they created musicals for film. So, Singing in the Rain was created for film. Bandwagon was created for film and Easter Parade was created for film and Gigi was created for film and these are all these -- Meet Me in St. Louis was made for film. They weren’t stage productions. And so that would be heaven to be able to do that and, you know, and create a musical for Anna Kendrick.
Question: Is there a musical that you want to see become a film that you want to be a part of?
Anna Kendrick: 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 theater 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 I'm 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.
We Asked: Do you think this role changes how little girls will view princesses?
Anna Kendrick: I hope so. I hope so and I love that girls now seem to be asking for that and embracing that. I saw this, this piece, the Bernadette version on VHS I saw when I was about a ten and I remember being so compelled by it and, and knowing even at the time that there were themes that I didn’t fully understand and wanting to be something that I could revisit as I got older, knowing it would mean something different to me at 16 and 25 and it will mean something different to me in a decade.
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, uh, when, you know, 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.
We Asked: You guys have such great respect for each other and it’s obvious. Do you have any future collaborations?
Anna Kendrick: I'm sure I’ll get in an invite for Christmas. John told me about the decorations and stuff.
Rob Marshall: 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, you know, 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 just, 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.
A big thank you to Walt Disney Pictures for bringing me to LA for an unforgettable experience! Thank you to Louise from Mom Start and to Walt Disney Pictures for providing wonderful photos to illustrate my post today!
Now, guys, who hasn't seen INTO THE WOODS yet?
GO TO THE WOOD!
Thank you to Louise of MomStart.com for her photos, and a HUGE Thank You to Disney for bringing me out to LA for the Into the Woods event! I attended as part of an all expenses paid media trip, but all opinions are my own.