In her new book, Anna Kendrick gets personal
There’s been a slew of memoir-style books written by smart, funny women in recent years, books like “Yes Please” by Amy Poehler, “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)” by Mindy Kaling, Lena Dunham’s “Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s ‘Learned,’” and, of course, Tina Fey’s best-selling “Bossypants.” You can add another to the shelf. Actress Anna Kendrick, who’s all of 31 years old, has written “Scrappy Little Nobody,” a series of candid, often amusing autobiographical essays about her childhood in Maine, boyfriends, sex, and her weird habit of mentioning her vagina during telephone interviews. On Wednesday, Kendrick, best known for her roles in such films as “Up in the Air,” “Pitch Perfect,” and “The Accountant,” will be at the Back Bay Events Center talking about the book. We reached her recently on the telephone.
Q. You’ve achieved a lot at a very young age, and you’re from Maine. Everyone is from somewhere, but Maine is a largely rural state.
A. I got lucky because I got to grow up in Portland, what most people would consider a small town, but it was actually incredibly culturally rich. That was something I didn’t appreciate until I got older and saw more of the country. There were cities where I filmed or passed through that are five or 10 times bigger than Portland, but there’s nothing there. Just strip malls and one movie theater. I didn’t know how lucky I was to grow up in a place with two independent movie theaters, and independent video store, and a world-class stage company. I saw a production of “A Doll’s House” at Portland Stage Company when I was really young that had a profound influence on me.
Q. Talk about your motivation for writing the book. I have a 16-year-old daughter who will enjoy it very much. Did you have a particular audience in mind?
A. I didn’t. I tried to remind myself that people from everywhere and all walks of life are interested in complicated emotions and fully formed thoughts, and that was something I wanted to keep in mind so I didn’t censor myself too much. If you try to write every sentence in a way that couldn’t be misconstrued or misinterpreted, you’ll end up writing a police report of your life, and I knew that wasn’t going to interest anybody. There’s a section in the book where I write about sexual double standards, and that was something I kept in spite of the fact that it made me a little nervous to talk about. I kept it in the book because I was thinking, “I wish when I was 19 someone had said this.”
Q. Some of the stuff about your early boyfriend and sexual experiences is funny and relatable, but you also make yourself seem not terribly sophisticated and not terribly wise. Was there any part of you that didn’t want to reveal that much of yourself?
A. As far as the sexual stuff, it’s not like I did it intentionally. It’s just that these were things that happened to me, that I dealt with. Whenever I’m reading or watching content that is documentary of any kind, I want honesty. There’s no part of me that reads Lena Dunham’s work and thinks, “Gee, kind of an overshare there, buddy.” I wouldn’t be reading it if I’m opposed to that.
Q. You make it clear that many child actors are weird and screwed up, but you were a child actress [Kendrick was 12 when she appeared in “High Society” on Broadway”], and you seem well grounded. What’s the difference?
A. The truth is I don’t know. There are plenty of crazy, screwed-up humans in the world, and I don’t know what about the child-actor category makes some people crazy. A lot of it could have to do with your family placing value on who you are and not on what you’re accomplishing in your career before you’re 18.
Q. You have an odd complex about your small, youthful appearance. At one point, you call yourself an “anemic little weakling.” Has your appearance prompted you to be more aggressive?
A. It’s possible it’s sort of the inverse of the thing where really tall girls slouch and make themselves invisible.
Q. In terms of ex-boyfriends, I think you were quite fair. Have any of them read this and objected?
A. I sent some pieces to some, and others I’m not in touch with anymore. Basically, anyone who’s still remotely in my life, or my circle, I wanted to check with. Everyone else, I just hope I don’t run into them.
Q. You write that your Oscar nomination for “Up in the Air” was great, but “Twilight” was the thing that really paid the bills. Maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that critical acclaim is one thing, but commercial success is another.
A. “Twilight” mostly paid the bills because there were four of them that I got to do. They just kept hiring me. People don’t realize that I get paid to make a movie and then a year goes by and then I promote it for six months. I’ve only got the one paycheck, and that was a year and a half ago. So “Twilight” saved me in the sense that it was this thing that kept going.
Q. We’re all about Ben Affleck here in Boston. How did you like working with him on “The Accountant”?
A. The first day of shooting with him was the day after the Super Bowl (between the Patriots and the Seahawks.) I’m from New England, so I was Patriots all the way, but it was a really stressful game, down to the wire. I was in a hotel bar freaking out not only because I wanted the Patriots to win, but also because if they didn’t win, my first day on set with famous movie star Ben Affleck was going to be miserable. Fortunately they won, and he came in in such a great mood. It was a very happy first day on the job for me.