Anna Kendrick - The tiny actor with big dreams

After a good career so far, Twilight's Anna Kendrick is about to hit the big time with five high-profile roles coming to cinemas soon. But it's her mum who's really excited, she tells Gill Pringle

Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart may have hogged the headlines of late. Yet, remarkably, it's another Twilight star who is enjoying a red-hot career right now, winning a slew of high-profile roles that her better-known co-stars would probably suck blood for.

Not that Anna Kendrick is bragging about her success, even blushing slightly at the mention of the Oscar nod for her performance opposite George Clooney in 2009's Up In The Air, and her upcoming roles in Robert Redford's highly anticipated thriller The Company You Keep and cop drama End of Watch where she stars as Jake Gyllenhaal's wife.

There's other roles, too – the sort that don't generate awards but keep things interesting in a career that is already notable for its diversity.

Today, we're discussing her work in spooky stop-motion movie ParaNorman, voicing a slutty high-school cheerleader, although she'll also soon be seen in high school horror comedy Rapturepalooza and musical Pitch Perfect, too.

Standing at just 5ft tall, she's easily able to pass for much younger despite the fact she recently turned 27. "I know. It's funny. How much longer can I play high-school?" laughs this practical daughter of a history teacher father and accountant mother.

After playing Bella Swan's [Stewart] best friend for the first four Twilight movies, she's grateful that the role didn't define her in the same way as her colleagues. "I rarely get recognised. It's always a shock when someone notices me. I always think they must be confusing me with someone else," says the actress who's not even being modest, given that I've often spotted her with her British director boyfriend Edgar Wright at our local grocery store where fellow shoppers browse, oblivious to a star in their presence, amidst the frozen food aisles.

The couple met three years ago when Wright cast her in his comic-book fantasy Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Uncomfortable discussing their relationship, she will say that she's in no hurry to wed: "My parents got married late and they had kids late, so I never felt a social or cultural thing to be married or pregnant or a homeowner by a certain age."

Growing up in Portland, Maine, she can't remember a time when she didn't want to dance or sing, despite the fact she was by no means a Hollywood kid. Taking the bus to New York for auditions, she was just 12 when she won her first acting role as Dinah in the Broadway musical High Society for which she was nominated for numerous awards including a Tony. Going on to appear in other stage productions, her performance in the musical A Little Night Music caught the attention of movie casting directors, leading to her film debut in 2003 musical Camp.

With such a precocious start in the business, there's nothing remotely blasé about Kendrick who is refreshingly deadpan and self-deprecating, today curled up in a chair at a Los Angeles hotel suite dressed in skinny jeans, flat pumps and floaty blouse.

She still gets a kick out of where her career has taken her: "My mum was so thrilled that I was working with Robert Redford," she smiles. "And, certainly, End of Watch is something really different from anything I've ever done before," says the actress, who also played a therapist in dark comedy 50/50 opposite Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

If her voice-work on stop-motion film ParaNorman, didn't call for any deep character research, then she's intimately acquainted with the film's themes of schoolyard bullying and feeling like an outsider. "When I did Rocket Science in 2007, the director Jeff Blitz said he thought that most people made the mistake of remembering school as either the best time of their lives or the worst time of their lives and it's probably neither. Kids are mean to each other and it's a very strange environment but, for the most part, I was happy that I got to experience that, and getting picked on for being short isn't the same thing as being bullied," says Kendrick who was home-schooled by her dad during her stints on Broadway.

Filled with ghouls and zombies, ParaNorman is poised to tap into a pre-Halloween youthful audience, although Kendrick herself is a tough one to scare: "There's always moments where you creep yourself out, and you think you heard something and you convince yourself that some spirit is in the room with you, but truly, I don't believe in any of that kind of thing. A lot of my friends really do and, it's a funny thing that we just don't like talk about it anymore because it's a difficult thing to say: 'I really think that it's not real and it's really silly that you think that it is.' So we just don't talk about it."

'ParaNorman' opens on 14 September.

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