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Anna Kendrick on ‘Into the Woods,’ Playing Cinderella and Movie Musicals

Anna Kendrick slips on Cinderella’s glass slipper in Disney’s “Into the Woods,” based on the Stephen Sondheim musical. She spoke to Variety about her busy year onscreen.

Have you seen “Into the Woods” yet?

I saw it on a day that I was just beyond the pale exhausted. I basically wept the entire way through it, and I got on the phone with Rob Marshall afterward, and I was like–“If I manage to get through this conversation without crying on the phone with you it’ll be the hardest thing I ever did.”

Why were you crying?

The movie is beautiful and sad. I hope you cry.

Did you ever see it onstage?

Gosh, have I ever seen it live? I don’t know that I have. I feel like I’ve seen it live because I grew up watching the Bernadette Peters VHS.

Did you have to audition?

They did a workshop in New York and my agent asked me to put myself on tape. First of all, I thought I would be auditioning for Little Red, because normally, that’s played by a grown woman. When he told me I would be auditioning for Cinderella that was a mental adjustment.

Were you a Cinderella fan growing up?

I was into “Little Mermaid” more than anything else. The Disney cartoon of Cinderella kind of terrified me. I identified most with the mice.

Were you singing live?

We sang live sometimes. For example, Emily Blunt and I sang “A Very Nice Prince” live because it’s so conversational and it’s hard to choose your acting beats in the recording studio for a number where you’re interacting with another person. But then there were other times when we were running through the woods in a corset where it’s impractical to sing live.

Was your gown heavy?

It was made of light material, but it was definitely no joke. Colleen Atwood does not mess around.

Did Meryl Streep stay in character as the witch?

No, of course not. That would be intense. She was amazing and joked around between takes. She had these blue press-on nails and they would pop off. There was sort of a running game of who could find the most press-on nails on set by the end of the day.

How did you do?

I found a handful of them. There was a cast prize promised, but I don’t think that ever came through. Someone owes me money.

Where did you film?

Shepperton near London. The set is like nothing I’d ever seen before, because the production design is so exquisite. I stood with Tracey Ullman, watching Chris Pine ride in on a horse, and we both looked at each other like, “I can’t believe we get to do this.”

Did you ride a horse?

I had to ride on the back of a horse for a while. I just got some lessons in brutal pain, riding on the back of a horse with no saddle. But then we didn’t end up filming anything of me on a horse. I certainly wasn’t going to complain because it hurt, and I didn’t want to do it.

When was the first time you were on Broadway?
I was 12 in “High Society.”

Did you want to be a singer before you were an actress?

I think musical theater was the first thing that interested me. I always thought of the two of them going hand in hand.

What’s your favorite musical?
“Parade.” I played the soundtrack for all my friends, and they were like, “This is weird.” I was like, “You’re weird.”

After “The Last Five Years” and “Pitch Perfect 2,” you’ve done a lot of movie musicals.

I didn’t actually plan to make a bunch of musical movies in a row. But “Into The Woods” and “The Last Five Years” are two of the greatest pieces of musical theater ever, so obviously it was a dream come true. I think I would enter into something else cautiously.

So there’s not another musical you’d do?

I can’t think of anything. I played that game with myself once, but that’s why I’m not a producer. Maybe somebody will prove me wrong.

You’re in six movies this year. Do you ever take time off?
I’m hoping to take time off. I don’t know if that’s a pipe dream. It would be nice to be a person every now and then. I feel like I don’t even know what’s going on with my friends and family anymore. It’s kind of intense. Hopefully, I’ll be able to nurture relationships better next year.

How many days did you have off this year?

I had maybe three weeks between “The Hollers” and “Mr. Right.” I was like, “This is so glorious!” The thing about making a film is you’re working 14 hours every day. So the idea is that you’re supposed to take time off in between, because it’s not a 9 to 5 job. It’s not really sustainable to do one after the other. I keep learning that lesson and not following through on it.

Have you always been a workaholic?
I still remember there was a time when all I wanted to do was work. It feels like you’re not honoring that part of yourself when you have the opportunity.

Into the Woods” debuts in theaters on Dec. 25.

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