It should be no secret by now that Anna Kendrick has quite the singing voice. Whether it’s the independent musical film “Camp,” “Pitch Perfect,” “Pitch Perfect 2” or “Into the Woods,” she consistently dazzles us with her singing whether she’s appearing on the silver screen or on Broadway. In “The Last Five Years,” Richard LaGravenese’s adaptation of Jason Robert Brown’s Off-Broadway show, she plays Cathy Hiatt, an aspiring actress who falls madly in love with the very talented writer Jamie Wellerstein (played by Jeremy Jordan). But as Jamie’s star quickly rises, Cathy finds herself struggling in her acting career to where she begins to feel invisible around Jamie. Essentially, “The Last Five Years” looks at a relationship’s exhilarating highs and its emotionally draining lows, and it proves to be a musical which is far more character driven than one which thrives on spectacle.
I was lucky enough to attend the press conference for “The Last Five Years” held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles, California, and Kendrick was in attendance along with Jordan and LaGravenese. I was particularly interested in how Kendrick was able to keep the songs she sang fresh for her in each take. By this, I mean how she kept the songs alive for her to where she wasn’t just giving us something which felt emotionally dead or sounded over-rehearsed. You can perform a song or a monologue so many times before it becomes stale and uninteresting, and you have to keep shaking things up so you don’t end up looking like a robot.
According to “The Last Five Years’” IMDB page, Kendrick had to sing “Still Hurting” 17 times straight through. I brought this up during the press conference and LaGravenese quickly said it was because of all the different camera setups which had to be done for the scene, and this led Kendrick to joke about how much easier it would be to make movies without the camera. When it came to keeping “Still Hurting” fresh from take to take, her answer was complex to where it sounded like she is still trying to figure out how to do that.
Anna Kendrick: You know, if I trained at RADA I might actually be able to verbalize that kind of thing and the fact is I didn’t and I have only learned by working, and I’ve been working since I was a kid,” Kendrick said. “I don’t know and to try to put it into the words would be to destroy the thing. I guess you try to find a balance between going into the material and going to a personal place because you never want to tip it too much in one direction. I feel like I drew a lot of energy from the support of the crew who were unbelievably compassionate and understanding, and nothing gave me greater inspiration than seeing the 40-year old dolly operator in his classic Hawaiian t-shirt listening in. He had the same earpiece in his ear that I had, and watching his face as he counted and I could feel his body counting, all these people are honoring a thing that you’re trying to do and that gives you an unbelievable reserve of energy.
So, after all these years as an actress, it still sounds like this is something she is still working on, and that’s okay. An actor’s, or actress,’ work is never done as the best ones continue to work at their craft year after year to improve upon it dramatically (no pun intended), and it was refreshing to hear Kendrick admit she doesn’t have all the answers because most actors do not. If you think you’re the only one who is struggling with trying to keep a piece you have performed several times fresh and meaningful for yourself, you’re not. Every actor does whether it’s a movie, a play or a TV show they’re working on, but they keep going because they’re passionate about their work. Kendrick may have accomplished a lot as an actress so far, but her work as an actor is never done. Once it is, she may have to retire.
“The Last Five Years” is now available to own and rent on DVD, Blu-ray, and Digital.