Into the Woods’ Anna Kendrick on bruises, rags and being starstruck by Meryl Streep

"She's quite a lad, you know? She's the girl you wanna have a beer with"

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As ardent musical theatre fans are sure to know, the big screen adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods arrives UK cinemas today. 

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Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect, Up in the Air, The Twilight Saga) plays the ultimate fairytale princess: Cinderella. Not that she really considered what taking on the iconic character would entail. 

“Stephen Sondheim is more iconic than Cinderella in my mind,” said Kendrick. “It wasn’t until I started doing press that I realised I should have had some great sort of Cinderella story.”

In fact, she didn’t even really enjoy wearing a flamboyant ball gown or those famous crystal slippers. 

“I really had fun in the rags. Everybody asks me about the Cinderella dress but I’m like, ‘You gotta ask me about the rags.’ They were amazing! All full of perfectly placed holes and scuffs and grease stains and stuff. It made me feel really scrappy, like I could, you know, get into a fist fight or something.”

For Kendrick, the stellar cast and crew attached to the project were much more of a pull than the chance to bag a Prince Charming. 

“It could have just been Sondheim or just Rob Marshall or just Meryl Streep or, frankly, just any of the cast,” she says. “The fact that it’s all together is sort of mind-blowing.”

“I was immediately quite starstruck by Meryl but she makes it her business to make you feel comfortable.” The three-time Oscar winner lived up to Kendrick’s expectations, both on and off set: “I was amazed at how playful she is. She’s sort of quite a lad, you know? She’s the girl you wanna have a beer with. 

“The thing that struck me most about her is just how fearless she is. I just expected her to come in and have this performance planned out and perfected,” says Kendrick. “But she just wanted to try absolutely everything and go in the opposite direction that she’d originally thought. That willingness to so openly commit to different choices was just astounding.”

Streep aside, working with director Rob Marshall (Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha) was the highlight. 

“He wants to create this enormous world and he plays music at full volume. You know the scene where I’m just running down the path from Dover Castle and all it is is me running? He was blasting the score to just give me energy. At every opportunity he wants to create this magical environment so that you do get that adrenaline rush.”

An adrenaline rush that can have its downsides…  

“I was so bruised and bumped and scratched from running and crawling around the steps,” says Kendrick. “I didn’t even notice that I was once again knocking my elbow and bumping my knee and making those bruises bigger and blacker.”

Taking the injuries and the hours of singing into account, this kind of film isn’t something Kendrick could do full time, she says. 

“I’m not disciplined enough to maintain that kind of performance. I don’t know how musicians live like that: no dairy, no sugar, no alcohol, rest rest rest. I was kind of on lockdown and that’s only sustainable for me for like a week tops,” she says, before happily listing all the things she ate as soon as filming wrapped.

“Taco Bell and Twinkies and, oh god, cupcakes!”

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Into the Woods is in UK cinemas from today