Disclosure: I received an all-expense paid trip to Los Angeles to attend the Into The Woods press event. All opinions are completely my own.
Into The Woods Interview with Anna Kendrick (Cinderella) and Director Rob Marshall.
Rob Marshall and Anna Kendrick were gracious enough to give us a few minutes of their time while we were in Los Angeles. If you’ve missed the previous Into The Woods posts, let’s get up to date. We’ve interviewed the incredible Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski, and Tracey Ullman. Then, there was the entertaining interview with both Emily Blunt and James Corden. Don’t forget the Into The Woods review, too. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, don’t wait! It was a fabulous musical, with absolutely amazing acting talent.
If you’ve seen the film you know how much of an integral part Cinderella plays in the Into The Woods storyline. Anna Kendrick was the perfect Cinderella. From her voice to her acting, she was spot-on. Director Rob Marshall called his cast a “company” because that’s how he felt about them and that’s how well they all worked together to make sure the best musical was made.
Company is everyone working together. I mean it’s as simple as that. That’s what it is. Everybody working together for the same thing and when I cast people I not only cast them for the talent and for playing the roles but I also cast them for who they are, and I have to have around me people I like and people that are wonderful to work with and are there for the right reasons. I’ve certainly come across actors that sometimes aren’t exactly there for the whole. It’s about them and this piece in particular is an ensemble piece. You always have to be feeding the piece and this gorgeous Sondheim, James Lapine piece and we were all aware of that from the very beginning and this cast understood that.
There was a sense of honoring this beautiful piece. We’re all very lucky. Musicals are few and far between anyway. A Sondheim musical is really few and far between and so we felt very lucky to be doing that and I felt everybody supporting each other. Rehearsals helped enormously, having that time to create that company because that’s when everybody’s doing things for the first time and it’s exposing and, everybody’s working hard to do it together and I think during that time wouldn’t you say Anna that during the rehearsal was a bonding experience for people? – Rob
It was an equalizer because we were all terrified and there’s nothing like terror to make you forget what you thought the hierarchy was going to be when you arrived. That there would be a feeling of a food chain or something and to be just in it doing the work, especially when we were all so intimidated by the music. It just made you realize we’re all in the same boat here. – Anna
I enjoyed hearing Anna’s perspective because it’s nice to have the reminder that even actors get terrified of things, too. I loved that all the actors worked together, without the hierarchy, to do their best work.
On the Steps of the Palace Clip
You can hear how beautiful Anna’s voice is in the “On the Steps of the Palace” clip above.
When asked what surprised him most about Anna, Rob had many wonderful words.
It’s easy to talk about Anna [because] I adore her. The truth is she really — that voice is extraordinary and I think everybody looked up to her in the cast because of that, everybody because, she comes from that in a very rich background with her Broadway experience as a child. To have that gift is amazing and, the thing I guess what surprised me the most about Anna is her range as an actor. The fact that she was able to (…) open up and show such depth and vulnerability and agility and complexity.
Meryl Streep called her role [Cinderella’s] the most complex character in the film because of what she’s dealing with and she’s right because and it needs a great internal depth and I knew Anna. Anna’s an Oscar nominated actor who’s done enormous amount of beautiful work on film and on stage but to see the full range of what she has and to be able to open that up, it’s an exposing thing as an actor, to be able to let you in and Anna lets you in this movie. She lets you into this person who’s indecisive and not sure and wrestling with her, with what she’s feeling and it’s a very brave personal, beautiful performance and I’m very proud of it. Very proud of her.
After getting settled in, we wanted to know how much rehearsal time the cast actually had before shooting. You know, I was actually surprised that there was only six weeks total for rehearsal, but it just goes to show you what can be accomplished in such a little amount of time, when you are working with such talent.
It’s interesting. We had four weeks of rehearsal and then two weeks of prerecords but continued to rehearse while we were prerecording so, all together six weeks before we started really filming.
Once you see the film, or if you’ve seen Into The Woods in the theater, you will understand that this isn’t the Cinderella of the happily-ever-after story you read when you were younger. This is a more modern Cinderella. We wanted to know what it felt like to play a “different kind” of Cinderella.
It’s funny because I think a lot of girls dream of playing Cinderella and a certain kind of girl dreams of playing Sondheim Cinderella. And we love those kinds of girls and I think that she is very modern. I’m glad that some people are surprised by her but, it is a Cinderella that has existed since about 1987, so I didn’t have that sense of responsibility about it. But, I think that something that we do to ourselves as women, especially modern women, instead of trusting our instincts I think we have a tendency to feel a responsibility to weigh every option and look at things from every angle and ask our mom and ask our sister and ask our friends and we find ourselves in situations or committing to certain things that our gut is telling us is not gonna make us happy or is gonna be harder in the long run.
That was kind of really fun to play that she’s talking herself into things and out of things and I think that by the end of it for her to really realize what’s important, once she is in a situation where an entire community has to come together and decided what’s really important to them, then it becomes pretty easy to say goodbye to this guy who’s sort of a tool. – Anna
Film versus Theater
The question was asked, what is the biggest difference or challenge about doing a musical piece on film versus theater?
When you’re doing a movie musical it’s almost like doing two films at once in a way because you have that huge musical side of it. It’s a big portion of it and it just takes a lot of time to sort of do well. On stage, the eight shows a week thing is incredibly tough. On film, the difference is that you have to do it with such specificity and you can’t lie on camera. What’s a beautiful thing about this piece is that it’s really a combination of live and prerecorded. I meant the test for me is it should always feel live. Like when you’re watching it, it should seem like it’s happening in the moment. You shouldn’t know where it’s live and where it’s not.
It should all feel live, every bit of it but Anna certainly sang live a lot of it because she can and I guess you have to just make sure that the material that you’re doing is in honesty. I mean film doesn’t lie. You know, there’s a theatricality sometimes on stage that you can kind of push and put across but you have — if the camera’s so close and it’s taking in so much there’s an honesty to the work that has to be there. – Rob
And the microphone doesn’t lie either. People I think, think that if something is pre-recorded that means that you got to cheat a lot but the microphone hears everything. I was amazed when we would hear playback that I thought I was doing the same thing take after take and there would be so many different colors… – Anna
You know, it’s interesting. Someone asked me, so did you enhance these performances in any way shape or form and I thought what are you talking about? I mean, no. I don’t even know how to do that. I don’t even know what that is. The joys of the piece is that you feel the character, even the imperfections of the voice. I don’t want perfect voices. I want the emotion and the actor to come out. That’s the most important thing. The fact that they all sing so great is a testament to the incredible work they put into this piece and they all can really sing, even people that were new to singing for the first time like Chris Pine or Emily Blunt or James Cordon. These people that are new to singing, they just worked incredibly hard to make it happen and Anna’s role as Cinderella is so difficult to sing. – Rob
— Sherry (@FamLuvStuff) December 30, 2014
We had a great discussion about musicals, in general. Anna and Rob were open about why they are making musicals, how they feel about musicals, and more. Take a look at some of the highlights from our conversation.
Why are you doing musicals?
I’m doing musicals because they’re making musicals. It’s a grand time to be alive and working. I’m so grateful that Rob ushered in an age when people would make a movie musical and I do feel quite greedy at times but it’s only because I am worried that I’ll have these handful of opportunities and, these things are cyclical and people get spooked and what if they stop making movie musicals? So, it’s not the plan to make them exclusively for the rest of my life but they just mean so much to me and I just love being a part of it while as long as anybody will kind of let me. – Anna
Do you prefer making musicals?
Anna and I both come from very similar background in a way because we both come from theater and I feel the way Anna does. I feel like we’re lucky to be making them. It’s an American born genre and I never believed, even when I did Chicago, when they were saying that it’s a dead genre. I just never believed it. I never think it is. I mean look at Gladiator. They said the swords and sandals movie was dead and it’s not. It’s about the execution and the material and making it work. I believe in it. I think there’s nothing like it. There’s nothing like the joy of it, that beautiful thing I love about the rule of musicals is that when you can’t speak or when speaking isn’t enough you must sing or movement isn’t enough so you dance to sort of express.
What I love about this piece and the way it’s written is that hopefully you’re not even aware when they’re singing in a way because the expression comes because they have to sing. Anna’s character gets stuck in the steps of the place and she has to make this enormous decision. It’s not enough to speak a monologue. She sings and it should feel organic and it’s what a beautiful way to express yourself and there’s a joy to music that you just can’t get from anything else. – Rob
One important question that was asked was if Anna felt that this Cinderella would change the way that young girls will view princesses.
I hope so. I hope so and I love that girls now seem to be asking for that and embracing that. I saw this piece, the Bernadette version on VHS I saw when I was about ten and I remember being so compelled by it and knowing even at the time that there were themes that I didn’t fully understand and wanting to be something that I could revisit as I got older, knowing it would mean something different to me at 16 and 25 and it will mean something different to me in a decade.
To me the idea that we’re seeing a princess who chooses the unknown over security is an important message for girls, but I also think that the idea that it’s not as simple as right and wrong and who’s a good guy and who’s a bad guy especially, when breakups and divorce and separation are a part of our lives all the time. They happen all the time and I think it’s a really outdated notion that one person is right and one person is wrong and I hope that Cinderella’s journey in this is a reflection of that and a reflection of forgiveness and compassion. – Anna
Both Rob and Anna are such amazing talent in the musical world, and it was such an honor to get to interview them together. If you haven’t seen Into The Woods yet, make time to go see this incredible musical. So much talent, all wrapped up into one two-hour musical. Be sure to pick up the INTO THE WOODS Sountrack, too. I haven’t stopped listening since I saw the film.
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Into The Woods is now playing in theaters and is rated PG.