Anna Kendrick Interview For ‘ParaNorman’
From Focus Features and LAIKA, the companies behind the Academy Award-nominated animated feature ‘Coraline,’ comes the comedy thriller ‘ParaNorman.’ ’ParaNorman’ is set in the town of Blithe Hollow, whose locals profit from mining the town’s history as the site, 300 years ago, of a famous witch hunt. 11-year-old Norman Babcock (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee of ‘Let Me In’ and ‘The Road’) spends much of his days appreciating the finer points of scary movies and studying ghost lore. In fact, Norman is gifted with the ability to see and speak with the dead, such as his beloved grandmother (Elaine Stritch). Most days, he prefers their company to that of his flustered father (Jeff Garlin), spacey mother (Leslie Mann), and deeply superficial older sister Courtney (Anna Kendrick). At middle school, Norman dodges bullying Alvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), confides in the impressionable Neil (Tucker Albrizzi), and tries to tune out his blowhard teacher Mrs. Henscher (Alex Borstein).
Norman is unexpectedly contacted by his odd uncle Prenderghast (John Goodman), who floors him with the revelation that a centuries-old witch’s curse is real and is about to come true, and that only Norman will be able to stop it from going into overdrive and harming the townspeople. Once a septet of zombies – led by The Judge (Bernard Hill) – suddenly rises from their graves, Norman finds himself caught in a wild race against time alongside Courtney, Alvin, Neil, and Neil’s musclebound older brother Mitch (Casey Affleck) as Sheriff Hooper (Tempestt Bledsoe) chases them all. Worse, the town is up in arms and taking up arms. Norman bravely summons up all that makes a hero – courage and compassion – as he finds his paranormal activities pushed to their otherworldly limits. ’ParaNorman’ arrives in cinemas from August 17th in the US and September 14th in the UK.
Was animation something you always wanted to explore with acting?
Anna Kendrick: I’ve always wanted to voice an animated film, I love animated films. And I think ’ParaNorman’ is the perfect story for the medium, especially stop-motion animation….this story of this young boy, Norman, who can see and speak to the dead. This kid is bullied at school and misunderstood at home, and he ends up using this thing that he’s ashamed of, this thing that makes him different, this special skill, to try to save the town from a zombie invasion. I think there’s something so otherworldly about the story that makes it such a great fit for stop-motion.
What was it like jumping on board this film to voice Norman’s seemingly shallow sister Courtney Babock? She seems extremely far-removed from you as a person?
Anna Kendrick: Yeah. When I just looked at Courtney Babock…..I mean, she’s blonde, she has these hips, a belly button ring, she wore pink….I thought that it was actually flattering that someone has the sort of creative mind to see someone who’s small and brunette, as this blonde, sort of jailbait situation (laughs). I was really excited to see that I would be, in my own weird way, getting to play the hot blonde chick (laughs). Like I said, I’ve always wanted to voice an animated film, I love animated films. But doing voiceover both excited and terrified me. It was really exciting to do something that I’ve never done before. It was a lot of fun. I was flattered to be asked, although I thought, “What if I’m bad at this?” But Courtney is silly, volatile, and kind of fascinating to me so I wanted to play her. And Courtney, as Norman’s older sister, she’s very cruel to poor Norman. She’s very obnoxious, very embarrassed by him to start with.
How did you find transferring your live-action acting skills to this new medium of voicing a character? That must have been a unique way of capturing a performance for you?
Anna Kendrick: Oh yeah. I feel like ‘ParaNorman’ was this almost pure acting exercise, its been so great to feel like I don’t have any limitations. Going into it I thought that I would, I was worried I would feel really limited and restricted having to stand in front of the microphone in a room. But in fact, it was just the opposite – I felt as if I had no limitations, I felt more free; I didn’t worry about the camera move, the lighting, the other actor, hitting my mark, my face or my body. I’d be given direction and then say the lines without over thinking them. That was really satisfying.
And being stationary in the recording booth while voicing Courtney, how physical did you get with voicing her? I can imagine you had to get animated in there for certain scenes….?
Anna Kendrick: Definitely. I was surprised by how physically exhausting the voice work was – maybe that’s just me (laughs), with my first time doing it. But because I’m being chased by zombies in this film and things of that nature, I found myself trying to stay in my little radius where the microphone could still pick up what I was doing, but doing a lot of hand stuff and feet stuff – I was doing all this weird stuff with my feet (laughs). I probably looked like I was having some kind of fit (laughs). But I was completely not self-conscious, so hopefully I have carried that into making non-animated movies.
What was it for like for you seeing the finished film after this unique experience of making the film? Was there anything that resonated with you in particular, any themes?
Anna Kendrick: The impressive thing to me was that I knew it was by the people behind ‘Coraline,’ I knew how beautiful it was going to be. But ‘ParaNorman’ so exceeded my expectations, it’s so visually stunning – especially when they get into the third act. These things happen in which you didn’t see the film going in. It’s so beautiful. When I went to LAIKA, I asked them to play it for me again and they played me this one sequence on a loop because I was just like, “This is so beautiful!” And with the themes, I think the film has themes about bullying, about being different and frankly about family – that was the theme that really resonated to me. The idea of embracing and supporting the black sheep of the family. But I think it does it so well because it doesn’t talk down to the audience. It doesn‘t talk down to kids and it doesn’t underestimate them. I always appreciated a smart film growing up so I think that’s where they‘ve gone so very right.
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