Theater in the Round: Anna Kendrick on End of Watch

Shooting a found footage cop movie and choreographing a dance rouine with Jake Gyllenhaal.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel


End of Watch shows what it’s like for cops on the street. It’s filmed partly with camcorders and button cams, following Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Pena) on patrol. Part of that life is the women they have at home. Anna Kendrick plays Brian’s wife Janet, with the lighter side of their courtship and the emotional weight of his deadly profession. We got to chat with Kendrick in Toronto at her third consecutive Toronto International Film Festival.


CraveOnline: It seems like things really exploded for you after Up in the Air. Was that as big a turning point as it seems?

Anna Kendrick: It was interesting actually because immediately following Up in the Air, I got a lot of offers to do the exact same character, which of course did not interest me at all. So it was actually difficult to find people who could see you in any other light. So weirdly, while I was getting a lot of opportunities after Up in the Air, they were all for the same thing. It seemed to take six months to a year for people to start thinking of me as “that girl who did a nice job in that movie” instead of as Natalie Keener from Up in the Air. So things actually got more interesting once I had a little bit of a breather from it, because immediately following Up in the Air I was like, “This is really boring. All these scripts are the exact same thing.”


What did you do during that time?

What did I do during that time? I think I ended up going home to see my family for a little bit, traveling a little bit and I don't know, I guess I was just picking up the pieces of my physically and emotionally confused life after that.


From an actor’s perspective, what was the work of working with the cameras of End of Watch?

It was really exciting. It was really freeing actually. It was surprising how comfortable you got with it so quickly, and I think it started to feel like you were doing Theater in the Round because there were cameras everywhere just narrowly avoiding each other. And then there would be times when if we noticed that no one was filming, we’d pick up a handheld and try and create something, try and put something on film. I found it really liberating. The scene where I record a message for Jake, there was nobody else in the room. It was just me and Jake so it didn’t feel like a traditional set. There were no cameras in the room, no lights in the room. It felt like I was alone with Jake and I went into a corner and recorded this message for him.


This found footage is a new thing for the industry, so it must be really new for actors.

Yeah, yeah. I remember when David [Ayer] was about to leave the room, I was actually like, “Wait, you guys have to show me how to use this camera.” Because I’m so used to not having to actually operate anything. Even cell phones and computers, they’re all dummies. So it was the first time I was like, “I’m actually shooting this. I’m shooting something that’s going to be in the movie so you need to show me how to turn this on.”


Did it make you a technophile now?

No. No, no. I think I retained that information for the two hours that I needed it. Then it immediately went out of my brain.


Did you and Jake choreograph the wedding dance together?

Yeah. It was like 10 hours of debating what moves to do. He was really into it. No, we had a choreographer choreograph a super cheesy wedding dance and it is supposed to be bad. We had a couple of rehearsals and that was it basically.


Would you have liked to be on the street with a really gritty cop role?

You know, I think that would be really exciting. If some of the characters were different and I could’ve played a police officer, I think that would’ve been really interesting. I guess America’s not any taller than I am but I think she’s more badass than I am.


What did you love about Janet?

I loved her vulnerability and I liked the idea of trying to put something on screen in a limited amount of time that felt like two people who really needed each other.


Do you have a big role in Rapturepalooza?

I don’t know what’s happening with that movie. We filmed that a year and a half ago.


What about Get a Job?

Get a Job is with Miles Teller and Bryan Cranston. It’s about this group of kids getting out of college and thinking that they’re kind of hot sh*t and realizing how difficult it’s going to be to get a literal job, but I think also figure out how to be grown-ups.


What kind of comedy do you get to do in that?

Well, I get to be a stoner. I don’t start out that way but that was the thing that was exciting about it. Actually when I first read the script I thought it was too similar to my character in Up in the Air and I kind of stopped reading it and my agent told me I should give it another shot. She kind of has this freakout and turns into a stoner for a while and that was so much fun.


You’ve been at this almost 10 years now. How do you approach the work differently now than when you started, or what have you learned over your years in the business?

I don't know, I feel like I’m still learning a lot. I think there’s a tendency for people who are just doing their first couple of films that I see now where they seem to be really resentful of the technical limitations that come along with filmmaking. They get really frustrated and feel like it’s a detriment to their craft. I just find it a new set of challenges. I like figuring out where I need to be mentally so that I’m not thinking about the camera and that it’s second nature. I want to get to a place where I can exist within the confines of what you can do with filmmaking and not have to think about it.


What do you mean the technical limitations of filmmaking?

Literally, like it’s not theater. You can’t run into the next room if you feel like it. They have to light that f***ing room. That’s hyperbole but I see people learning the ropes acting in some of their first films and they get really frustrated when they can’t move around enough or they don’t trust that it looks like they can’t see what’s behind the camera. They’re like, “But I’d be able to see that.” But it won’t feel that way when it’s cut together. That kind of stuff.


What were you like on your first film?

Well, my first film, everybody in it, it was their first film. It was a nonunion film so we were all completely at a loss. We had no idea what was going on so we were all asking a lot of questions. I think it was actually fortunate for me that I didn’t work on my first film with a bunch of professional seasoned actors because the entire group of us just had to figure it out as we went along.


You’ve been to Toronto with Up in the Air and 50/50 also. As a TIFF veteran, how much sleep are you getting and what survival secrets do you know?

I usually have a red bull at a certain point in the day. I don’t usually drink caffeine so that when I need it, it actually does something. Toronto’s one of those places where I end up drinking a lot of caffeine.


How close are we to Red Bull hour?

I don't know actually. What time is it? Lisa [her publicist] can tell.