Anna Kendrick — well, her voice — inhabits a blonde cheerleader in a pink track suit in ParaNorman, the latest stop-motion animated delight from Oregon’s LAIKA studio (which gave us Coraline). Kendrick’s character, Courtney, is the perpetually annoyed older sister of the titular Norman, a kid who has the ability to see and talk to the dead — which makes him an outcast even in his witch-obsessed Salem-esque hometown. But Norman may also be the only one capable of stopping a zombie horde, too, so he has his uses. Kendrick, who’s kind of over the vampire and werewolf thing after doing five Twilight movies, says she was ready to explore other supernatural areas, and also to play against type — here, she finally gets to be hot. She also gets to be a hot dog — well, in Chicago. It’s complicated. Anyway, she took a break to tell Vulture about her newfound zombie makeup skills, her Godzilla impressions, and her geek cred.
How do you feel about zombies? You a fan?
Oh God, yeah. I’m into The Walking Dead, Shaun of the Dead, obviously, and I’ve seen all the Romero movies. I am a classic zombie queen. And I love the White Walkers on Game of Thrones. Weirdly, it wasn’t until pretty late in life that I found my entry point into horror films, because for years, the only one I really liked was The Bad Seed, and the purists would say that is not a horror film. I didn’t like all the damsels in distress in horror, or even what they call the Final Girl, which to me is really just a girl in distress for the entire movie. But once I saw Sarah Polley kicking ass in the Dawn of the Dead remake, I was like, Oh! I totally get this now.
Was Comic-Con any different for you this time around, since you’re now on zombie radar?
Oh, yeah. This girl was in the bathroom, and she had all these prosthetic wounds, and her forehead was peeling off. So she’s leaning over the sink, trying to fix her makeup, and I helped her get her wound back on. It was weirdly sweet. Just another lady helping another lady! [Laughs.] I was just trying to be normal, like it was no big deal.
Well, now when people ask you for your makeup tips, you can tell them, “This is how you put on your zombie face.”
“This is the right glue to hold it up.” Totally. Because they do ask me for my beauty secrets all the time. I’m going to bone up on that. [Laughs.] They’re going to think I’m a real hard-core geek! I’m only medium geek.
This is your first animated film. How did you find your voice for it? Because Courtney’s more shrill than you are.
You know, I’ve always wanted to do animation, and I didn’t know how to break into that world, so I was really excited that they offered this to me. But you’re right, that’s not how I speak. I didn’t mean to do that voice at first, but it came out of me. I think of it as my fighting-with-my-mom voice. Like I would imagine the worst fights with my mom, and relive those moments. And she’s screaming like she’s dying because she spilled a bottle of nail polish. [Imitates.] “Nnnh! Gawwd!” I was just screwing up my body in all these weird positions to make those noises. Halfway through it, Casey [Affleck] was like, “You’re doing knee and feet acting.”
How do you like your character’s look?
It’s actually kind of flattering that someone thought of me as the hot blonde chick. [Laughs.] If you’re doing live action, you can change your hair, your makeup, your clothes, and you can transform, but it’s nothing like this. This was a treat, to inhabit the body of a tall 16-year-old with an ass for days. She’s got back! I loved hearing my voice coming out of that body. They showed me the puppet on the first day and that helped a lot.
Those puppets are so cute!
I know! I visited the LAIKA studio after they were done, and I got to play with all the puppets. Everything had stopped filming, and there was a set where one of the streets was destroyed, so I stood in the middle of the street like Godzilla and took a picture. It looked like I had stomped the street.
Too bad you couldn’t do that on the Twilight sets. Does it feel weird to be saying good-bye to that franchise after all these years?
Yeah, it’s weird, because it’s been a part of my life for so long. I’m not torn up about it, but I have to keep reminding myself that it’s over.
Isn’t your character in Pitch Perfect supposed to be a goth?
That’s the weird thing. The word “goth” got out there, but she’s not exactly a goth. She’s just mad at the world. It’s not like I was intentionally looking to do a musical — I don’t have a master plan — but occasionally I get bored, and this was the kind of thing that excited me. You can hear me sing “No Diggity” in the trailer, but that one was in my body from childhood. There are other songs I really have no business singing, but that one, I was like, “You don’t need to teach me this song.” If I didn’t have an emotional connection to a song, it was harder to find the right way to perform it. But it’s not like the show Glee at all.
Christopher Mintz-Plasse is in ParaNorman with you, as well as Pitch Perfect, as well as your other upcoming film Get a Job. Are you stalking him?
It’s on. [Laughs.] It’s so weird. We’re in three films together. What is happening? But he is not in the film I just shot, Drinking Buddies. That was in Chicago. Do you know the hot-dog place there, Hot Dougs? It was like five blocks away from where we were shooting, and they have a hot dog named after me! It’s called the Anna Kendrick. The description is “mighty hot.” So I got it, and it’s really spicy! You’re going to need a drink to go with that one.