Although Pitch Perfect co-stars Anna Kendrick and Brittany Snow appear at home on stage as members of a competitive a cappella group in Universal Pictures’ new musical comedy, they confess that wasn’t always the case.
"I forgot the lyrics to 'The Good Ship Lollypop' when I was 5 at a dance recital," Kendrick (The Twilight Saga, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) told a group of reporters last week. "I decided to sit on stage and cry. I learn my lines now much better."
Snow (Prom Night, Hairspray) recalled a similar tear-filled experience. "When I was 8 or 9, I was in 'Pirate of Penzance' and I had to wear this really long fake wig and I had to come across the stage, tiptoeing,” she said, “and the wig fell off and the boy that I really liked was laughing at me. I cried, too. And I had to sing.”
Directed by Jason Moore, Pitch Perfect follows Kendrick as Beca, who has dreams of becoming a radio DJ but is forced to go to college. There, she joins an all-girls a capella group called The Bellas, which is determined to defeat the reigning Treble Makers in an international competition. Snow plays Chloe, the group’s eager-to-please morale booster.
With their early stage frights now only memories, Kendrick and Snow faced the more specific challenge of mastering the film’s musical mash-up numbers. In one such scene, a Riff-Off between the Bellas and rival Barton groups, Snow faced the odd challenge of not singing during the Bellas' rendition of Blackstreet's "No Diggity."
"I loved that song from long ago,” she explained. “It's always been my karaoke song and I was really jealous that Anna got to do the rap part." Snow and the other Bellas, a group that includes Rebel Wilson, Esther Dean and Anna Camp, found the mood on set that day infectious, but fought the urge to do more than their assigned roles in the song -- except for one moment that Snow simply couldn’t resist.
"There's a part at the very end where [Anna's character] goes 'We out!' and nobody else was supposed to say that, but I was so caught up in the song that I say it, too," Snow said. During post-production, director Moore called her on that exuberance, but her enthusiasm can be seen briefly in the final cut.
The actresses praised Moore, a first-time director, for his ability to command the complicated production. "It was a huge task to have all the Bellas, all the other a cappella groups who were there, all the extras, and wrangle everybody and make sure they were in sync and focused," Snow said.
"[He] makes you feel safe singing 'No Diggity' in a pool [when you're] wondering if this is going to come across well," Kendrick added. "He sees everything from every angle, and he's a smart enough person and has such amazing taste."
They said Moore kept his cool, although Kendrick picked up on a telling gesture. "Every now and then, he'd play with the front of his hair and it was like, 'Okay, Jason's tripping. Come back! Come on, Captain!'" she recalled with a laugh.
Another challenge Kendrick and Snow faced was keeping their composure during the rehearsal scenes shot toward the end of production. In particular, Kendrick remembered filming a scene in which the girls confess secrets to one another.
"It was like maybe one of the second-to-last days for the girls and it was late and we're all just sitting around staring at each other and it's just like ... you get too comfortable," she said. The adrenaline of the performance scenes kept everybody focused and on task, but this scene, itself a pretty funny moment, led to on-set silliness. "Just sitting in a circle with these girls that I've gotten to know over three months was jus, 'I can't take you guys seriously,'" Kendrick continued.
That sense of camaraderie came in handy while filming the finale, which employs a number of song selections and full choreography. The director had the Bellas perform the whole sequence from start to finish nearly 40 times, creating what Kendrick and Snow believe was the toughest -- and best -- time on set.
"That was a moment where it really felt like it was just the ten of us supporting each other," Kendrick said. "It felt like we really had to rely on each other and feed off of each other's energy in way that is exclusive to theatrical performance."
The director and producers stood at the back of the auditorium, and the audience was packed with extras, creating a feeling that the finale was a real situation and not simply a movie. "It was a really beautiful thing to look around at these girls and know that they're my co-workers and my friends and that we're in it for each other,” Kendrick said. “We're not thinking about the camera, we're just trying to be there to support each other."
Asked if there was something more to the return of musical films, a form that had been dormant at the turn of the century, Kendrick quipped, "[It's] a government conspiracy. You are all now Manchurian candidates."
Snow offered a more thoughtful answer. "I think that what's happening now is a surge of people passionate about musicals. I think it started 10 years ago and it's getting more and more prevalent," she said. "People want to go to the movies and watch shows on TV or in theaters that make them feel good and music really does that. It's not only that you watch something and connect to dialogue, but when you listen to a song, it gives a whole other element of connection."
"That's the difference between us in those two answers," Kendrick added. "I refuse to be sincere and you're amazing."
Pitch Perfect opens Friday nationwide.
Related: Spinoff Review of Pitch Perfect