Women in Music 2016

Anna Kendrick Admits to Being a Musical 'Amateur' and Why Bette Midler Is the 'Wayne Gretzky of Double Threats'

Austin Hargrave
Anna Kendrick photographed on Feb. 11, 2015 in Los Angeles.

The Natural

Anna Kendrick will be the first to tell you she's not really a musician; she just plays one on the big screen. Her ­humility belies the mezzo-soprano belt that drove the actress' cover of "Cups" from Pitch Perfect, the 2012 hit movie about a cappella competitions, to No. 6 on the Hot 100. That success has helped anoint the 29-year-old this ­generation's Julie Andrews -- the go-to belle for every female musical lead, including in Pitch Perfect 2 (out May 15), The Last 5 Years and Into the Woods (both out now). Off-camera, she's not far removed from her theatrical persona: the acerbic underdog, constantly downplaying her talents -- on the musical side, at least: "It's so striking that I am an amateur among pros."

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Her First Love
"I started with music before acting. Because when you're 6, you're singing, watching Janet Jackson on TV, performing in a ­mirror. I would try to get my friends into Bette Midler CDs, which is something no 8-year-old should be doing."

But She's Better At...
"Acting. I'd call myself very competent for an actor who sings, but I really don't know what I'm doing. When I'm in a recording studio, I feel like a kid on the first day of school."

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Has One Skill Helped The Other?
"Absolutely. Cinderella in Into the Woods -- I know how many girls wanted that part, girls who are frankly more famous than me. But that's a hard role, one you can't fake your way through. Without singing, I wouldn't have gotten that."

Double-Threat Hero
"There's really no argument: Bette Midler. She's the Wayne Gretzky of double threats."

Kendrick Facts
- "Cups" has sold 3 million downloads, according to Nielsen Music.
- The 15 films she has appeared in have grossed $488 million total.
- At age 12, she was nominated for a Tony for her role in Broadway musical High Society.

This story originally appeared in the Feb. 28 issue of Billboard.