In "Into the Woods," Anna Kendrick plays Cinderella, though it might not exactly be the Cinderella you're familiar with. Stephen Sondheim's hit musical takes the much darker original versions of popular fairy tales and adds a post-modern twist, leaving the Disney versions spinning in its wake. Which is surprising, since Disney produced the movie adaptation. So, this darker, more irony-fueled take on things — totally not for kids, right? Kendrick would actually beg to differ.
It seems funny Disney would be handling this musical, considering its take on fairy tales. I mean, there is even a live-action "Cinderella" coming next year from Disney.
Yeah, I know. I think it's cool that they did this. I think it's smart because for another studio to do it, it would've felt like some kind of attack or something.
As this film shows, the fairy tales used to be much, much darker.
I think that children are intrigued by the dark side of the fairy tales. They always want to peer through their fingers and see the ugly bits, and I think that's something very smart that happens in this movie. Some of it is shiny and fun and exciting, and then there's little twists on things that kind of excite you. I think we all have movies that we saw when we were young, like "Watership Down" or "Flight of the Navigator," "Labyrinth" — all these weird movies that left such an impression on us when we were young because it was challenging to us, because it was engaging our little brains in a way we weren't used to.
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I remember being terrified of "The Ewok Adventure" when I was very little.
I never saw "The Ewok Adventure," but let me tell you, when that Ewok died in "Return of the Jedi," I was inconsolable for about a week. It just f---ed me up.
But kids need that, and adults tend to develop an unrealistic idea of what kids can and can't handle.
Yeah, completely. I mean, my brother showed me "Pulp Fiction" when I was about 10 and I turned out all right, for the most part.
What was your favorite part of "Pulp Fiction" when you first saw it?
Um, the dancing, probably. And I did like when they stabbed Uma Thurman with the adrenaline needle. That part was exciting. And even at that age I remember that the smash cut to her in the car looking all f---ed up was sort of funny and rewarding. I didn't understand why, but I was like, "That makes me laugh. Something terrible happened, and now something funny is happening." So there is that part of kids' brains that are really compelled by darkness.
And we should obviously encourage that.
Yeah. No heroin use in this film, though. Just for the record, in case there are any parents reading.
There are a few notable changes from the original "Into the Woods," and Sondheim has some diehard fans. How do you gird yourself for their reactions?
That's a tough one because all you can ever do is hope that the attitude that they take is, "Well, you should see the show because the show is different and exciting as well." I don't think that anybody who saw the Harry Potter films was discouraged from reading the books, so hopefully this just exposes people to the piece and gets them excited about more live theater. The worst version is people being protective just to be elitist about it.
With this, "The Last Five Years" and the "Pitch Perfect" films, do you find it bizarre that some people still seemed surprised that you sing?
Yeah, sometimes, but I'm actually sort of charmed by that at this point. A lot of people have been saying, "Oh, but you already knew how to sing because we saw you in 'Pitch Perfect," and I'm like, "Yeah, but this is not exactly the same thing." This kept me up at night, and "Pitch Perfect" is pop songs. I actually find it kind of charming when people are pleasantly surprised because when something kicks your ass and you claw your way to competence, there's a little resentment when people are like, "Oh, but this must've been a walk in the park for you."
Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter: @nedrick