PETER SAGAL, HOST:
Anna Kendrick first became famous as a start of the "Twilight" movies. It's amazing how much she's triumphed over that early adversity.
BILL KURTIS: Ms. Kendrick joined us in September of last year and told us that her origin story goes back much further than that.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)
ANNA KENDRICK: Yeah. I started in theater when I was - well, I started in local theater when I was, like, 5 or 6. And then I did the play "Annie," which is, you know, the gateway drug for all girls trying to do theater....
KENDRICK: Then I wanted to audition for professional shows, and my parents were gracious enough to drive me from Maine to New York City for these auditions. And I was 12, and he was 14. And we got on a Greyhound bus, and I auditioned for the musical "High Society," and eventually, I got that.
PAULA POUNDSTONE: Wow.
SAGAL: So your parents said we've had it. Here's a bus ticket. Call us when you're famous.
KENDRICK: Yeah, pretty much, yeah.
POUNDSTONE: Do you remember what - were you Annie when you were in "Annie" in local theater?
KENDRICK: No, I was Tessie who said, you know, they're fighting, and I won't get no sleep all night. You always remember your first lines.
SAGAL: Are you telling me that there is somebody who is probably still in this world who's walking around knowing that Anna Kendrick auditioned for their production of Annie, and you did not get cast as Annie?
KENDRICK: Yeah, she's a real stuck-up bitch to this day.
POUNDSTONE: Well, you know what? There's relief in that because they've done a study that shows that kids who play Annie often become procrastinators.
KENDRICK: Well, good to know.
SAGAL: I know because it's always tomorrow.
PJ O'ROURKE: Putting things off till tomorrow.
POUNDSTONE: Exactly, so I think...
SAGAL: Exactly, musical theater joke.
POUNDSTONE: You got away with that. Good for you.
SAGAL: I mentioned this when I introduced you, I wanted to check it. Is - you were doing - you were working a lot as a professional actor in films. You played opposite George Clooney in "Up In The Air" and was nominated for an Oscar. But is it true that the thing that really sort of propelled you was the "Pitch Perfect" movies?
KENDRICK: Yeah, I think that's true. That had a really wide audience and, as you say, like, this thing really took off, which was me, you know, singing with a plastic cup. And when I - you know, when everybody was auditioning for that film, everybody kind of needed to sing just so that, you know, they knew that you could sing. And I knew how to do this kind of dorky thing with this cup and - because I'd seen these two girls doing it on a YouTube video, and I'd taught myself how to do it because I have too much free time on my hands.
KENDRICK: And so I said, well, I mean, if I'm going to sing anyway, I can show you this thing that I can do. And they put it in the movie. And then it, you know, became a single, and they recorded it as a full song and made a music video for it. So, you know, learn geeky stuff...
KENDRICK: ...Because then you'll have a triple platinum song.
SAGAL: Yeah, it's - and I realize that when we spoke earlier, and I called you, you were actually at that moment watching YouTube videos. You were looking for the next big gimmick, I guess.
KENDRICK: Oh, I was. That's right. Well, I was looking at skunk-related videos, so I'm not sure how that's going to help me.
SAGAL: I'm sorry. Did you say skunk-related videos?
KENDRICK: Yeah, it was - there was a video of a gang of skunks.
SAGAL: What were they doing?
KENDRICK: Well, they were scurrying across the front lawn, and then they thought they heard something, and they all, like, gathered together and put up their tails. And I, like, almost started crying because, you know, they're these reviled little creatures but they have each other's backs.
SAGAL: They were looking out for each other. Do they, like, arrange themselves where, like, their scent glands were pointed in all directions in case?
KENDRICK: No, actually, which seems like a design flaw. The people - the guys in the front really have it easy but...
KENDRICK: ...The privates in the back...
SAGAL: "Pitch Perfect," of course, if you haven't seen it, what is wrong with you, ladies and gentlemen? It is a movie about competitive a cappella singing, which is a real thing in this world. Has it...
KENDRICK: Unfortunately, yes.
SAGAL: No, I think it's pretty awesome.
KENDRICK: I actually do think it's really cool.
SAGAL: It is great. And did your movies - because there have now been three of them - have they led to, like, an explosion or revival of a cappella?
KENDRICK: Unfortunately, yes.
SAGAL: So you've spent some time with real a cappella groups?
KENDRICK: I actually didn't for research purposes. I actually had done before. So I went - a friend kind of dragged me to an a cappella competition, and I thought it was going to be very dorky. And I ended up - by the end of it, I was, like, do you think we could go backstage and meet them...
POUNDSTONE: Oh, I wonder...
KENDRICK: And, like, went to a house party that they were throwing at their college and tried to get to know them because, you know, when you see somebody do something that is really impressive, you know, it doesn't matter if it's considered geeky. You get really into it.
SAGAL: Sure, absolutely.
NEGIN FARSAD: Oh, my God. I made out with an a cappella member in college in my freshman year...
KENDRICK: Yes, get it girl.
FARSAD: It was the best night of my life.
KENDRICK: That's amazing.
POUNDSTONE: I wonder if ever, like, say at an a cappella competition, if anybody ever, like whips out a guitar or a keyboard and just ruins it?
KENDRICK: Gets booed.
SAGAL: How dare you.
SAGAL: Anyway, we wanted to do this with you just as a little sort of preliminary for the real quiz, which is we were looking around, and it turns out that a lot of a cappella groups have really odd names. So we wanted to ask you...
KENDRICK: Yeah, they have puns.
SAGAL: Yeah, so we wanted to ask you if you could tell the real ones from the fake ones just to see how you do with this. So I'm just going to read some names. You tell me if you think they're real or not.
KENDRICK: Oh, I will have no idea. But absolutely. Let's do it.
SAGAL: OK, here we go. Like, how about the Tempo Tantrums?
KENDRICK: I really want that to be real.
SAGAL: It is - Ohio University Tempo Tantrums.
KENDRICK: Love it.
SAGAL: How about The Rhythm Method?
KENDRICK: No. Oh, that is very clever, but if a college lets them get away with that, I would be surprised. So I'm going to say that's not real.
SAGAL: No, it is. It's Binghamton University.
SAGAL: A couple more.
KENDRICK: Proud of them.
SAGAL: Here's one - Sophie's Voice.
KENDRICK: Oh, not real.
SAGAL: No, not real.
SAGAL: One last one - Rhythm and Jews.
KENDRICK: I love that. I hope that's real.
SAGAL: Yes, it is - University of Chicago represent.
SAGAL: Well, Anna Kendrick, it is as delightful to talk to you as I always imagined it would be. And we have asked you here to play a game that we're calling...
KURTIS: Pitching Perfectly.
SAGAL: As we have discussed, you starred in the "Pitch Perfect" movies, so we thought we'd talk to you about pitching perfectly - specifically a no-hitter thrown by Pittsburgh Pirate pitcher Dock Ellis back in 1970.
KENDRICK: Oh, wow.
SAGAL: Answer two out of three questions about Dock Ellis' no-no, as they call it in the game, and you'll win our prize for one of our listeners - the voice of their choice on their voicemail. Bill, who is Anna Kendrick playing for?
KURTIS: Shannon Durphy of Minneapolis, Minn.
SAGAL: Here's your first question. Dock Ellis walked eight batters that day. He hit one, but he still did not give up a hit in a nine-inning complete game. But what made his no-hitter so unique in the annals of baseball? Was it, A, a right-handed pitcher, he threw this one with his left hand, quote, "just for kicks;" B, because of the walks, he actually lost the game 1-0; or C, he was high on LSD the whole time?
KENDRICK: Oh, I mean, I wish it was C but I guess I'll say B?
SAGAL: Can you hear the shouts of all the middle-aged men listening to the radio right now who are shouting the right answer?
SAGAL: Because they're all saying it was C. Yes, this is one of the famous games. Dock Ellis pitched a no-hitter on LSD.
KENDRICK: That's fabulous.
SAGAL: You still have two more chances here, so there's still a chance. As you can imagine, pitching in a major league game while tripping on LSD has its challenges.
SAGAL: Ellis said that during the game, he had to pitch around which of these problems - A, believing the catcher was Richard Nixon...
SAGAL: ...B, not being able to either feel or see either of his arms; or C, constantly resisting the urge to take a bite of the ball, which smelled like a hamburger?
KENDRICK: Oh, is it A?
SAGAL: It is A. Yes.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: He says at one point he looked in...
SAGAL: ...And Richard Nixon was behind the plate. And even worse, the batter was Jimi Hendrix, and he was swinging an electric guitar.
KENDRICK: Oh, my god.
SAGAL: All right. Now, Dock Ellis, as you can imagine, did not limit his misbehavior to that one game. Later on in his career in a game against the Cincinnati Reds, he attempted to do what - A, pitch underhanded; B, roll the ball to the plate; or C, hit, with a pitch, every single member of the opposing team?
SAGAL: You are right, Anna.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: That's what he did.
SAGAL: For reasons known perhaps only to him, he was angry at the Cincinnati Reds, so he decided to throw a ball and hit every single member of the opposing team.
SAGAL: He hit three of them and then threw two balls over the heads of the next two, and he was then removed from the game.
KENDRICK: This guy sounds amazing.
SAGAL: He was a pretty interesting fellow. Let me just say that about Dock Ellis. Bill, how did Anna Kendrick do on our quiz?
KURTIS: What a winner - two out of three, Anna. Good going.
SAGAL: Congratulations. Anna Kendrick's new movie is "A Simple Favor." It is out now.
Anna Kendrick, thank you so much for joining us, and thank you for everything you've done.
KENDRICK: Thank you so much.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CUPS (PITCH PERFECT'S "WHEN I'M GONE")")
KENDRICK: (Singing) I got my ticket for the long way 'round.
SAGAL: When we come back, one of the greatest players and one of the greatest coaches of all time each play Not My Job, one of the worst games of all time. We'll be back in a minute with more of WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME from NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.