The Women of “ParaNorman” Find Their Voice

Anna Kendrick (“Twilight” series, “Up in the Air”) and Leslie Mann (“Knocked Up”) join the voice ensemble cast of Focus Features' new, 3D animated thriller “ParaNorman.”

             When a small town comes under siege by zombies, who can it call? Only misunderstood local boy Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee), who is able to speak with the dead. In addition to the zombies, he'll have to take on ghosts, witches and, worst, of all, grown-ups, to save his town from a centuries-old curse. But this young ghoul whisperer may find his paranormal activities pushed to their otherworldly limits. 

             Leslie Mann gives voice to Norman’s mom, Sandra Babcock, a caring parent who must watch her son being ostracized because of his special ghost-whispering talent. While Mann, a mother of two, clearly understands the maternal dimension of her character, she also connected to Norman on a personal level. 

             “As a kid, I always felt like an outsider and felt left out,” Mann explains. “In the fourth grade, though, I said I wanted to be an actress, and now it’s fun to be able to use the thing that everyone made fun of me for – my high voice.”

             Despite such early humiliation, Mann persevered to become one of Hollywood’s most talented comic actresses. And while she connected with Norman’s spirit, she also loved the spirit of the film and its filmmakers. “I had seen and loved `Coraline,' and LAIKA Studios sent over pictures of the `ParaNorman' characters so I knew I would get to be part of the creative process with all these animators. Also, I enjoyed being able to come in to work looking like a slob.”

             Although she is an Oscar-nominated actress and got her first major award nomination at the age of just 12, Anna Kendrick was intimidated by the prospect of playing Courtney Babock, the eponymous hero's seemingly shallow sister.

             Kendrick admits that “doing voiceover both excited and terrified me. I was flattered to be asked, although I thought, ‘What if I’m bad at this?’” 

             Kendrick's ability to bring both humor and a strong sense of humanity to the characters she plays made her the ideal person to voice Courtney, a cheerleader who is too easily dismissed by others based on her surface appearance. Not long into playing the role, Kendrick found that her skills as a live-action thespian had fully transferred over to this new medium. 

             “It turned out to be a pure acting exercise,” she says. “Going into it, I worried I would feel restricted having to stand in front of the microphone. It was just the opposite –– I felt as if I had no limitations; I didn’t worry about my face or my body or hitting my mark. I’d be given direction and then say the lines without overthinking them.” 

             The actress concludes that, even though she was stationary in the recording booth while playing Courtney, her body was fully engaged in the role: “I was doing all this weird stuff with my feet. But I was completely not self-conscious, so hopefully I have carried that into making non-animated movies.”

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