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Oscar newcomer Kendrick is no newcomer, at all

LOS ANGELES--If the expression slow and steady wins the race is true, then actress Anna Kendrick has finally edged her way to the front of Hollywood's pack of young actresses.

This week, Kendrick, 24, earned a supporting actress Oscar nomination for her work in "Up in the Air", playing a perky young executive out to teach George Clooney's character how to fire people in the modern-day world of computer communication. The Oscar nod--her first--followed her role in November's box office hit "The Twilight Saga: New Moon", and this week Vanity Fair anointed her one of the fresh faces to watch in its annual Hollywood issue.

But the truth is, Kendrick's "fresh face" has been racking up accolades on stage and in independent films for years before she hit the mainstream jackpot with the "Twilight" movies and now "Up in the Air". Still, this past week's Oscar nomination and the month of awards shows and critical acclaim that came before it have caught Kendrick in a whirlwind of big-time Hollywood publicity that she still can't quite grasp.

"There's always a part of you that's going to feel like a version of yourself that couldn't find a job and you wonder what tricks you pulled to get into the party," Kendrick told Reuters.

While she may not have been in the Oscar "party" before, it's not the first time, Kendrick has won the hearts and minds of critics and fans. At age 12, she was the third youngest Tony Award nominee for her role in Broadway musical "High Society".

Five years later, her singing and dancing wowed audiences in the 2003 musical film "Camp". It was Kendrick's first-ever movie and resulted in an Independent Spirit Award nomination. A second Indie Spirit nod followed with 2007's "Rocket Science".

Yet, nothing could possibly prepare Kendrick for the frenzy surrounding Hollywood awards--the media attention, black-tie affairs and red carpets at the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards, where she also earned nods for "Up in the Air".

"I won't feel the full effects of this until (the Academy Awards) are over," she said. "I feel like I've got to come out on the other side first."

But already, that "other side" is shaping up quite rosy for Kendrick. Later this month she begins shooting her first post-"Up in the Air" project, an untitled comedy with Seth Rogen and James McAvoy for Mandate Pictures.

"I'm just happy to get back to work," says Kendrick. "I've been so focused on 'Up in the Air' and awards season that I haven't read any scripts in a long time. I haven't had an audition or taken a meeting in ages."

The project stemmed from a more general meeting Kendrick had with Mandate last summer before "Air" was even released. Several different projects were bandied about at that time, then this past holiday season, Mandate called with an offer for Kendrick to star in the Rogen/McAvoy comedy.

It was the first time, Kendrick did not have to audition for a film part, which came with great relief. "I'm not a really good auditioner, so it took a lot of the load off me," she said.

She still has one more "Twilight" film, "Eclipse", due in theaters on June 30. In the saga, Kendrick portrays Jessica Stanley, a friend and classmate of lead character Bella Swan. It is a small role, but enough to make her a recognizable face to her fans without overshadowing the rest of her career.

"I've been really lucky to not be defined completely by that series," says Kendrick.

The entire cast originally signed contracts for the first three installments, and Kendrick said she still does not know if her character will be in the fourth film, "Breaking Dawn".

"I honestly feel like Jessica is one of those characters that if she wasn't in the movie, nobody would miss her," she says. "At the same time, I feel a certain affection for the films so if they ask me, I would love to. I don't have my fingers crossed either way."

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