October 05 – The Philadelphia Inquirer: From Bryn Mawr to Hollywood
‘I love Philly,” says Kat Dennings. “I’m so happy to be here, even though it’s for 10 minutes.”
Dennings, 22, has her feet on the coffee table in a room at the Four Seasons Hotel, looking out at the fountain at Logan Square. The actress — she’s Norah in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, opposite Juno’s jejune loverboy, Michael Cera — is from around these parts. Bryn Mawr and Wynnewood, to be exact, until she was hired to play daughter to (Philly native) Bob Saget in the short- lived sitcom Raising Dad. She and her mother moved to Los Angeles in 2001, and she’s been pretty much camped there since.
“I grew up in Bryn Mawr, literally on top of a hill, surrounded by woods,” says the dark-haired Dennings. “Now it’s a housing complex, but before there were houses it was all horses, and I just remember going outside in the morning and roaming around in the woods and not coming back until bedtime, basically. You know, chasing fireflies, and snow, and just the seasons, being out in the trees and stuff. Having to get checked for ticks by my mom when I got home.”
There won’t be any ex-classmates checking Dennings’ recollections for accuracy: one of three children of a poet mom and biochemist dad, she was home-schooled, doing her 3 R’s at the kitchen table. She has dreamed about being an actress from the time she started talking.
“I mean, that’s all I’ve ever really wanted,” she explains. “I had the I-want-to-be-a-fairy-princess phase, but acting’s the only thing that I’ve consistently wanted and have never given up on. I’ve played every instrument for 10 minutes, and given them up because I don’t have the patience. This is the only thing that I’ve really wanted, forever.”
And she’s gotten it. Jon Poll, who cast her as the romantic lead in the offbeat teen dramedy Charlie Bartlett (playing Robert Downey Jr.’s daughter), said that he had to fight to hire Dennings. “She’s not your cookie-cutter teen actress,” he said in an interview earlier this year. “She looks different, and that makes some people nervous.”
“That seems to be what happens with me,” Dennings says with a shrug. In person, made-up for photographers and a round of local TV chats, Dennings looks glammy enough, but, she’s rounder and fuller than most of her contemporaries vying for the same teen and 20- something roles. Her pale white skin is downright Elizabethan compared with the tanning-saloned Lauren Conrad/Heidi Montag crowd.
“I’m not conventional at all,” she concedes. “I’m not like the normal-hair/pretty-girl that you usually see in a movie, I guess. But you know, if I’m right for a part eventually you can’t really argue against it.
“And I think when . . . you have chemistry with someone, it’s obvious, and I think that wins it for me in the end.”
Indeed, she and Cera spark as the title characters in Nick and Norah, trolling Manhattan’s Lower East Side on a music-fueled nighttime odyssey.
“I don’t know what I can do to make it less of a struggle, but I’m not going to fix my teeth or dye my hair,” she adds. “Unless my teeth crack and I have to.”
Although she’s had the lead in two movies now, and supporting roles in a couple of recent high profile comedy hits — The 40-Year- Old Virgin and The House Bunny — Dennings continues to maintain a blog full of personal stuff, just like thousands of other, albeit non-movie-star, 22-year-olds. At www.katdennings.com it is possible to learn about the actress’ musical tastes (Edith Piaf, Jeff Buckley, Johnny Flynn, Feist), her fave reads (Haruki Murakami, Katherine Mansfield, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), and, oh yeah, that she was on Carson Daly the other night. There’s even a link to Dennings’ videos — the actress sitting on her bed, strumming a guitar, trying to come up with five illuminating facts about herself.
As her career continues its ascent — she’s in the new Robert Rodriguez 3-D family flick, Shorts, in Jeff Daniels’ Philly-shot The Dream of the Romans, and attached to a project with Josh Hartnett and Sam Rockwell — is it such a good idea to put her personal life out there for anyone to gauge and glean?
“I mean, creepy people are everywhere,” she responds. “Sometimes I think, ‘Is this a good idea, letting people into my life?’ But at the same time . . . for the two creepy dudes that might try to figure out where I live and kill me, you know, there’s maybe a few hundred nice people who enjoy my blog and my videos, and maybe it brightens their day and makes them laugh or something. . . .
“I’m really not famous and no one really bugs me, so right now I’m fine. We’ll see what happens.
“And I haven’t made a new video blog in six months now, so what am I even talking about? I’ve been too busy. They take thought!”
Dennings, born Katherine Litwack (“Katherine — Ooh, no one calls me that unless they’re really mad at me”), is getting ready to take her Nick and Norah show on the road, doing press interviews and audience Q&As with costar Cera in Chicago, Dallas and San Francisco before heading back to Los Angeles.
An avid reader, she’s got her Kindle at the ready, and she’s happy to discuss the merits of Amazon’s nifty wireless reading device.
“I love my Kindle,” she says. “It’s the best thing ever. I have like 100 books in it already. You can download classic books for free, like Dracula, Jane Eyre. I’m reading Dracula, and then I can skip to, like, P.G. Wodehouse. It’s just the best thing in the world!
“Yeah, Kat Dennings endorses Kindle,” she says in her best mock infomercial voice. “If Kindle’s interested in giving me the next generation when it comes out so I don’t have to buy it, I would really appreciate it. Put that in.”