Kendrick's performance was so impressive that she earned her first Tony nomination at the age of 12. At the time, she was the third-youngest person ever to be nominated for a Tony.
When she returned to Portland at the age of 13, her reception at school was less than friendly.
"A couple of people, like, shouted at me in the hallway," Kendrick said. "They would shout 'Broadway' and I thought they were making fun of me, and I thought it was just the most humiliating thing. And I just kind of didn't want to talk about it and didn't want to draw any kind of attention to myself."
Still, Kendrick persisted in her acting career. Four years later, Graff gave Kendrick her first movie role in the musical comedy "Camp." She channeled the spirit of a 50-year-old martini-soaked lush, but she was still a high school kid in Maine.
"Anna is a very old soul," Graff said. "She always was extraordinarily mature, even as a kid. She was the one who always knew how to be in the moment, but also hit her mark, but also knew when she needed another take, because there was something that she wanted to get across, that she wasn't quite able to get across in that take. We called her Meryl," as in Streep
Kendrick graduated from Deering High School and moved to New York City when she was 17 to perform in "A Little Night Music" at New York City Opera. In 2007, she landed a role in the film "Rocket Science" as a fast-talking high school debater. Kendrick said it was during this time that she realized she was in love with acting.
"It was a moment on 'Rocket Science' where I realized, 'I am so in love with doing this; I am so in love with making movies and being on film sets.'" Kendrick said. "It was my birthday. And I worked 12 hours, and there was a cake at lunch, and it was one of the best days of my life, and it just makes me want to try to be on film sets as much as I can."
Kendrick's performance in "Rocket Science" ultimately caught the eye of "Up in the Air" director Jason Reitman, who wrote the Oscar-worthy role for her.
Despite her Oscar nomination, Kendrick's Broadway friends will always remember her as an ambitious and hard-working little girl. "If you meet somebody when they're 12, in some way they're always 12 to you," Graff said. "And she's always going to be our 12-year-old Anna Banana."
Watch "Before They Were Famous" on a special edition of "20/20" tonight at 10 p.m. ET