TORONTO - Jennifer Lawrence is either the most gifted actress alive, or she really is this cool of a person.
disrespect to Lawrence's very evident and solid dramatic chops, which
already earned her an Oscar nomination, but we'll go with the latter
Lawrence, currently operating on four or so hours of
sleep, is lying on a chaise longue in a hotel bar, her gold
blister-inducing stilettos kicked off. She's expounding on the virtues
of Dance Moms and Black Box wine when, mid-sentence, she stops,
raises her right arm, sniffs and makes a disgusted face. "Organic
deodorant does not work. It's like rolling water up in there. I don't
want to stink," she says with a grimace.
The actress, 22, is
proficient at putting those around her at ease by cracking the
perfectly-timed joke, or making a bitingly self-deprecating comment. Ask
her about the surely life-altering experience of headlining the Hunger Games
film franchise as reluctant freedom fighter Katniss Everdeen, and
Lawrence replies that her fame, coupled with her lifestyle, make her an
ideal target for photographers. "I never leave at night. I never go out.
I'm a 9-5 job for the paparazzi. The only pictures they get of me is
pumping my gas and walking to breakfast. People are still buying these?
OK," says Lawrence, switching into self-mocking mode. "I'm a fascinating
person. I get it. There are things about me that are special."
in all seriousness, there's plenty about Lawrence that makes her unique
among her peers. For starters, there's her career trajectory.
Lawrence, who was born and raised in Louisville, broke through two years
ago as a tenacious, steely Ozarks teen who sets out to find her missing
father and save her family's house in Winter's Bone. The stark,
searingly simple film earned her Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and
Oscar nominations and established her as one to watch.
ask Lawrence about her breakthrough and she jokes: "I started sleeping
with all the directors. It was totally helpful. I had to sleep with 98%
of the Academy to get the Oscar nomination. The other 2% were dead."
Since then, she's segued from superheroes (X-Men: First Class) to horror (The House at the End of the Street) to intimate dramas (The Beaver). And she caps off her two-year surge with David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook, which expands to more theaters Wednesday and heads into awards season as one of the favorites.
time, Lawrence is Tiffany, a mouthy dancer who befriends the bipolar
loose cannon (Bradley Cooper) who becomes her partner. Lawrence, a
longtime fan of Russell (Three Kings, The Fighter), hadn't read the script when she said yes to the film.
find it really amazing how he can take someone who is obviously crazy
and not someone you look up to and turn them into someone charming and
someone you want to be like," she says of Tiffany. "Your first instinct
is to judge her but she turns it around. She's crazy and a slut and
likes that about herself. There's so many dimensions to all of David's
Talking to Lawrence, you get the sense that she's as
outspoken, sharp-tongued and quick-witted as Tiffany, with her same
inability to suffer fools or be fake.
"I never compare my
characters to me. Not really. I gotta figure out an answer to these
acting questions. I guess like her, I can say the wrong thing. " says
Lawrence. "I'm a big believer in accepting yourself the way you are and
not really worrying about it. I felt like I admired Tiffany more than I
compared myself to her. You can dislike her. David gives you a choice.
He's not a manipulative filmmaker at all."
Russell auditioned Lawrence over Skype, a first for him. He'd seen her in Winter's Bone
and was impressed by her physicality and her on-screen maturity. And
for their virtual confab, she'd put on heavy makeup and done her hair as
Tiffany would. Russell, who's directed Christian Bale and George
Clooney, was smitten.
"There was something about her that was
very alive and very comfortable and she had a confidence that the
character has in the film. We all wondered if she was too young, but
she's someone who seems much wiser and older than she is. There's
something you get from her eyes and her presence that's remarkable and
soulful," says the director.
Off-screen, says Russell, she's
equally captivating. "She's a good egg. She's a lot of fun and she
enjoys her life. She's not neurotic. She's not anguished about stuff.
She makes it feel easy and look easy. She likes people. She likes
living. She likes food," says Russell, who says that between takes,
Lawrence would joke around and chat with the crew. "And then, you think,
'Is she paying attention?' And the cameras go on and she knocks it out
of the park."
Even during the dance scenes, which Lawrence is the
first to tell you were brutal for her. She says she's the opposite of a
gazelle: uncoordinated and gawky.
To illustrate her point,
Lawrence sits up, stiffly starts swaying her hips and snapping her
fingers. "I look like a dad at prom. I have no control over my limbs,"
she says, adding that two-stepping with Cooper did help them bond. "The
best way to get to know each other is to learn how to dance. We had
hours and hours sweating and touching. It sounds like a weird thing to
say, but when you can be physical and sweaty, by the time you start
shooting you know someone."
Perhaps the highest compliment Cooper
could pay Lawrence is this: "She doesn't seem like an actor. She's not
narcissistic and it's not all about her. Even in the midst of promoting a
movie, she's the same wherever she is, which is awesome. She makes you
happy no matter what. She spreads happiness wherever she is. She's got
her priorities. She gets it and knows what's important. You meet her
parents and you know why right away. She keeps her family close to her."
Her Hunger Games
co-star Woody Harrelson calls Lawrence, simply, "a hell of a gal. I
think it has to do with the way a person was raised. She was raised
well. Her folks are really cool. A lot of times when people lose their
head when they get famous, it's because they're insecure. She's not
insecure. You'd think arrogance comes from thinking too much of
themselves. But it comes from thinking too little. She doesn't need to
put on any airs. Her folks, her family, are all very important to her
and she's always including them in her life. Her friends are really cool
people. She's got her head screwed on pretty good."
Yet for all
her fearlessness, Lawrence did exhibit some neuroses. One thing that
amused Harrelson during the filming of the second Hunger Games installment, Catching Fire: Lawrence's very vocal arachnophobia.
had this real-looking spider. Josh (Hutcherson) came up behind her
with the spider. She started screaming at the top of her lungs. We were
on a big stage and she ran out screaming," says Harrelson, still
laughing about the incident. "She's the funniest woman I know. I'm in a
perpetual state of laughter with her, which is a pretty good way to be
That's by design. Lawrence says acting is her job, not
her life. She's never taken drama classes, and attributes many of her
achievements to simple good fortune. And while she understands the
fascination with what she does, she's quick to point out that she's paid
to say lines, not resuscitate ER patients or pull people from burning
"I'm still in touch with reality and I see this
business for what it is, which is a playground. I'm playing. I work at
imagining things. None of this is real. None of this actually matters. I
don't have a sense of superiority. I feel lucky but I don't feel
special. I don't think there's ever a moment where I feel like I deserve
it," she says. "The celebrity and fame thing and the acting part of it
are two separate things. The celebrity part of it is so predictable. I'm
not wowed by it."
Russell doesn't think Lawrence will end up on
the topical young Hollywood burnout track, a predictable atrophy fueled
by rehab stints, sex tapes and drunken escapades.
"She went from
being this somewhat anonymous girl to becoming this - it's still
happening with a great deal of propulsion. It's interesting to see it
happen in real time, to see her start to feel her own presence. She's
handling it very well.She's very clear about what she likes. She loves
her work and she loves her boyfriend and she loves her family. That
keeps it simple for her," he says.
Does she know her own net worth? No, responds Lawrence.
you go from indies to franchises, the first offer you get, you tell
your agent, 'Don't ask for more! ... Ask for less. That's rude.' I'm
not actually sure how much money I do have. When I start looking for
houses, then I'll know," she says.
She already shares her life
with her boyfriend, British actor Nicholas Hoult. He doesn't want her
opening up about them in interviews, which Lawrence - mostly - respects.
course I don't want to talk about my relationship. But then someone
brings up my boyfriend. It just feels so natural. He's awesome. I would
say nice things about him," says Lawrence. "And then later I read it and
I'm (mad). I try to keep that off limits. Once you open that to the
media, you're (stuck). Once we walk a red carpet together, you don't
want to be in the relationship after that."
She raises her eyebrows and makes a face: "You don't even know which boyfriend I'm talking about."