“I’m at the Jimmy Fallon dressing room. I was just saying good-bye to my entourage.”
Jennifer Lawrence is on the phone, explaining why there is so much commotion in the background as we attempt to begin a brief interview. She says the word entourage in a way that implies air quotes; Lawrence, 20, doesn’t seem like the type to take the concept of Hollywood posses seriously. But at the least, she should probably get used to the commotion.
That’s because in the past year, this Louisville, Ky. native, has quickly rocketed from under-the-radar indie actress to movie industry It Girl.
First she earned an Academy Award nomination for her turn as a steely teen in “Winter’s Bone.” Then she took on the role of young shape-shifter Mystique (non-mutant name: Raven Darkholme) in “X-Men: First Class,”her first attempt at blockbuster fare, which arrives in theaters Friday. And now Lawrence is playing her buzziest role to date: the teen warrior Katniss Everdeen in the adaptation of the popular post-apocalyptic young-adult book series “The Hunger Games,” which is currently shooting in Wilmington, N.C.
“The Hunger Games” fan fervor has made her the subject of intense Internet chatter and also recently landed her on the cover of Entertainment Weekly (see below). So how is Lawrence handling all of the sudden attention?
During a conversation briefly interrupted by the lack of cell reception in a parking garage, we talked about that, as well as her transformation into Mystique and how she and “X-Men” co-star James McAvoy bonded on-set. (Apparently that involved making fart noises.)
Was it strange to go from doing movies like “Winter’s Bone” to an “X-Men” flick? Or is there ultimately little difference between making an indie vs. a comic-book film?
Jennifer Lawrence: It’s all filmmaking. The behind the scenes is always different: you have a bigger trailer, there’s better food. Things like that. I still do the movies for the same reasons. I still love the script, I love the director, I love the character and the other actors involved. So all of the reasons why I was there, they were all the same.
It’s kind of like camping versus going to a resort. They’re both fun, they’re just different kinds of fun.
How long did you have to sit in the chair to get the Mystique make-up done?.
Lawrence:: I had to either stand or sit on a bicycle seat for about eight hours when it was full body.
A bicycle seat?
Lawrence: Yeah, you can’t sit in a chair because then they can’t get to all your good parts.
Did you have any conversations with Rebecca Romijn, who played the older version of Mystique in previous “X-Men” movies?
Lawrence: Yeah. Her advice was mostly just kind of, don’t worry about it. Don’t listen to what they tell you. Because they tell you not to drink alcohol or eat spicy food, because they remove the make-up with alcohol. And she just said, don’t listen to that. It will drive you crazy.
In terms of character development, did she give you any suggestions or was that really your process?
Lawrence: I definitely watched her. She has a very Mystique walk, which I had to get down. But really, for the most part — doing a prequel is great because you do have room to kind of free this character and how they got to where they are instead of being a slave to exactly what the previous actor did.
Did you spend much time, onscreen or between takes, with James McAvoy?
Lawrence: I did, and he’s one of my favorite people in the whole world. I was such a huge fan of his work and then, meeting him he’s so charming and nice and friendly and funny and down-to-earth. Everything you want.
He strikes me as someone who has gone through a similar transition, having appeared in films like “Atonement,” as well as comic-book movies like this one and “Wanted.” Did you seek career advice from him?
Lawrence: No, I think we mostly just joked around and messed up takes and made fart noises.
I am sure your Oscar experience was a bit of a blur, but do you have one or two moments that stand out in your memory from that night?
Lawrence: I was really excited because Florence and the Machine was playing. I really remember that performance really well. It was great. I loved being able to sit next to my dad. We just kept looking at each other like, “I can’t believe this is happening.”
Have you started to process what’s changed in your life in the past year or two?
Lawrence: I’m still really focused on the work, to be honest. I pay attention to me being busier. But I don’t think of it as “Oh my God, now I am on all these talk shows.” It’s just kind of like, work. And then I’m still reading scripts and trying to figure out the next thing. And when I’m on set, I’m just thinking about the script and of working. I think I’ve stayed focused on the work so much that I haven’t really noticed my life start to change except for I’ve gotten busier.
You’ve been praised in the media for seeming grounded. Do you feel like you’re more grounded than other people you encounter in Hollywood?
Lawrence: I think I run into grounded people all the time. As long as you remember what you’re here for — you’re here for the work, you’re here to make a film.
I was talking about it the other day, how there seems to be some very bizarre habit where as soon as you become big and famous, you think that you don’t have to work anymore. And it’s just such a weird trend that I’m starting to see. But I run into grounded people all the time. Given, most of them are behind the camera. But I definitely by no means think I’m the only one.
Did you feel like “X-Men” had gotten you into the physical shape you needed to be in for “The Hunger Games,” or did you have to go through a different regimen?
Lawrence: I had to go through a different regimen. For “X-Men” I was lifting a lot of weights. I actually lost a lot of mass when I quit “X-Men” because I was working out so much and very muscular and strong. With “Hunger Games,” I need to be smaller and thinner. I do need to be as strong, but my character’s younger. Strong arms are something that comes with age, so that had to be taken down a little bit.
“Hunger Games” is already generating so much buzz online. Do you feel prepared for all the additional attention that playing Katniss will bring?
Lawrence: I don’t think there really is a way to prepare, I just think there is a way to accept it. It’s kind of scary, to be honest. I love the movie and I love the books, and I didn’t want to just turn away because I was scared.
You had read the books before you signed on, right?
Lawrence: Yeah, and I was very skeptical about them being made into a movie, as everybody said. When you’re a big fan of the books, you’re always worried about them becoming a movie because it’s usually a disappointment.
But I met with Gary Ross, the director, and I loved every word that came out of his mouth. And I knew that he was the only one who could do it. And then finding out that Suzanne Collins was also writing the screenplay — everything was just so comforting. And I was just so excited about all of it.
You can relate to the fans.
Lawrence: I’m one of them.
Given your schedule, do you ever have time to relax? If so, what do you do?
Lawrence: Not right now. I just kind of do what I just did, which is just canceled my flight I was supposed to be rushing to right now so I could just have a full night’s sleep here and then go to work tomorrow.
I don’t have full days of rest, no.