OSCARS Q&A: Jennifer Lawrence

Anthony D’Alessandro is Managing Editor of AwardsLine.

Actors go to exhaustive lengths to lose themselves in a character, whether by extensive research or thespian Method. Then there’s Jennifer Lawrence, who unabashedly admits her lack of formal drama training — which hasn’t hurt, given her portrayal of strong females. As the unstable widow Tiffany who falls for Bradley Cooper’s bipolar ex-high school teacher Pat in David O. Russell’s romantic dramedy Silver Linings Playbook, Lawrence goes toe-to-toe with the Method master himself, Robert De Niro (as Pat’s father) in a hysterical scene where she debunks all his Philadelphia sports superstitions. Since the film’s premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, Oscar pundits foresee a second best actress nomination following her breakout in 2010’s Winter’s Bone. And there was her turn as teen warrior Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games. Lawrence also cops to brazenly pursuing roles, whether it’s tracking down her Winter’s Bone director in New York or Skyping Russell from her hometown Louisville, KY. “There’s my desperation for certain scripts,” Lawrence says, “and desperation reads, and passion comes through.”

AWARDSLINE: You have this affinity for tough characters. Did you find any similarity between Katniss Everdeen from Hunger Games and Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook?
JENNIFER LAWRENCE: It’s funny, I never thought that Tiffany and Katniss have anything in common, other than they have to do what they have to do and really don’t care what anybody thinks. However, the way they go about it is very different. Katniss would rather not talk if she doesn’t have to in every situation, and Tiffany has more words than there is time. I think great stories follow tough characters. They happen to be the scripts and stories that I fall in love with, but it’s all coincidental. Anytime my agent calls me and starts describing a character, if it’s anything about “strong,” “south,” or “woods,” I can’t do it. I do realize my characters have that in common, but I need to play someone weak and vulnerable (laughs) — go find some pathetic someone somewhere.

Related: OSCARS: Handicapping Lead Actress Race

AWARDSLINE: Do you know anyone like Tiffany?
LAWRENCE: No, I never felt so much like a stranger to a character. I really didn’t have anyone to base her on or to rationalize what she was doing most of the time. And I loved that. She felt like this strange fascinating being, who even now is a mystery to me. I never felt like I locked her down. She was always growing and changing. And that’s happening as well with the Hunger Games movies and Katniss. One of the biggest things about Tiffany is her fearlessness, and yet she’s also very aware. Most people who are fearless aren’t aware of the worst-case scenario. They’re not aware of the consequences. But she’s both. She’s ferocious, fearless, and she’s aware of everything, and I thought that was fascinating. I wanted to go into the audition with David O. Russell that way.

AWARDSLINE: What discussions about bipolarity did you have with David and Bradley Cooper? I remember David talking about how he was personally connected to the material at the Hollywood Awards.
LAWRENCE: Bradley did a lot of research and really wanted to nail down exactly what his character was dealing with. I never felt (the need to do research). This is coming from a girl who never reads her lines until she shows up and does as little work as impossible because my number-one goal in life is having fun—I’m just kidding. I never felt like the medication or the diagnosis or the disease was in Tiffany’s world. Tiffany didn’t see a bipolar, manic-depressive in (Cooper’s character) Pat, she saw a desperate man who was misunderstood the same way she was, and they were perfect for each other. Bradley did more of the research, and I did more of the “OK, I’m shouting in the street, and I don’t know why” time to go with it.

Related: OSCARS: Handicapping Lead Actor Race

AWARDSLINE: Does the fact that you’re now a huge boxoffice draw and an Oscar nominee inhibit you from the types of projects you’ll attach yourself to?
LAWRENCE: No, it doesn’t. In fact, it makes things a lot easier to get attached to. I’m still reading the same scripts—$1 indies—as I did before I was discovered in Winter’s Bone. The good thing is, when I fall in love with the script, I don’t have to wait for it to be made. I can find the right people and actually get it made. My biggest problem with Hollywood is that there are these incredible scripts that can’t find funding. And then when I’m driving through Westwood and see the posters of the movies that are in theaters, I’m like, “What’s going on? Why is it like that?”

AWARDSLINE: Harvey Weinstein has been a godfather to a number of actors and actresses. How was he during production?
LAWRENCE: I love Harvey so much. I don’t understand why everyone’s so scared of him. He’s like a big teddy bear. He’s a genius. I get it, if you’re trying to negotiate with him, he’s not like a big teddy bear. (But) I love how he makes movies. He has enough money that he can focus on making something good, and we don’t have enough people like him in this business. He’s the only person in this business who can be on the phone with a director like David O. Russell, and they can yell at each other and love each other and be completely honest. People who are upfront get a terrible reputation. They don’t sugarcoat it, they just tell you the way it is, and I think that’s wonderful and a great thing to be around. Yes, Harvey has given me career advice, and I rejected it and then regretted it.

Related: Weinstein Finds ‘Silver Linings’ For Oscar Race

  1. I just saw this. Jennifer’s performance definitely lives up to the hype. It’s just raw ability. You are either born with it or you aren’t. There was one scene that was like watching Mt. St. Helens erupt, but she never oversells. As to the movie itself, it’s a David O. Russell movie with strong hints of Capra. Just go with it.

  2. Always nice to see someone stand up for Harvey Weinstein, sure he’s ferocious but I say great we need more bulls in the china shop, much better than the epidemic of timidity and group think that permeates Hollywood. Jennifer proves she’s a class act as well as towering new talent.

    1. I agree wrt Harvey, the film producer. Hollywood does need more players like this. What turns me off as an outsider is the ridiculous amount of campaigning he does in awards season. We, the viewing public, have seen him campaign his way to wholly undeserved wins. And the he acts like he is a genius producer, when all he really did was politic himself to a win. His films are great. I just wish he would let them stand on their own merits.

  3. Jennifer Lawrence is incredibly talented. She can balance a big blockbuster like Hunger Games (I’m talking about her acting)and indies so well. I think she’s going to be a major moviestar in the upcoming years

  4. Lawrence came from nowhere, 1-st movie – Oscar nomintation, 2-nd – franchise X-men, then leading role in Hunger Games. And then again Oscar-nominating role with De Niro. How come? Maybe anybody knows? There are so many talented people, for example, Anton Yelchin, who cannot get any decent roles for years.
    She is good actress, but not genious definitely. Something from Zellweger, something from Diaz.

  5. Regarding “Can we say Katharine Hepburn 2.0?”, until she develops stagecraft and turns in comparable work in that arena, no we will not say Kate 2.0. But for now, can we settle for Jennifer Lawrence 1.0? We’ve been getting pretty darn good work from that model so far . . .

  6. Great article!….Jennifer Lawrence is such an amazing talent. I really like how Jennifer stood up for Harvey Weinstein…it’s sweet. I look forward to seeing Silver Linings Playbook as well as anything else Lawrence stars in.

  7. The Oscar win by Lawrence only serves to underscore how ridiculous the Academy Awards are. Are we to believe that she’s a better actress than Riva or Chastain the former, by general consensus, one of the greatest actresses in the world? Even the little “hand-waving” girl (?) was more deserving, and in a better film. Clearly an attempt to win over the “teen” demographic, at the expense of taste. (And Lawrence’s subsequent behavior has been nothing short of vulgar.)

  8. I’ve loved her ever since I first saw Winter’s Bone. I had no idea that she’s from my “neck of the woods” (Louisville, KY) until recently. So that makes her extra cool to me.

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