JENNIFER LAWRENCE ON HER RACY NEW SPY THRILLER
Hollywood star Jennifer Lawrence went well and truly outside her comfort zone for new spy thriller Red Sparrow but she’s glad she did
When Jennifer Lawrence’s private nude photos were hacked and released online in 2014, the Oscar-winning actress was shaken to her core.
She was so traumatised she even decided she would no longer play roles of a sexual nature. But her new film Red Sparrow is all the proof we need that she is ready to tackle those fears head-on. Playing a ballerina-turned-spy, Lawrence is both nude and seen in sex scenes in the film.
“There was a long period in my life when I didn’t want to be seen sexually and I didn’t want anybody to see my flesh,” she confesses, “so I was definitely scared.”
She does not make clear if these were her feelings in the aftermath of the hack or when she was younger. “But for us to tell the story ( Red Sparrow) in a correct way and push the envelope, to make it as true to form, that was more important than my fears that I have carried around for years,’’ she says.
“It was definitely going out of my comfort zone, but it was necessary in order to tell the story and I’m happy that I did it.”
Red Sparrow is directed by Francis Lawrence, who helmed three of the four Hunger Games films in which she starred.
“Well, doing those (nude) scenes and seeing Francis, who I feel like I’ve known since I was five, I thought that would make it worse, but in the end I was surrounded by an amazing group of people and that made me more comfortable,” she says. “Walking away from it, I actually felt empowered by it.”
Playing Red Sparrow marked her first role requiring a foreign accent, in this case Russian. “Oh, that was really daunting. You just cross your fingers and hope for the best,” she smiles.
“But I had a brilliant dialect coach and I would listen to tapes of women from different parts of Russia, to the lyrical pattern in the way they spoke.”
Based on the book of the same name, Red Sparrow is a thriller set in the shady worlds of American and Russian espionage. The film sees Lawrence as prima ballerina Dominika Egorova, aka an assassin called Red Sparrow, who was forced to train at the Sparrow School, where young men and women are taught how to seduce the enemy.
“What shocked me the most was that it was a very real program,” Lawrence says.
“The Sparrow program existed in the KGB and even in America.”
Lawrence’s most recent movie, Mother!, meanwhile, elicited an unusually divisive reaction from audiences, many of whom had a violent reaction to it.
Critics were also divided and Lawrence was even awarded a Razzie nomination for Worst Actress. She sighs. It’s clearly not the first time she’s been asked about the dubious honour.
“My feelings are that I really don’t care,” she says. “That was the most I had ever given to a role and I think that that was my greatest performance, in my opinion, and that is really the only opinion that I really care about.”
She adds with a laugh: “And Jack Nicholson was nominated for a Razzie for The Shining, so I’m good.”
Lawrence is talking on an unseasonably warm winter day at West Hollywood’s London Hotel, and her mood is just as sunny. Her hair is very blonde in beachy waves and she’s wearing a long-sleeved floral Public School top, sharp pinstriped Stella McCartney pants and Jimmy Choos.
No longer in a romantic relationship with Mother! director Darren Aronofsky, she is currently single and apparently content that way.
“There’s actually way more advantages to being single, I am realising,” she says.
“I am like, ‘Cool. I can do whatever I want and I can be alone and watch terrible TV and whatever I want’.”
In times of turmoil, though, Lawrence turns to her mother.
“I have lived on my own since I was 14 and I am 27 years old but I still need my mom,” she says. “She is a huge support system for me and I still want her opinion on pretty much everything ... except boys.
“That’s what girlfriends are for and my girlfriends are very wise.”
Lawrence is known for speaking her mind at almost every opportunity, and insists she can handle occasionally negative reactions. “I have a certain resilience. I don’t know what else to call it and I am prepared for the lashing that comes with speaking my mind,” she reveals.
“And when I’m afraid to speak up, I feel powerless and small. It’s OK if the situation is going to make me uncomfortable, I am going to say what I mean, but when I feel that I can’t, it makes me feel weak.”
It’s difficult to imagine Lawrence ever being in a place where she felt unable to espouse her views, especially given her 2015 essay on pay disparity, which proved a watershed moment for Hollywood’s genderequality movement.
“The essay that I wrote about pay equality was really just about my own mental perspective on the whole thing about why didn’t I feel like I deserved to be paid equally? I have been nominated for and have won an Academy Award and I have led movies to be No.1 at the box office,” she says. “I don’t know what part of me felt like I deserved to not be paid equally, and that’s what I was more interested in.”
With Hollywood’s gaze now focused on sexual misconduct, she says of the Time’s Up movement “the hope is to reshape the way that we look at women and the way we treat women”.
“The things that have been normalised, that make us feel a bit uncomfortable, are all changing, and that’s a good thing,” she says.
DEFINITELY GOING OUT OF MY COMFORT ZONE, BUT IT WAS NECESSARY IN ORDER TO TELL THE STORY AND I’M HAPPY THAT I DID IT
Jennifer Lawrence stars in Red Sparrow, a thriller set in the shady worlds of American and Russian espionage.