Jennifer Lawrence goes out on a limb for her most po­lar­is­ing movie yet, as Michele Manelis dis­cov­ers

The Sunday Times - - NEWS -

Jennifer Lawrence says shoot­ing her lat­est film mother! is the most “out of whack” she has ever felt.

The psy­cho­log­i­cal hor­ror film, di­rected by Lawrence’s part­ner Dar­ren Aronof­sky, has been do­ing the rounds at pres­ti­gious film fes­ti­vals in Venice and Toronto over the past week, gar­ner­ing po­lar­is­ing and ex­treme re­ac­tions from au­di­ences and crit­ics.

Os­car-win­ner Lawrence, who has made a ca­reer bal­anc­ing block­buster fran­chises such as The Hunger Games and X-Men with ac­claimed dra­mas, can re­late to that.

“I’d have days where I would wake up and be like, ‘What am I do­ing? Is any of this mak­ing sense? Should I walk away now?’,” she says in Toronto. “It re­ally scared me. At a cer­tain point, when it was too late to walk away, I thought, ‘I’ll wait for the movie to come out and run, run, run away’.”

Aronof­sky is fa­mous for dis­turb­ing, off-kil­ter fare such as 2000’s Re­quiem for a Dream and Black Swan, the lat­ter of which earned five Os­car nom­i­na­tions in 2011, in­clud­ing a Best Ac­tress win for Natalie Portman.

The Har­vard-ed­u­cated di­rec­tor and en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist has been a ro­man­tic item with Lawrence since they met to make the film in Septem­ber last year — but their re­la­tion­ship is not up for dis­cus­sion.

Rather, Lawrence is more in­ter­ested in fiercely de­fend­ing mother!, which drew boos af­ter its screen­ing in Venice.

“Well, I think that’s great. All Dar­ren’s films have been booed at fes­ti­vals,” Lawrence says, de­fi­antly. “And it is po­lar­is­ing. We didn’t make this film to be a dar­ling. It’s very loud, it’s ag­gres­sive, and it’s an as­sault. Yes, it’s a hard film to watch. It makes you feel and makes you think. I love it, I am proud of it, it’s ex­tra­or­di­nary. “There’s noth­ing like it.” In mother!, which plays out as an al­le­gory about the destruc­tion of the planet, Lawrence is Mother Earth to her hus­band, Him (fel­low Os­car-win­ner Javier Bar­dem).

The cou­ple live in a re­mote coun­try house in idyl­lic sur­round­ings, un­til a cou­ple of strangers, played by Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeif­fer, show up un­ex­pect­edly.

Lawrence ac­knowl­edges that tak­ing the role was a risk.

“This char­ac­ter is so vul­ner­a­ble and so dif­fer­ent from any­thing I have ever done,” she says.

“Dar­ren said it so well — he said that this is the first time I’ve been put on my back foot, and that was a huge chal­lenge for me.”

Lawrence is at pains to spell out the Bib­li­cal al­le­gories (ter­rain also cov­ered in Aronof­sky’s 2014 hit Noah) in mother!, to best pre­pare view­ers be­fore they watch the film.

“Au­di­ences should know that I rep­re­sent Mother Earth and Javier rep­re­sents a form of God — a cre­ator, a writer, an artist,” Lawrence says.

“Michelle Pfeif­fer would be Eve to Ed Harris, who is Adam.

“There is a Cain and an Abel, and the home would be the Gar­den of Eden. These uni­ver­sal and Bib­li­cal themes are all con­densed into one house­hold.” She pauses and laughs. “But then again, if you don’t un­der­stand the al­le­gory, it’s OK. Then it’s just a re­ally pow­er­ful, loud and beau­ti­ful movie,” she says. “Some peo­ple fig­ure it out on their own, though I don’t think I would.”

Lawrence has re­tained some of the can­did, spon­ta­neous, out­spo­ken spirit that charmed the world when she shot to fame in 2011, earn­ing an Os­car nom­i­na­tion for Win­ter’s Bone.

Since then she’s won the Best Ac­tress Academy Award for Sil­ver Lin­ings Play­book and been nom­i­nated for two more Os­cars (for Amer­i­can Hus­tle and Joy).

She has also been the world’s high­est-paid fe­male ac­tor and named one of the most in­flu­en­tial peo­ple in the world by Time mag­a­zine.

But the harsh glare of the spot­light has also made the 27-year-old guarded, even a lit­tle re­sent­ful of her suc­cess.

Now, with the ben­e­fit of hind­sight, she ex­plains she has been through an ad­just­ment pe­riod.

“Look, I can’t do what I love with­out fans,” she says. “If peo­ple didn’t want to come see my movies, then I wouldn’t be able to make them, so I am so grate­ful for that. I also think that ev­ery­body wants and ev­ery­body de­serves per­sonal space, and no­body wants their per­sonal space vi­o­lated.

“But I have come to a dif­fer­ent place than where I was a cou­ple of years ago. Now I’m not wor­ried about be­ing nice and po­lite to ev­ery­body all the time, and I take care of my­self.

“If I don’t have se­cu­rity, if I am by my­self and I feel that my per­sonal space is be­ing vi­o­lated, then I’ll de­fend my­self.

“Ever since I came to grasp that I don’t have to be ev­ery­one’s best friend, I don’t have to take self­ies with peo­ple in a public bath­room, life be­came a lot eas­ier and I don’t have as much anx­i­ety.”

As a public fig­ure, she makes head­lines. Most re­cently, Lawrence de­clared the mon­ster hur­ri­canes in Texas and Florida were a di­rect sign of Mother Na­ture’s “rage and wrath” at Amer­ica for elect­ing Don­ald Trump.

“It scares me that the peo­ple in charge don’t be­lieve that cli­mate change ex­ists, yet we are see­ing these storms that are his­toric, once-ev­ery-thou­sandyear cat­a­clysms — and we see them weekly, along with in­creas­ing fires and earthquakes,” she says.

“It’s scary be­cause we have been told by sci­en­tists what would hap­pen if we don’t act, and it scares me for our fu­ture.”

Lawrence, who has long been out­spo­ken about gen­der in­equal­ity, and par­tic­u­larly the Hol­ly­wood pay gap, wears her po­lit­i­cal man­tle with pride. So Lawrence has changed. The ques­tion is whether her le­gion of Hunger Games fans have changed with her.

Is she con­cerned they might be trau­ma­tised by see­ing her in mother!?

“If they are trau­ma­tised by it, good,” she laughs.

“That is how we get peo­ple to get into ac­tion and start car­ing.”

Out of whack: Above, Jennifer Lawrence in a scene from mother! Op­po­site: Lawrence at­tends the UK pre­miere. Pic­ture: Getty Im­ages mother! is screen­ing now. Read the re­view in The Guide.

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