Hunger Games star Jen­nifer Lawrence on scary fame,

A small-town girl, Jen­nifer Lawrence has had a whirl­wind in­tro­duc­tion to Hol­ly­wood. She tells Tara Brady about her role in and why it could change her life

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Front Page -

IT’S THE MORN­ING af­ter the Os­cars but Jen­nifer Lawrence, one of the Academy’s youngest mem­bers and the host­ess of last month’s nom­i­na­tion cer­e­mony, is at least one ocean away on a pub­lic­ity tour in London. “I was fast asleep,” she of­fers, al­most apolo­get­i­cally. “I turned on CNN this morn­ing and I saw Meryl Streep and The Artist and thought ‘oh’.” What could be more im­por­tant than be­ing this year’s Os­car poster girl? Faith­ful Tributes, as Hunger Games fans are now of­fi­cially monikered, will al­ready know the an­swer.

Since its ini­tial run in 2006, Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games has shifted more than a mil­lion units. More im­por­tantly, the young adult pub­lish­ing sen­sa­tion has in­creas­ingly spilled over into the lu­cra­tive Twi-mom and Twi-spin­ster mar­kets. The com­pleted tril­ogy has ap­peared in more than 23 lan­guages around the world. And that’s be­fore the re­lease of the $100 mil­lion movie adap­ta­tion.

“It’s a huge, scary thing,” nods Lawrence, who cam­paigned to land the role of Kat­niss Everdeen, the film’s 16-year-old heroine.

Crit­ics may shrug and note the novel’s sim­i­lar­i­ties to Bat­tle Royale or dozens of ear­lier dystopian beat-’em-ups. But Hunger Games fans will tell you that Collins’s ver­sion of a tele­vised, post-apoc­a­lyp­tic fight to the death is grungier and more nu­anced than its near­est genre ri­vals. Kat­niss, Lawrence notes, could not be less like an ac­tion hero.

“Sure its bow and ar­row wars but it’s a sad, sad story,” says the 21-year-old. “You need her to be vul­ner­a­ble. You need to be­lieve that she could die at any mo­ment. There’s no point where she stands up and thinks: “Yeah, I’ve to­tally got this”. I wouldn’t have wanted to be in a movie that made her a badass. It wouldn’t have been true.”

The cast­ing of Lawrence, who was a fan of the books be­fore she knew she would be au­di­tion­ing, was a fore­gone con­clu­sion for au­thor Collins, who ad­dressed her readers last March with an on­line stamp of ap­proval: “...af­ter watch­ing dozens of au­di­tions by a group of very fine young ac­tresses,” she wrote, “I felt there was only one who truly cap­tured the char­ac­ter I wrote in the book.”

Lawrence, how­ever, was ini­tially less sure. Hav­ing won out over such no­table tal­ents as True Grit’s Hailee Steinfeld, Emma Roberts, Saoirse Ro­nan, and Chloë Moretz, Lawrence took three days to say ‘yes’ when of­fered the role.

“It was too big of a decision to make in a day or over one phone con­ver­sa­tion,” she says. “It was a decision that would change my life so I had to iron out ev­ery sin­gle thought or con­cern I had. I knew I had to ac­cept ev­ery- thing that came along with it. It’s gi­gan­tic.” Lawrence may be a pre­co­cious red car­pet dar­ling but be­ing this year’s Bella Swann is a new and strange busi­ness, “like join­ing ’N Synch” she says.

“It’s scary to think about be­ing that fa­mous. It’s scary to think about get­ting so fa­mous that ev­ery­body starts dis­ap­pear­ing. And there’s also a fear that no mat­ter what role I do from here on in I’ll be this and noth­ing else.”

Lit­tle more than five years ago Lawrence was an or­di­nary teenager grow­ing up in Louisville, Ken­tucky. Her fa­ther works in con­struc­tion; her mother runs a chil­dren’s camp.

“We weren’t an artis­tic fam­ily,” she says. “We’re a sports fam­ily. And we weren’t into movies. My favourite movie prob­a­bly prior to work­ing in movies was Home Alone. Now I love the Coen Broth­ers and Guillermo Del Toro and dark come­dies but I still have a lot of catch­ing up to do. I’m the black sheep of the black sheep.”

At 14, with only a church play to cite as ex­pe­ri­ence, Lawrence per­suaded her par­ents to drive her to New York in search of an agent. Re­mark­ably, she was im­pres­sive enough for the plan to come good.

“I can re­mem­ber that feel­ing,” she says. “I re­mem­ber think­ing this is ex­actly what I’m sup­posed to be do­ing. I think now it was just the stub­bor­ness and naivete of a 14-year-old that got me into this. Only a 14-year-old could sit there think­ing well ob­vi­ously if I try this I’ll be com­pletely suc­cess­ful.”

She had al­ready scored TV work in Monk, Cold Case and Medium when Guillermo Ar­riaga, the screen­writer be­hind Amores Per­ros, 21 Grams and Ba­bel, cast the teenager in The Burn­ing Plain, along­side Char­l­ize Theron and Kim Basinger. But De­bra Granik’s 2010 Sun­dance-con­quer­ing thriller Win­ter’s Bone would be the film that made Lawrence a star. Her im­pec­ca­ble depic­tion of the film’s red­neck heroine Dolly Ree was short­listed for an Os­car and earned rave no­tices.

“I haven’t fully grasped it, or the im­por­tance of it, and I’m not sure I ever will,” she says. “We never ex­pected it. We were just happy when it got into Sun­dance. Then all of a sud­den there are Academy Awards in­volved. Its one of those things that still hasn’t set in.”

She’s worked steadily since shoot­ing The Beaver, Like Crazy, X-men: First Class and the in­com­ing House at the End of the Street back to back: “There hasn’t been more than a two-month gap be­tween jobs since Win­ter’s Bone,” she says. “The prob­lem was a boom of re­ally great scripts. I kept mean­ing to stop work­ing but great di­rec­tors keep com­ing along with great projects. I’m on a six-week shoot in April and af­ter that I’m on vay-kay. For sure this time.”

She has no for­mal train­ing and can’t ex­plain her ex­tra­or­di­nary min­i­mal­ist tech­nique. “I don’t know where it comes from or what I do,” she says. “I couldn’t tell you. I find all the hype re­ally ter­ri­fy­ing be­cause se­cretly I’m think­ing I have no idea what I’m do­ing.”

She in­sists she’s still a small-town girl and that she in­tends to re­main that way. “It’s much eas­ier for my per­sonal life,” says Lawrence. “I don’t get caught up in the in­dus­try at all. I hear my­self talk­ing about ‘my char­ac­ter’ in in­ter­views. And I know what they’re go­ing to say at home. It’s just a movie. I know they’ll all laugh at me when I get back.”

Liv­ing with a fam­ily “that are ba­si­cally like a sports boot camp” was, she says, ap­po­site prepa­ra­tion for The Hunger Games. She trained in archery, free run­ning and close combat for the harsh North Carolina shoot.

“When I shot X:men it was like be­ing on a

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