The big leap

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - MOVIES -

Jen­nifer Lawrence truly sensed her ca­reer had changed once celebrity pho­tog­ra­phers and comic-book fans be­gan stalk­ing her to take pic­tures of her “in hu­man form.”

Lawrence, who has Academy Awards buzz for a star-mak­ing per­for­mance in Sun­dance film fes­ti­val prize win­ner Win­ter’s Bone, now is shoot­ing her first big stu­dio film – an XMen pre­quel in which she plays shape-shift­ing mu­tant Mys­tique.

The day af­ter she was cast, Lawrence and a friend were leav­ing her ho­tel when the pho­tog­ra­phers turned up. Her friend asked: “Who are these peo­ple here for?”

“i was like, ‘i don’t know’,” Lawrence, 20, said in an in­ter­view at Hollywood’s Chateau Mar­mont ho­tel, shortly be­fore a re­cep­tion to mark last week’s DVD re­lease of Win­ter’s Bone.

“And then they started tak­ing my pic­ture, and she goes: ‘ no way!’ And i was like, ‘ no, def­i­nitely not. it can’t be me.’

“Then we heard some­one yell: ‘Don’t take pic­tures of Mys­tique when she’s in hu­man form!’ We both looked at each other, and she goes: ‘i am so happy i was here for that, be­cause you are never go­ing to live that down.’ ”

Last Jan­uary, Lawrence had been a lit­tle­known ac­tress, off to an im­pres­sive start with roles in small in­de­pen­dent fea­tures such as Char­l­ize Theron’s The Burn­ing Plain and Lori Petty’s The Poker House, along with TV cred­its that in­cluded a sea­son on The Bill Eng­vall Show.

Jen­nifer Lawrence’s star per­for­mance in hot com­mod­ity in Hollywood.

Then Win­ter’s Bone pre­miered at Sun­dance, where it won the top prize for US dra­mas. The film earned great re­views for Lawrence as an Ozark Moun­tains teen on a ter­ri­fy­ing quest through the re­gion’s crim­i­nal un­der­belly to dis­cover the fate of her missing fa­ther and hold her fam­ily to­gether.

Adapted from Daniel Woodrell’s novel, Win­ter’s Bone was shot on a tiny US$2mil (rM6.2mil) bud­get, spare change for a big Hollywood pro­duc­tion, and has grossed US$6.2mil (rM26.6mil), a re­spectable re­turn for an in­die film.

Di­rec­tor De­bra Granik and her col­lab­o­ra­tors con­sid­ered try­ing to raise the money to shoot Win­ter’s Bone on a big­ger scale, a move that likely would have left Lawrence out of the run­ning, since fi­nan­cial back­ers would have de­manded an es­tab­lished box-of­fice draw in the lead.

“it was only when we went re­ally in­de­pen­dent that we could go back to cast­ing some­body who’s just right. She didn’t have to be al­ready branded as some­one who was al­ready a proven com­mod­ity,” Granik said.

Lawrence now is on her way to proven sta­tus. X-Men: First Class, due out next sum­mer, came her way amid the flurry of at­ten­tion Lawrence re­ceived af­ter Sun­dance. Lawrence was so con­vinc­ing as a teen in peril in Win­ter’s Bone, though, that she nearly lost out on an­other choice part.

Di­rec­tor Jodie fos­ter had reser­va­tions about cast­ing her in the black com­edy The Beaver, star­ring Mel Gib­son as a man who wears a beaver pup­pet on his hand. fos­ter thought she might be too dark and edgy for a lighter story, Lawrence said.

“So first i’m fly­ing overnight to prove that i look right for the role, and then i’m fly­ing in

has turned her into a to prove that i can be funny. And then, i think when Jodie met me, she went, ‘ Oh, she’s an id­iot. We’re fine,”’ the self-dep­re­cat­ing Lawrence joked.

Un­for­tu­nately for Lawrence, her per­for­mance in The Beaver re­mains un­der wraps. The film’s re­lease is in limbo amid Gib­son’s cus­tody bat­tle with ex-girl­friend Ok­sana Grig­orieva, who claims he phys­i­cally abused her.

Lawrence has a stan­dard re­sponse to fend off ques­tions about Gib­son’s sit­u­a­tion.

“i just try to say, ‘it’s sad,’ while glar­ing at them, so they’ll un­der­stand i don’t want to talk about it,” Lawrence said. “That’s worked pretty well. i just blink less.”

The youngest of three chil­dren, Lawrence grew up on a farm in Ken­tucky with no thoughts of be­com­ing an ac­tor un­til her mid­teens, when a pho­tog­ra­pher dis­cov­ered her in new York City and she de­cided to give it a try.

Af­ter X-Men: First Class wraps pro­duc­tion in De­cem­ber, Lawrence is aim­ing for a mix of roles in stu­dio and in­de­pen­dent films and even­tu­ally wants to di­rect.

“i thought it would be fun, to be hon­est, to do a stu­dio film and have a big trailer, stay in a nice ho­tel room, do some­thing with a big­ger bud­get, spe­cial ef­fects, all that stuff that i’ve never done be­fore and i’m ob­vi­ously cu­ri­ous about. i’m hav­ing a blast on it,” Lawrence said.

“There’s also so much that i miss about indies. When you’re do­ing an in­die, no­body’s there for the money. ... We’re work­ing in­sane hours for free and eat­ing crappy food, but we’re all do­ing it to­gether be­cause of the love of the film.”

Lawrence is glad to be busy on X-Men so she can try to for­get how much other peo­ple love Win­ter’s Bone, which could land her a best-ac­tress nom­i­na­tion at the Os­cars.

“it’s too big to ac­tu­ally re­act to, you know?” Lawrence said. “i’m 20 years old. i know how to take my dog to the vet and i know how to go to the den­tist. i don’t know how to ac­cept some­body telling me i could get an Os­car. That’s some­thing i haven’t learned to do yet.” — AP

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