Jennifer Lawrence has already enjoyed a remarkably unique career path. Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Lawrence had the nearly unheard of good fortune to be discovered on a visit to New York City when she was just fourteen years old. After a good deal of goading on the part of agents (who saw a rare talent in Lawrence), her parents agreed to allow her to stay in NYC and begin auditioning.
After a few commercial and guest star roles, she was cast in the TBS television series The Bill Engvall Show. Lawrence went directly from the short-lived sitcom to the role that would secure her a Best Actress Oscar nomination at the tender age of twenty: playing Ree Dolly in Debra Granik’s Winter’s Bone. Shortly thereafter, Lawrence humanized Mystique, one of Marvel’s most beloved villainess’, in X-Men: First Class.
Lawrence is now taking on her biggest challenge: the lead role in a film that is poised to (potentially) be a worldwide phenomenon, The Hunger Games. In the film, Lawrence plays Katniss Everdeen, a teenage girl from a dystopic future in which a fascistic Capital selects one boy and one girl from each of the twelve districts of the nation of Panem to fight to the death in an annual tournament called The Hunger Games. Katniss is forced to volunteer to fight when her much younger, much smaller sister is selected in that year’s lottery.
We had the chance to participate in a roundtable discussion with the Jennifer Lawrence at the Los Angeles press event for The Hunger Games, where we discussed (among other things) her propensity toward roles that involve hunting and the woods, the pressure that surrounds taking on a much-beloved character, learning how to act backwards from Woody Harrelson and the surreal experience of participating in a mall tour.
Screen Rant: What is it about these downtrodden, strong women who take care of children? What is this pattern that we’re seeing here in your career?
Jennifer Lawrence: “I don’t know, before I get the script I ask ‘Does she like the forest, does she have younger siblings? (Laughing) Jodie Foster told me I’d look back at my career twenty years from now and see a pattern, and what it has to do with my life. But now I’m just like ‘I don’t know.’”
You do you see a through-line between this and Winter’s Bone?
JL: “Yeah, they’re similar. Ree is much more of a walker at Katniss is more of a runner.” (Laughs)
What was the most challenging aspect of this film as an adaptation?
JL: “That she was already in the minds of so many different people. When you’re coming out with a movie where nobody’s really seen the character before you can say ‘here it is.’ I’m playing a character that most people have already seen in their mind. That’s scary.”
Did you have preconceived notions?
JL: “Yeah, but that’s just what I did. I understood her in a certain way and my understanding informed my performance.”
Speaking of scary, I hear you guys are doing mall tours, how’s that been?
JL: “Yesterday was our first one and I felt like Justin Timberlake from ‘N Sync. It was nuts. One girl almost fainted. But it’s never over me. I sit in between the guys, and they start with Liam (Hemsworth) and they say ‘Say something! Say something!’ And he speaks in his Australian accent and someone passes out, and I barely get a chance to put my name on the poster we’re signing before it’s slid over to Josh (Hutcherson). And it’s, ‘Oh my god so I loved you in…’ and then crying. And I’m like ‘It’s okay. I practiced my signature for so long and I didn’t get to use it.’”
Is there a star in the middle of it?
JL: “There was a heart, but I took the heart out.”
What kind of physical training did you do to play Katniss?
JL: “Free running for agility, archery, climbing, combat and yoga…But that’s all.”
How’s your archery now?
JL: “Good. I had an Olympian train me, so if I couldn’t say ‘good’ it’s my fault.”
How are your tree climbing skills?
JL: “Also good if I have a harness.” (Laughs)
Knowing that this is a franchise is fitness something you have to keep up?
JL: “When you’re in a movie called ‘The Hunger Games’ when you’re not working you eat. But as far as exercise goes I like to stay in relatively good shape anyway, running and so on. And it’s also so that when training comes along I don’t have to start from square one. There is relative maintenance. Just being able to withstand cardio.”
In the book, everything is conveyed from Katniss’ perspective. And the film is primarily from Katniss’ point-of-view as well. How many days off did you have during shooting?
JL: “None. For a while I had Saturdays and Sundays, and then I had Sundays.”
How useful was it to have the book and all those first person thoughts?
JL: “For an actor it’s an amazing thing to have my character’s inner dialogue. It never happens.”
At some point do you have to let go of the book?
JL: “Yeah, when you’re making a film, the book is a good tool, but once you have the script and you’re making a movie, you have to let go of the book. I held onto the inner dialogue, but yes, you do have to let go.”