By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Jennifer Lawrence is only 21, and yet the Louisville, Ky.-born actress already has an Academy Award nomination (for her memorable breakthrough performance in 2010’s “Winter’s Bone”) as well as primo role in the “X-Men” movies franchise under her belt.
The blond, blue-eyed actress now is about to see her star get even bigger as she plays the central character in the big screen adaptation of the first book in Suzanne Collins’ popular young adult novel trilogy, “The Hunger Games.”
Lawrence plays Katniss Everdeen, a youngster living in a dystopian future where teenagers are forced to fight to the death in an annual televised combat event. She selflessly offers to take her sister’s place in the arena.
Still relatively new to Hollywood, Lawrence doesn’t take herself too seriously and is often self-deprecating. Just ask her to make a rabbit face. Her co-stars Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson describe the actress as alternately “unpredictable,” “amazing” and “fun.”
While “The Hunger Games” is expected to draw “Harry Potter” size crowds to movie theaters, Lawrence seems to be taking her looming fame in stride.
Front Row Features: “The Hunger Games” takes place in a dystopian future. Did you have a favorite sci-fi book or movie when you were younger?
Jennifer Lawrence: I had anxiety problems when I was a kid. My parents had to hide the newspaper from me because I would read the newspaper and be like, “The world is ending. The stock market is going to crash.” I was 11. It wasn’t until I saw that film “2012” with John Cusack that I started crying and believed every word of it. Now I’m like, “The world can’t end. We still have “The Hunger Games 2” to do. They haven’t even finished all the “Star Treks.” What are they thinking?
Front Row Features: You were in “X-Men: First Class” as the young Mystique and there’s big fan community for that film series, but “The Hunger Games” is likely to attract an even bigger fan base for you. How has playing Katniss changed your life?
Lawrence: My fan base has definitely changed. Now it is young girls and teens and I am now a role model for them. My language has to change a lot. I did indie films and in one of them (“Winter’s Bone”) I got lucky, and I was in “X-Men” but that but that movie was already a franchise that I just joined on to in the end. This is like insane. Crazy.
Front Row Features: How do you like being a role model for young women and girls?
Lawrence: So far I’m handling it pretty well. I just smile a lot. It was definitely something I took into consideration before I (made this film) because I knew there would be a lot of changes I would have to make. I knew there were going to be young people watching what I was doing and emulating that.
Front Row Features: What would you like to go back and tell your 13-year-old self?
Lawrence: Hang in there, because you’ll have a really blessed life. I was doing press in Mexico a couple of weeks ago at Six Flags and I got them to turn one of the roller coasters on and I got to go on it. It was not until that moment did I feel like I finally had made it. Also, yesterday when we were driving by Sprinkles (bakery chain), the line was too long so we almost had my security guard go in and just buy me a cupcake. Those are the two moments when I’m like “Oh my God, look at my life.”
Front Row Features: How do those things compare to going to the Academy Awards as a nominee?
Lawrence: Walking the red carpet at the Oscars was incredible and unbelievable, but it wasn’t until I was sitting in the Batman roller coaster at Six Flags or in a car about to get a free Sprinkles cupcake that I realized I have a blessed life.
Front Row Features: You seem to be a strong young woman in real life. In what other ways are you like your onscreen character?
Lawrence: I wish I were much more like her than I actually am. The hardest thing about playing her was in the books she doesn’t know how to get people to like her. That’s nothing she’s ever had to deal with before. She’s a hunter. She cares for her family and she’s not focused on cracking jokes and making people like her. At the same time, you don’t want to watch somebody for two hours that you don’t like. I didn’t want to manipulate the audience into liking her but at the same time I have to get everybody to like her to watch her for two hours. It’s just hard to find that balance.
Front Row Features: Were you a fan of the books?
Lawrence: Yes. They carry a powerful message for this generation and one that I’m proud to back. They really got to me. I heard they were going to make these movies and I thought, “I hope they don’t ruin it.” (She laughs.) Then I met everybody behind it, and I’m happy to tell you they are all legitimate fans. We all knew that we loved these books and what Suzanne (Collins) had to say. None of us were going to make a watered-down version of them.
Front Row Features: Did you get to keep any of the costumes?
Lawrence: I wanted to keep the arena clothes because I had this vision of when the movie came out I would go hiking wearing it. I would pass people coming down the mountain and they would be like, “Didn’t I just you in…?” (She laughs.)
Front Row Features: How did you like doing archery and have you kept up with the physical training?
Lawrence: I loved the archery. But after we finished shooting, I enjoyed not having to run eight miles a day and things like that.
Front Row Features: You climb a lot of trees in the movie. How did you do that so easily?
Lawrence: I practiced on a rock-climbing wall with numbered knots sticking out on it. We basically choreographed it. I practiced that over and over again until I could do it with my eyes closed. Then they transferred the knots from the wall to the tree and blended them in very well with the tree so it was the same choreography for me. You just couldn’t see it.
Front Row Features: Besides learning the archery, were the stunts difficult?
Lawrence: Yeah. When I was doing that, I was not thinking about my face for the months of training. Then all of a sudden we got there and (director) Gary Ross said, “Come here. Come watch this.” He showed me the playback and I looked like a rabbit. I have a running face with tight lips scrunching up to show my buck teeth. It’s some kind of weird rabbit thing I do.
Front Row Features: This film is kind of a cautionary tale against reality TV. Do you watch much reality TV?
Lawrence: This film has a huge message against reality television and I am exactly part of the generation obsessed with it. I love reality TV. I love “Doomsday Preppers,” which is on the National Geographic Channel. It’s about people who base their entire lives around preparing for the Apocalypse. It’s absolutely fascinating.
Front Row Features: Are you friends now with co-stars Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth?
Lawrence: Yes. We were all relieved when we met and hung out in North Carolina because we knew we were going to be with each other for years to come.
Front Row Features: What message do you hope audiences take away from “The Hunger Games?”
Lawrence: The message is don’t lose touch with your humanity.