Hollywood’s blockbuster blonde comes to town this month with the final Hunger Games and David O. Russell’s Joy. So what’s next for Jennifer Lawrence? Buck the system, set up home, and try to find a date.

It’s sweltering in Los Angeles, the kind of heat that melts the ice cubes in your caramel macchiato faster than you can say Kardashian. I am holed up in my hotel room on Sunset Boulevard watching tennis, drapes drawn against the remorseless sun, when suddenly: Ding! A text. Jennifer Lawrence wants to ditch our plans. Forget meeting at the Italian restaurant on Laurel Canyon; just come to my house now. She sends her driver, Paul, a South African with a mellifluous voice, to pick me up, and before long, we are winding our way up, up into the Hills of Beverly, to the gated community where Lawrence lives in a house she bought last year for about $8 million. As we are waved through by a guard, Paul thoughtfully points out the other houses of note in this wonderland of privacy: There’s Cameron Diaz’s pile, and just over there, Ashton and Mila’s new place.

Lawrence’s assistant, Talley, meets me at the front gate and ushers me through the house to the kitchen, where moments later Lawrence appears in a white crop top and faded boyfriend jeans rolled at the ankle. She is barefoot, tan, and very blonde, her hair cut into a short bob. The house—a convincingly faux-Tuscan villa, with five bedrooms, six bathrooms, a gym, a theater, and a hair-and-makeup room (“Thank God for Jessica Simpson,” says Lawrence of the previous owner)—is exactly as old as Lawrence herself. She just turned 25 a few weeks ago, with a party here; her friends persuaded Kris Jenner to come and present Jen with a cake in the shape of a pile of poop that read, Happy birthday, you piece of shit! “My knees buckled,” says Lawrence. “And then I got hammered and talked to her like I think I’m part of the family.”

The house had been renovated just before she bought it, so all Lawrence had to do was fill it with furniture. “I hired these decorators from Louisville, where I grew up,” she says. “There’s this place, Bittners, I would walk by when I was a little girl and go, ‘Ooooooh, one day,’ because it was so . . . fancy.” The result is a kind of luxe-comfy-chic, with some rustic flourishes, like tables made out of old Kentucky-bourbon barrels. “I can’t believe what a difference furniture has made in my overall emotional well-being,” she says.

As she opens a bottle of rosé, her dog, Pippi, comes scampering into the room. Smallish and brown, she is adorably hard to pin down. What kind of dog is that? “Oh, my God, I wish I could ask her.” When did you get her? Here I stumble into a subject that I wouldn’t have dreamed of bringing up so soon: the nude-photo leak. It was exactly a year ago that hackers stole photos from Lawrence’s iCloud account and posted them on the Web, an episode she labeled a “sex crime.” Her mother was visiting with a new puppy when the news broke. “I was outside crying, and Pippi jumped up on my lap and started licking up all my tears, and I couldn’t put her down for hours. And I mean, hours. I was like, ‘Well, obviously, you’re mine.’ ” Looking back, does she have more perspective on the ordeal? “It was all pain and no gain,” she says. “But I don’t dwell on it unless someone brings it up. Have you seen me naked?”

Glasses of wine in hand, we head upstairs, and when we walk into the enormous master suite she makes a sweeping gesture toward the bed and says, “This is where the maaagic haaaappens.” Then she shoots me a get-real look. “Literally zero magic has happened in here.” She holds up her glass in a toast: “Cheers to my hymen growing back!”

Of course she and Amy Schumer have hit it off; they’re both startlingly ribald and whip smart. Sitting next to her laptop is a printout of their screenplay. “We started writing a month ago, and we have 150 pages,” says Lawrence, who has already absorbed some of Schumer’s cadences. “It’s a lot of ballsy and not a lot of thinking twice. One time we laughed so hard our teeth clanked together.”

Forbes magazine recently reported that Lawrence is the highest-paid actress in the world, having made $52 million in the past year, but as giddy as she is about her new furniture, she doesn’t seem entirely comfortable in such grand, grown-up surroundings. Her bedroom is the only room that feels lived in because it’s where she spends much of her time—and where the two of us sit and talk for nearly five hours. “Sorry the wine isn’t cold,” she says. “I always forget you’re supposed to chill rosé—I’m new money.” We step through the French doors onto the balcony that overlooks the backyard. “I go outside in the morning and drink my coffee and try to be proud of myself and be like, ‘Look!’ It feels good not to worry about money, although I never did. Money never really affected my consciousness, if that makes any sense.”

But some old habits die hard. “I’m not cheap, but I don’t want to waste even $5.” Is there anything she indulges in? “Um, private jets? I have such a hard time flying commercial. I always want to—it’s cheaper, it’s easier—but there can be 300 perfectly lovely people at the gate and one crazy person who ruins it for everyone, so flying private is great because I don’t have to worry.” A big fake smile spreads across her face: “Is that relatable enough for you?”

Suddenly, her phone chimes with the gentle sound of a reminder. Lawrence stares at the screen for a split second and then looks at me. “We have to wrap this up because I have an interview with Jonathan Van Meter.” She laughs. “We blew our dinner reservation. Shall we just stay in and order a pizza?” Sure, I say. “Oh, thank God, I can take off my bra,” which she does right in front of me and then tosses it onto her bed. She texts Talley, trying to find the number of the pizza joint she loves. She orders us a large pie, with pepperoni and jalapeño with ranch dressing on the side (not nearly as bad as it sounds).

In a few days, Lawrence will fly to Atlanta, where she will begin working after some well-deserved time off. “Downtime is normally the bane of my existence,” she says. “It makes me depressed, not relaxed. But I was actually enjoying myself this time,” she says. What did you do? I ask. “You’re looking at it. Hang out. Drink wine. I’ve got a bunch of friends who live really close, thank God. And I’ve made friends with Mila and Ashton, two doors down. They’re awesome. I go over there uninvited. They’re probably getting pretty sick of me.”

We head back down to the kitchen. Michael Fassbender recently taught her how to make a dirty martini, which she is eager to try out. She asks me to grab a couple of glasses out of the cabinet, which is not bare, exactly, but close. “I need a whole houseful of stuff,” she says as she swirls vermouth in a glass. “I’m starting from scratch.”

For the last five years—ever since the indie Winter’s Bone put her on the map—nearly every single movie that Jennifer Lawrence has made has been part of the X-Men franchise, or one of the four Hunger Games movies (the final installment, Mockingjay, Part 2, opens on November 20), or a David O. Russell film, including Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, and now Joy, which opens on Christmas Day. She has been nominated for three Academy Awards, winning the Oscar for Silver Linings. Her career is unprecedented on every level: the smart choices, the awards, the box-office clout, the near-universal lovability. So it should come as no surprise that Lawrence is a little wary about the future. “It’s scary,” she says, “because it will go away. I will have a flop.” Next up is Passengers, a space movie with Chris Pratt. I ask her to elaborate. “It’s a space movie with Chris Pratt,” she says, then cracks up. It is, indeed, exactly that: a love story set in the very distant future, aboard a ship carrying people over unimaginable millions of miles to other livable planets.

“I knew that coming out of Hunger Games it was a bad move to do a big blockbuster,” she says. “I want to get back to my roots, back to indies, where I started. And then I read Passengers, and I loved it. This is my first time saying yes now that I am completely free of franchises. So there’s an elephant on my chest.”

You mean off your chest?

“No, on my chest,” she says. “Now it’s a lot harder. I’ve got to fill up my year with things that are all 100 percent my decisions.” She has already made at least two: She has agreed to star in Steven Spielberg’s next film, based on war photographer Lynsey Addario’s book, It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War. “It’s so good. Addario is a fucking badass.” And in mid-October, Darren Aronofsky pitched his next project by reading his entire screenplay to Lawrence over a bottle of wine in his apartment in New York and she signed up on the spot, which is what being franchise-free really means for her now: She is in complete control. “It doesn’t feel like I’m being towed behind something anymore,” she says. “It feels like I’m towing it.”

Being David O. Russell’s muse in three films was perhaps the most challenging franchise of all. In keeping with the storied tradition of mentors and protégées, Russell and Lawrence have a complicated relationship, one that, according to Lawrence, is built first on love and second on collaboration. “He has given me a life, creatively, that I would have never known,” she says, “what it feels like to really act, to be scared out of your mind on set and have no idea what’s going on. There are things that I’ve learned about myself that would have taken 20 years that he taught me in five.”

Although Russell is famously intense, Lawrence has not only handled the pressure and chaos but thrived. “Because I’m not so sensitive, we can really talk, like, man-to-man,” she says. “Sometimes he accidentally refers to me as he or him. But he really respects and understands women, and by that I mean he doesn’t treat a woman any differently than he’ll treat a man. He would never tiptoe around a woman.”

When I tell Amy Adams, her costar in American Hustle, what Lawrence said, she laughs. “Well, if you mean he doesn’t treat people like a lady, I can agree with that,” she says. “You have to have a certain kind of personality to be able to understand David’s direction without emotionally attaching yourself to criticism. And she’s able to do that. That’s why she gives such controlled performances in his films, because she’s able to go into the deep and heightened places where he operates from.”

Russell has been dogged by criticism that he has cast Lawrence in roles she is far too young to play. “I am obviously too young for all of David’s characters,” says Lawrence. “But none of that comes from David wanting a young girl in his movies. That’s not even in his atmosphere.” Audiences appear to have no problem accepting Lawrence in those parts. “Everybody already thinks I’m 40,” she jokes. Julianne Moore, who plays the president in Hunger Games, thinks Lawrence transcends her age. “She has found a conduit through which she is able to communicate this very rich inner life,” says Moore. “There are those scenes in Silver Linings Playbook where she kind of pops out and jogs alongside of Bradley and I remember thinking, She’s so incredibly alive and free and funny and accessible, and I bought it. It seems so simple, but it’s not.”

With Joy, in addition to being reunited with her Silver Linings cast mates Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro, Lawrence is once again tackling a mature role. The film is ostensibly about Joy Mangano, the Long Island housewife who, at 34, invented the Miracle Mop and got rich. “It started out as her true story, and then it went into Davidland,” says Lawrence. “He gets inspired by so many things, so it has to turn into a collage.” Russell acknowledges that like many of his films, Joy is half fiction. “I had to come up with a journey, the lifespan of a woman from ten years old to middle age, that I felt was worthy of Jennifer, so it’s almost a ballad of this woman’s life and her soul.”

The film was shot early this year in Boston, during that city’s record snowfall (110 inches!). “It was so miserable,” says Lawrence. “David and I kept saying, ‘Merry Christmas’ to each other to try to make ourselves feel better, but it didn’t work.” In February, word leaked out that Russell and Lawrence had “a screaming match” on set, and she quickly took to Facebook to quell the gossip. Today Lawrence seems eager to talk about it, mostly to clarify that, yes, they did have an ugly fight, but it was Lawrence, not Russell, who behaved like a monster. She was sick with the flu, throwing up between takes, and at one point exploded at Russell, who said to her, “Genuinely, from the bottom of my heart, I am scared of you.”

You can read more on Jen’s interview over at Vogue’s official website.