“I’m flying out in ten minutes. Literally ten minutes,” said Jennifer Lawrence Sunday night, rushing into the after-party for a special screening of Silver Linings Playbook before jetting off to get back for an early morning call time in Atlanta for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. She ended up actually spending about thirty minutes charming the crowd of Academy voters at Hotel Plaza Athenee, who’d already been wowed by her performance as Playbook’s promiscuous young widow, Tiffany, who finds a kindred spirit with Bradley Cooper’s bipolar ex-teacher, Pat, in David O. Russell’s latest Oscar contender. Lawrence is currently the favorite for the Best Actress Academy Award, and this was clearly a party built around giving her and Russell an opportunity to schmooze with folks who have the power to hand them statuettes.
Lawrence won much of the crowd over with the movie’s climactic dance scene; her character is an amateur modern dancer who’s entered herself and Pat into a local community dance competition as a way of pulling them both out of their funks. So, how involved was Russell in coming up with dance moves, and can he even dance himself? “No,” said Lawrence, “Mandy Moore [of So You Think You Can Dance] was our choreographer and she was fantastic.” Russell gave instructions and notes, the most upsetting of which was when he decided to give Lawrence a stomach-baring dance outfit, “because he saw a rehearsal video where I was in a sports bra and, like, yoga pants,” said Lawrence. “And I was like, ‘You jerk! I did not want to be in a half top after you just told me to gain weight [for the role].’ So yeah, that’s how involved he was.” Did he at least make her watch Dirty Dancing on repeat to study up for the dance sequence’s big lift? “No, I did my fair share of Patrick Swayze Dirty Dancing research when I was 13,” said Lawrence. “I didn’t need to brush up on anything.”Though she had no idea what was waiting for her in Atlanta on the Hunger Games sequel set – “I’m going to go into hair and makeup and I couldn’t tell you what scene we’re doing,” she said. “I have no idea. Sorry” – she knows exactly what awaits her in a week and a half: the production moves to Hawaii to film the arena scenes. What was she looking forward to the most there? “It’s freaking Hawaii! I’m looking forward to everything,” she said. “And I just heard there’s a Cheesecake Factory, like, right down the street, part of the Trump, and that’s got me really, really excited. Don’t say Trump because I have no idea what I’m saying. But, yeah, so that has me excited. I think I’m the only American that really loves Cheesecake Factory and totally stands by it.” Another thing she loves: Sleep No More, the immersive take on Macbeth in Chelsea, which she recently attended with her family. She’d been hoping to see one of the show’s fabled orgies, she told theTimes in a profile this week, but had somehow, disappointingly, not run into naked actors wrestling. “I really missed out!” she said. I informed her that there’s actually an online guide on how to see the most nudity in that production. “If only I’d known,” she mused, then added, “I thought you were going to give me a website where I could see lots of orgies. I’m like, ‘I could get that from almost any guy here.’”
The Silver Linings party was small, and by the time she’d left, Lawrence had probably shaken hands with everyone in there, lending each admiring Academy member an attentive ear and a welcoming smile. It worked on director James Toback, a longtime Oscar voter. “I thought she was great in the movie, so I was already admiring of her performance, but I talked to her for a few minutes and she was so smart and likable and nice that it just makes you all the more eager to do something for the person,” he said. “She didn’t know my work at all and didn’t know me — normally that is not a good sign — but in this case I didn’t care because she was extremely appealing and nice. I have met certain people whom I automatically would never vote for because I didn’t like the 30 seconds that I spent with them.” He refused to name names (“the list is too long”), but added, “Listen, anyone who says that the Oscars is not a popularity contest is lying through his teeth. People vote for their friends and they vote against the people they don’t like. I would almost say that one in ten voters that I’ve known over the years actually do it legitimately, if there is such a thing.”
So far, the folks in Silver Linings were doing well in winning his vote. “I’m easily seduced. I like Jennifer Lawrence immensely [after] three minutes,” he said. “[Co-star Robert] De Niro I’ve been friendly with since 1977, so I always like him. Bradley Cooper told me Tyson [Toback’s documentary about Mike Tyson] was a masterpiece, so I automatically liked him forever the only time I met him.” When Toback (also a fan of The Fighter and Three Kings) met Russell later that evening, he reported back, “I spent ten minutes talking to David O. Russell who told me I was his hero and he loves my work and knew everything about me, and he could now make a movie that I didn’t like and I would still write it as my best movie of the year without question. David O. Russell has now assumed the number one position of all directors in the world.”
Lawrence had been walking out just as Russell had been walking in, and they’d been cornered by photographers. “Come on, someone take mercy on her and let her get out of those shoes!” Russell demanded, jokingly, as Lawrence pretended to tumble backwards from her sky-high Dior platforms, grabbing onto a large potted plant for support. “I can’t take them off,” she pretend-sulked. “My publicist is the boss of me. That’s why I’m wearing a dog collar.” She was wearing a ribbon choker, also Dior.
“Where are her flip-flops and sneakers?” shouted out a concerned Russell. “This is what friends are for.”
“I left them in the car,” Lawrence shouted back over her shoulder, hobbling out of the hotel. “They’re in the same place as my soul.”