Her fame has risen at a breakneck pace. After her first nomination in 2011 for her breakthrough performance in the independent film Winter’s Bone, this voluptuous blonde, at just 23 years old, has shown everybody that acting is her thing. After leaving her mark with the role of Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, she has proven that heroines in teen sagas can be a little less bland than Kristen Stewart. With Catching Fire, Jennifer Lawrence goes back to brunette for the second installment of this fantasy/adventure movie with a deep message.
How was it, having a new director for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire?
Gary Ross and Francis Lawrence are very different, but each of them was perfect for their respective movies. Francis is a visionary, and he’s very good with actors. And Gary is too, as well has being very good with the script. I adore Francis, it’s so much fun to work with him and he’s a great man. He’s very nice and completely normal. The environment on set was very good, calm. You don’t need to get nervous about anything. The only thing he does is twirl a pencil, when he does that you know he’s stressed. But he’s done a wonderful job, he came in to this project with a great knowledge of the books and the characters. He’s also a good listener. We worked very well together.
Has this second film been easier to make than the first one, or harder?
It’s possible that it was less complicated in some aspects, but more in others. In the first movie we basically had no idea what we were doing. We knew how to make a movie, but it’s stressful to make a movie people have such high expectations of, have preconceived notions of. It’s pretty overwhelming. With the second movie we have the same kind of pressure, but at the same time it’s a relief because it seems like people liked what we did, so we can give them a bit more of the same but at the same time something different. As far as acting goes, it makes things easier because this is a character I’ve played before, so you don’t have to repeat that long initial process of understanding her. But at the same time it’s complicated because you want to preserve the parts people liked, while giving them something new.
I think one of the things you least liked filming was the scene where Katniss and Peeta get attacked by monkeys on the beach…
It was the worst! We were filming in a swamp for days! I’m paranoid in general and Josh Hutcherson wouldn’t stop talking about trench foot and fungi when we were in the swamp. He would say: “That’s what happens to your feet if you keep them wet for too long.” And we had spent 73 hours with our feet in the water! I was freaking out. And on top of that we were filming a scene where we were fighting and all of a sudden something lashed me in the butt. Everybody kept saying it was probably a cramp. But I know how it feels when you get a cramp and I wasn’t going crazy, I had felt a lash in my butt. It took us ten minutes to figure out that Sam Claflin’s spear had flown off, hitting me in the butt. It was so fast, nobody saw it, and we didn’t realize until we saw the footage we filmed. I don’t know how I’m going to be able to watch that scene. I was so angry about the fungi and the welt in my butt.
What’s one of your favorite scenes?
I think the one I was most eager to film was the scene I have with Donald Sutherland, where Katniss finds President Snow in her house. It was a very intense, incredible, emotional moment. It would’ve been for any actor, but the fact that it was with Donald Sutherland made it amazing for me.
Which actors or actresses do you look up to? Who would you like to emulate? Do you have any role models?
I don’t know if I’d necessarily call her an idol or a role model, but someone I admire, who’s an incredible actress, is Cate Blanchett. I think she’s extraordinary. And Meryl Streep as well, not just because of her acting but because she’s Meryl Streep and I’d like to live my life the way she has lived hers. The way she went away with her kids, we never saw pictures of her babies. I respect that a lot. And it’s not like I’m that way, because generally I want to do tons of things. I want to produce, I want to do this or that, and have a heart attack at 25 (laughs). But she’s only an actress and I like that.
How has the Oscar changed your life?
Thankfully it hasn’t changed my life. I don’t even know where it is. I think it might be in Kentucky. That’s what I hope, at least, because if not then I have no idea (laughs). I don’t have it.
It hasn’t even changed things on a professional level?
On a professional level, yes. But I don’t consider that part of my life, it’s just my job. I’m much more busy in a good way. You get a lot more opportunities. Obviously an Oscar is not something that can ever hurt your career. In fact, it only does wonderful things for it. The only thing that’s really changed is my personal life, being able to go out and stuff like that. It’s a bit more complicated. But besides that, nothing’s changed.
Are you trying to be more careful about the projects you choose to work on? The Oscar is a big responsibility…
No. I think it’s dangerous to try and play a role basing it on anything but your own desire to play it and make that movie. When you’re on set, the only motivation you have to be there is to tell that story. What has changed is that I’ve realized the more movies you make and the more characters you play, you can end up finding characters that are similar up to a certain point. It might be that you can’t do anything special anymore. I may like a script a lot, or a character, or I could love to work with a certain director, but then maybe I’ll get the feeling that there’s nothing I can bring in to the role or that maybe it’s redundant. The more characters you play, the more you risk being redundant. And I want to learn and do something new, put out something new. Though I understand this may sound funny coming from someone who’s in two franchises (The Hunger Games and X-Men).
Tell us about your work on American Hustle, you’re back to working with David O. Russell after Silver Linings Playbook…
It was fantastic and incredible. I would work on anything with David. He reminds me of why I love this job. When I took the part in American Hustle I had the option of going on vacation for three weeks or shooting this movie. Part of me didn’t want to do it because I knew I really needed to take a breather, but I couldn’t not work with David, so I said yes. And I realized it was much better than a vacation. He’s like adrenaline for creativity. He’s like food for any creative process. Just the way he works is already a great experience. I love every moment I’m on his sets.
Francis Lawrence on Jennifer:
What do you think is the key to the success of The Hunger Games?
Suzanne started with an idea, a them, something that had weight and importance to history, and I think people can identify with that. Instead of having an idea of a world and then trying to find a topic for it. Besides that, she’s built such a great character in Katniss. She created a character we believe in. She’s not a super-heroine. She’s a real girl. Her decisions are based on reality, things we all believe in, like protecting her sister and those she loves, on top of not wanting the responsibility of being part of this rebellion. She doesn’t want to be a heroine and she has very real flaws. I think all of this makes her a universal character. And if on top of that you choose someone like Jennifer for the role, you have the perfect combination. Plus there’s the rest of the cast, of course.
Josh Hutcherson on Jennifer:
I believe you get along well with Jennifer Lawrence. Tell us about your relationship with her…
I don’t even know where to begin. It’s so complicated (laughs). She’s completely insane. We have such a great time together. And it’s been like this since the first moment, when we met. We’re both from Kentucky and I think that’s influenced our relationship. As soon as we knew we were both from Kentucky, that gave us the freedom to go crazy with each other. I don’t know why it was like that, but it was. At the same time, besides the craziness, we also have a very authentic friendship. If she needs to talk to me about anything or I need it, we can count on each other. It’s great.
A bit as if you were siblings?
Yes. She has two siblings, and I feel a little bit like part of the family.
Also you seem to like teasing her and did so a lot on the set of this movie…
I love scaring her and making her nervous, because the way she reacts is so funny.
And you made her believe that in one of your scenes, which you shot in a swamp, she was going to catch something in her feet…
She was freaking out. She wouldn’t stop asking me: “Am I going to catch something? How are my feet?”. I love teasing her that way. And I like doing that specifically to her, not to people in general (laughs).