When it comes to on-screen chemistry, “Hunger Games” co-stars Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson are naturals.
“We’re great together,” Lawrence, 23, told CNN in a recent interview. “We can really kiss.”
To be sure, the two have had plenty of practice. As “Hunger Games” characters Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, Lawrence and Hutcherson are asked to do some lip-locking on camera in both 2012’s “The Hunger Games” and its November 22 follow-up, “Catching Fire.”
If you’re not familiar with the book trilogy from Suzanne Collins that the movies are based on, know that part of the central plot revolves around Katniss and Peeta’s relationship — it’s mostly a survival strategy as the two impoverished District 12 citizens are sent to fight to the death in the sadistic Hunger Games, but there’s also an undercurrent of something more. There’s the additional complication of Katniss’ relationship with childhood friend Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), who’s a likely lover as well.
So as Katniss, Lawrence isn’t wanting for love scenes. Yet in her typical casual manner, the Oscar-winning actress can shrug it off.
“You just kiss,” she said to CNN, admitting, “I’ve had a couple bad ones.”
Hutcherson, though, isn’t disappointing, although the 21-year-old actor isn’t quite as experienced as his counterpart.
“I haven’t had any bad ones,” Hutcherson said, telling Lawrence, “You’re my first real big kiss in a movie.”
“Really?” Lawrence responded. “Oh my God, was I gentle?”
To be frank, “no,” Hutcherson replied. “It was a little abrasive, if I’m being honest. A little shocking.”
“It was very slobbery,” Lawrence agreed.
That sort of honest, spontaneous exchange is what makes the duo, but especially Lawrence, so in demand. Just three years ago, Lawrence was best known for an indie film called “Winter’s Bone,” which earned the actress her first Oscar nomination. But then came an onslaught of films that permanently changed the tide, as Lawrence starred in one high-profile project after another: 2011’s “The Beaver” and “X-Men: First Class,” “The Hunger Games,” and 2012’s acclaimed “Silver Linings Playbook,” which earned the young star an Oscar.
Born in Kentucky with two older brothers, Lawrence presents herself with an unguarded irreverence that both Hollywood and the public eat up with spoons. Even as she transformed into one of the biggest stars in the industry, Lawrence remains grounded and outspoken in her interviews, seemingly unaware of her celebrity status.
When she won the best actress Oscar for “Silver Linings Playbook,” nothing changed on set, Hutcherson told CNN.
“I don’t even think we had a conversation about it,” Lawrence said. “You guys were like, ‘Congratulations, that’s great.’ And then it was like, ‘Cool.’ Then we started talking about farts.”
And yet, as the public face of a franchise that has thus far made $691 million worldwide, Lawrence isn’t completely oblivious to her new place in the world.
When the first “Hunger Games” movie came out, the actress tried to stop by Whole Foods, and was quickly reminded of just how famous she’s become.
“Literally the day the movie was released, I had no idea I was famous yet or that anybody had seen the movie,” she said. “I don’t think actually I knew the movie came out that day.”
Whole Foods “had to call the police and I had to go down the cargo elevator and I was crying. And I saw my ex-boyfriend there and he’s like, ‘How’s your life?’ And I was like, ‘Really bad.’ It was the worst.”
Her popularity began to make her nervous about appearing in public, and she would skirt dinner plans to avoid the inevitable requests for a photograph. But she’s learned that one has to face fame the way you would face anything else.
“Sometimes I’m nice, sometimes I’m in a bad mood,” Lawrence said. “Like if I’m at dinner and I’m eating and somebody wants me to stand up and take a picture — that’s actually helped with my anxiety, knowing that I don’t have to say yes and I can say no. … It is hard because you don’t want to feel rude, but at the same time, I have to defend my life and my mental wellness.”