Magazine article Filmmaker

Jennifer Lawrence Q&A

Magazine article Filmmaker

Jennifer Lawrence Q&A

Article excerpt

It's not often a striking young girl makes it in Hollywood without accentuating her looks, but Jennifer Lawrence is not your typical 19-year-old actress. While many of her peers go for lightweight parts in bubblegum teen comedies, Lawrence has taken a more serious route, filled with dark roles that deal with issues well beyond her years.

The Kentucky native left home for L.A. at 14 and after getting bit parts on TV shows like Monk, Cold Case and Medium, landed the role of daughter Lauren on the TBS series The Bill Engvall Show in 2007. A year later she was cast in her first leading role in The Poker House, an intense drama playing a young girl whose mother is a prostitute. She followed that with Guillermo Arriaga's moody directorial debut The Burning Plain, where Lawrence once again is a teen dealing with mom issues. So when her agent handed her the script to Debra Granik's adaptation of Daniel Woodrell's gritty novel Winter's Bone, Lawrence had no doubts she had what it took to play the demanding role of the book's lead, 17-year-old Ree Dolly. Covered in a bulky jacket, winter cap and her face chapped from the cold, it isn't Lawrence's physical traits but her tenacious performance that grabs our attention and draws us deeper inside Ree's struggle to find her crystal meth-making father in the Ozarks.

Gaining high praise at this past Sundance, where the film won the Grand Prize, Lawrence has continued her good fortune as she's recently wrapped her next film, The Beaver, a dark comedy starring Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster, who also directs.

Filmmaker talked to Lawrence over the phone about her performance as Ree, which has already started Oscar buzz.

I believe in an interview you did at Sundance you said that your mother read Winters Bone some time ago and told you Ree would be a good part for you to play. Yeah, she said if they ever make it into a movie I would be perfect for it. Then five years or so later I got the audition and ended up doing it. So it was sweet because I got the movie but bitter because my mom was right. [laughs]

What was it that grabbed you about the role? I can't even remember a movie I've seen where a woman is the strong one, a woman is at the forefront of the story and she's not a sidekick to another man who is going on an incredibly difficult journey. And not even a grown woman, a young 17-year-old woman. I just craved to be able to do that character. Then after talking to Debra and hearing her plans for the movie, I couldn't resist it. I became obsessed with it.

What was your audition like? I'm really bad at auditions. I don't really like them because I feel like you get six pages and you're supposed to just go in front of people you don't know and "start acting." But I was able to read the script first and develop what I thought would be my idea for the character. I went in there and they liked it.

How long was the wait before you knew you had the part? Gosh, it felt like 45 years. After the audition I think I got called back right away and that's when I met Debra and [co-writer and producer] Anne [Rosellini]. Then they went back to New York [for more auditions]. They liked me but they thought I was too pretty. I wasn't very happy when I found out why I wasn't getting the movie. So I flew to New York and read for them again. I flew the red-eye over and was on no sleep, so I guess then I wasn't too pretty.

What conversations did you have with Debra about the part? Debra's main concern was she wanted everything to be authentic. She pulled it off. There's not one thing in that movie that isn't sincere and authentic. …

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