My Dinner with Jennifer
Setoodeh, Ramin, Newsweek
Byline: Ramin Setoodeh
Getting candid with Hollywood's new queen of comedy.
On the big screen, Jennifer Lawrence is as tough as they come. But meet her for dinner, and you'll quickly learn the truth--she's a lightweight. After a single glass of wine, she's starting to feel tipsy. "I'm going to need to eat," Lawrence says. "Or take my clothes off." She orders a hamburger with bacon and truffle fries. No, wait, she tells our waitress, hold the bacon. And, actually, hold the burger. She eyes the strip steak, before deciding on the chicken. "Hang on. Sorry, I'm so annoying." Pause. "The mashed potatoes! Yeah, instead of the fries." She tops that off with bacon, because she loves bacon (and Domino's pizza, bubble gum, Sour Patch Kids, and pretzels dipped in avocado). Should we share some fries? "No," she insists. "Order what you want." When I do, she interjects: "You're making a huge mistake!" The truffle fries it is.
If this sounds like a scene from When Harry Met Sally, it's because Jennifer Lawrence, 22, is an eccentric spirit. You'd never know that from her roster of serious roles--Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, Mystique in X-Men: First Class, and her Oscar-nominated debut in Winter's Bone. Despite gravitating toward -dramas, Lawrence, who grew up in Louisville, Ky., worshiped Lucille Ball and wanted to make people laugh. When she met with director Drake Doremus in 2010 before shooting Like Crazy, the two bonded over one-liners from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. "She's so funny and goofy and vulnerable," he says. "She's so carefree and fun when she's comfortable." Now audiences are about to see that side in Silver Linings Playbook.
This isn't a screwball comedy as much as a dark one. Lawrence plays Tiffany, a widow who falls for her neighbor Pat (Bradley Cooper), a bipolar guy pining after his adulterous ex-wife. To help him move on, Tiffany enlists Pat in a local dance competition. Originally, Anne Hathaway was supposed to play Tiffany, but after she bailed, director David O. Russell narrowed his sights on other actresses, and Lawrence auditioned for him over Skype. He knew she had a chameleon's way of blending into a room. During the 2010 awards season, "she was going around with Winter's Bone and we were going around with The Fighter," Russell says. "I never recognized her. She would be standing next to me--who is this tall blonde that looks like a model from the Valley? Someone would say Jennifer Lawrence. That's Jennifer Lawrence? I just met her! How is that Jennifer Lawrence?!"
To get into Tiffany's skin, Lawrence knew she'd need to perform another disappearing act. She dyed her hair darker and spoke in a deeper octave to make herself sound older. "I was too young for the part," she says. "I was way wrong. There was this fear at first. Am I going to ruin this for everybody?" The hardest part, though, was the film's dance finale. Coop-er was a natural, but Lawrence admits a lack of coordination. "I can barely walk across the room," she says. To improve her skills, she studied old Gene Kelly videos. "That made me want to kill myself." The hard work paid off. Lawrence is so good in the role, critics are touting her as a frontrunner for Best Actress at February's Academy Awards.
With Silver Linings Playbook, Lawrence is entering a category occupied by the likes of Angelina Jolie and Meryl Streep. She's a leading lady who can rack up box-office dollars and critical praise. …