Jennifer Lawrence is about to become a huge movie star. After getting an Oscar nomination for her work in Winter’s Bone, Lawrence was obviously a talent to keep an eye on, but now with her starring role in The Hunger Games she’s the lead of a huge blockbuster franchise. But Lawrence wears those pressures easily, as we found out when we sat down with her. Check out our interview below!
What is it about these downtrodden, strong women who assume control of children, what is this pattern we’re seeing here in your career?
I don’t know, before I get the script I ask “Does she like the forest, does she have younger siblings? (whispers) “white trash.” I don’t know. Jodie Foster told me I’d look back twenty years from now and look back at my career and see a pattern, and what it has to do with my life, but now I’m just like “I don’t know.”
You do you see a through line between this and Winter’s Bone.
Yeah, they’re similar. Bree is much more of a walker and Katniss is more of a runner (laughs). There’s nothing I can really say.
What did you find the most challenging aspect of this film as an adaptation?
That she was already in the mind of so many different people. When you’re coming out with a movie nobody’s really seen the character before you can say “here it is.” I’m playing a character that most people have already seen in their mind and heard them speak. That’s scary.
Did you have preconceived notions?
Yeah, but that’s just what I did, how I understood, and my understanding informed my performance.
Speaking of scary, I hear you guys are doing mall tours, how’s that been?
Yesterday was our first one and I felt like Justin Timberlake from ‘N Sync. It was nuts. One girl almost fainted. But it’s never over me. I sit in between the guys, and they start with Liam (Hemsworth) and they say “Say something! Say something!” and he speaks in his Australian accent and someone passes out, and I barely get a chance to put my name on it before it’s slid over to Josh (Hutcherson). “Oh my god so I loved you in…” and then crying. And I’m like “It’s okay.” I practiced my signature for so long and I didn’t get to use it.
Is there a star in it?
There was a heart, but I took the heart out.
What kind of physical training did you have to through for the role?
Free running for agility, archery, climbing, combat and yoga. But that’s all.
How’s your archery now?
Good, I had an Olympian train me, so if I couldn’t say good it’s my fault.
How’s your tree climbing skills?
Also good if I have a harness (laughs).
Knowing that it’s a franchise, is that fitness something you have to keep up?
When you’re in a movie called The Hunger Games when you’re not working you eat, but as far as exercise goes I like to stay in relatively good shape anyway, running and doing something. And it also so when training comes along I don’t have to start from square one. There is relative maintenance. Just being able to withstand cardio.
With the book, everything’s from Katniss perspective, how many days off did you have during shooting?
None. For a while I had Saturdays and Sundays, and then I had Sundays.
How useful was the book? Do you have all those first person thoughts going through your head?
For an actor it’s an amazing thing to have my character’s inner dialogue. It never happens.
At some point do you have to let go of the book?
Yeah, when you’re making a film, the book is a good tool, but once you have the script and you’re making a movie, you have to let go of the book. I held onto the inner dialogue, but yes, you do have to let go.
You have a chance to work with some strong directors, female directors like Debra Granik and Jodie Foster, and then male directors, how does Gary Ross stack up? What’s his style?
He doesn’t have one, he can communicate with every single actor. He can make anything work. I’m better with technical stuff, just tell me what you don’t like and I’ll fix it. Don’t tell me about how I’m twenty – that doesn’t work for me, just tell me what’s right and what’s wrong, and he was very technical with me. With others he might give more emotional guidance, he could do that. He can work with any actor, he can communicate with the lighting director. He had a very specific vision and he never once gave that up. Which is hard when you’re doing a film, but to his credit the studio was amazing. He’s strong and he’s brilliant, but he listens to everybody. He’s artistically free.
You said that you like technical direction, is that something you consider when you take on projects now?
It’s something I’ve always looked at when I look at scripts. You can love a script but if it doesn’t have a good director it won’t be that.
And they can adapt to your way of working?
No, I like to adapt to their way of working. I love doing that. Each director’s so different and you have to adapt to a new way of doing something. That’s amazing to me; I love that. I don’t want a director to have to work around me, I think it’s more fun to come in on their thing.
Do you have a favorite scene in the movie?
Yeah, the scene with Stanley Tucci before I go to the games. One because it’s just hilarious to see that, but also that’s the moment that Katniss realizes it’s a game, and if she wants to win she has to play along.
We’re told if you win you get riches, where are all of your riches?
Hopefully we’ll see it all in the second film.
Is it a challenge to give a performance while giving a performance?
There is a sense that Katniss is playing to the camera.
I think it was important to her to not look weak when she was on the run, or doing something, that was never a challenge in my mind, it was too complicated to think about. When she does find the camera, then yes, but otherwise it was… running.
There’s an interesting stylistic choice where the camera is all around you. Sometimes it’s from behind, which you normally wouldn’t do. Does that change your performance? Or do you have to ignore the camera?
You can’t ever let yourself be thrown by a camera. That’s never good for an actor. So, no, that’s also trusting your director. When you’re reading the script, you want to work with someone you trust so there’s nothing to worry about.
You’re working with veterans like Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, and Donald Sutherland here. Is there anything you have to be cognizant of, or is there anything you learn from going toe to toe with them?
I always try to be a sponge and soak up as much as possible when I’m working with them.
Can I ask what your sponge soaked up from Woody?
(laughs) (does Beavis laugh) Woody is the nicest person in the entire world, and you know he’d be the exact same person no matter what his job was. He’s just that guy from Texas, he can strike up a conversation with anybody, it’s just odd to see him on a movie set. He’s just one of the most incredible actors in the world, and he almost doesn’t fit onto a set. He’s just too relaxed – he’s got no airs about him. You see him hanging out, like someone brought their really nice cousin from Texas and then all of a sudden he does backwards acting. One time we were doing this scene where I stab a knife through his fingers and to do that you have to do everything backwards and they put it forwards in post. And so we would start and everything would go backwards and Woody said “I’m even doing backwards acting cause when I’m here I start to feel my desire for the jam.” (laughs) so he would go back and then he’d see the jam and want in. He’s full of gems like that.
When we were talking to Liam and Josh, it was brought up that twenty years ago we probably would have seen Katniss be a guy and the love interest a women, I’m just curious from your perspective how you feel about that shift, being the strong female character at the end of this story.
It’s great because I feel like we’ve gotten to the place where we have a strong female lead, we’ve got Lara Croft as the female James Bond, we have someone who’s not even the female James Bond, we have a young girl being thrown in to this situation and not knowing if she’s going to survive it. It says a lot.
Well, to be fair, Lara Croft is horribly sexualized, while you can’t say your character is objectified in the same way a lot of women are in these movies.
It is great.
How did you steal yourself up emotionally for your scenes with Rue, especially your final scenes with her?
That was awful. Reading it in the book, and reading the script it was terrible, and then meeting Amandla (Stenberg). The scene was hard because I knew that it meant that she would wrap. And then working with her – you met her – she’s the funniest, sweetest… she’s amazing.
She kept telling us you were the one making jokes.
Yeah, that’s true. I had to do something. There’s a funny picture of us in her grave laughing, but we’re all thinking that people would leave the theater during that scene, but then there were some hilarious parts for us.
The Hunger Games opens March 23. Check it out.