For many young actors, the experience of fame is too much, and they end up shooting out of the frying pan and into the fire. For Jennifer Lawrence – who at age 21 starred as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games – it was more like … out of the cannon and into the stratosphere.
Jennifer Shrader Lawrence was born on August 15th, 1990, in Louisville, Kentucky. She is the daughter of Gary Lawrence, a former construction magnate, and Karen (Koch) Lawrence, a kid’s camp administrator. Jennifer has two older brothers, Ben and Blaine. While still a teenager, Jennifer tried her hand at many different venues – hockey, softball, cheerleading, and modeling, none of which thrilled her – until she began acting in church plays, and something clicked.
In 2004, Jennifer made a pilgrimage to New York City where she set up a few meetings at talent agencies. After her first audition, the talent agent informed Jen’s mother that it was "the best cold read by a 14- year-old they had ever heard.” The agent tried to convince Jen and her mother to relocate to New York. Not long after, while shooting an H&M ad, Jennifer was spotted by another talent agent who took her picture, invited her back to their studio for another cold read, and also encouraged her to at least spend the summer in The Big Apple. That was all the goading she needed. With a brand new passion and direction, Jennifer focused fully on finishing high school (she graduated two years early), so that she could devote all of her attention on her acting career.
While Jennifer did spend that summer in NYC, the Lawrences soon relocated to Los Angeles. After bit parts in TV fare like Monk (2006), Cold Case (2007), and Medium (2008), Jennifer was cast as the oldest daughter on the TBS sitcom The Bill Engvall Show. The show ran for three seasons before being canceled.
Jennifer followed this up in 2008 with appearances in the films Garden Party, The Poker House (with Selma Blair and Chloe Moretz), and The Burning Plain. For her performance in the latter, Jennifer received the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best Young Emerging Actress at The Venice Film Festival.
Then, in 2010, came a little picture called Winter’s Bone, which would go on to win Best Picture at The Sundance Film Festival. Jennifer’s lead performance as Ree Dolly – a 17-year-old girl who lives in the Ozarks and cares for her younger siblings and mentally-ill mother – was critically acclaimed across the board. David Denby of The New Yorker opined that “the movie would be unimaginable with anyone less charismatic playing Ree.” Jennifer also received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, making her the second youngest person to ever receive such an honor (… the youngest is still 8-year-old Justin Henry who was nominated for Kramer Vs. Kramer).
In 2011, Jennifer appeared in The Beaver, starring Mel Gibson and (director) Jodie Foster. The movie had been filmed in 2009, yet was shelved for a time due to the troubles of its fallen star. Later that same year, Jennifer had a smash hit with X-Men: First Class. Jen played a younger version of Mystique, the shape-shifting femme fatale originated in the first three X-Men films by Rebecca Romijn. The film went on to earn over $350 million worldwide. Jennifer is expected to reprise her role in the sequel … though given the film she appeared in immediately following this, her asking price may go up a bit. To put it mildly.
Playing Katniss Everdeen in the film version of Suzanne Collin’s immensely popular novel The Hunger Games, Jennifer’s career was truly launched into the stratosphere. The film broke numerous records during its opening weekend, and all but assured Jennifer's place of honor in the hearts of filmgoers worldwide.
The role of Katniss wasn’t that far removed from the character of Ree in Winter’s Bone – both are strong-beyond-their-years teenage girls, who sacrifice much to care for their families. But with Katniss, Jennifer took that character to the next level, and found an audience which crossed more demographic lines than Ree ever dreamed of.
As a heroine in a dystopian world who inspires the lowly masses to rise up against their oppressors, Katniss Everdeen is a dream role for any actor. Says Jennifer of the experience: “I couldn't be happier about being a part of 'The Hunger Games' and to play Katniss. I have a huge responsibility to the fans of this incredible book and I don't take it lightly. I will give everything I have to these movies and to this role to make it worthy of Suzanne Collins' masterpiece.”
As The Hunger Games is a trilogy, its immediate sequel, Catching Fire, will start filming in the summer of 2012, for a scheduled release date of November 22, 2013.
Before then, however, Jennifer will be seen in House at the End of the Street (2012), The Silver Linings Playbook (2012), and Serena (2013).
With a beginning as auspicious as this, who knows where Jennifer Lawrence will go from here? Here’s hoping she can handle the view from way up there.
Jennifer Lawrence Quotes:
“There are actresses who build themselves, and then there are actresses who are built by others. I want to build myself.”
“I have this feeling of protectiveness over characters I want to play. I worry about them. If someone else gets the part, I'm afraid they won't do it right. They'll make the character a victim or they'll make her a villain or they'll just get it wrong somehow. When I get like that, anything's possible.”
Regarding the audition process: “The miserable ones are the ones where all the girls auditioning are in the same room. There's no talking in those rooms. I've tried. Yesterday I had to do an interview. I was in a horrible mood. I couldn't think of basic words. I could see my publicist in the background, mouthing things to say. They want you to be likable all the time, and I'm just not.”
Regarding her audition for Winter’s Bone: “I'd have walked on hot coals to get the part. I thought it was the best female role I'd read – ever. I was so impressed by Ree's tenacity and that she didn't take no for an answer. For the audition, I had to fly on the redeye to New York and be as ugly as possible. I didn't wash my hair for a week, I had no makeup on. I looked beat up in there. I think I had icicles hanging from my eyebrows.”
“Where are the Robert Redfords and Paul Newmans of my age group? I love James Franco, but where's the next James Franco? Where are the hunks who can act?”
“When I first got to New York, my feet hit the sidewalk and you'd have thought I was born and raised there. I took over that town. None of my friends took me seriously. I came home and announced, 'I'm going to move to New York,' and they were like 'OK.' Then when I did, they kept waiting for me to fail and come back. But I knew I wouldn't. I was like, 'I'll show you.'”
“I don't really diet or anything. I'm miserable when I'm dieting and I like the way I look. I'm really sick of all these actresses looking like birds. I'd rather look a little chubby on camera and look like a person in real life, than look great on screen and look like a scarecrow in real life.”
On fame: “I look at Kristen Stewart now and I think, ‘I'd never want to be that famous.’ I can't imagine how I'd feel if all of a sudden my life was pandemonium.”
“I hate saying, 'I like exercising.' I want to punch people who say that in the face. But it's nice being in shape for a movie, because they basically do it all for you. It's like, 'Here's your trainer. This is what you can eat. I don't diet. I DO exercise! But I don't diet. You can't work when you're hungry, you know?”
“I'm doing what I love, and then I get months and months of rest. I have a lot of money for a 21-year-old. I can't stand it when actors complain.”