by Natalie Finn | Thu., May. 11, 2017 5:00 AM
After she won an Oscar in 2013, Jennifer Lawrence insisted that nothing had really changed for her, at least as far as who she was on the inside.
"I'm actually surprised at how surprised everyone is that nothing has changed or feels different," the actress said in an interview about nine months after she won Best Actress for Silver Linings Playbook. "I think everyone believes that when you win an Oscar, it's like some sort of magical charm that changes everything in your life. It really hasn't. I have had the most amazing year—career wise—and I am so grateful and so honored, but it really hasn't changed anything for my personal life. I still put on my acting pants one leg at a time."
Lawrence could be forgiven for being surprised by people's surprise. Oscars tend to make the people who win them look pretty fancy, at least at first. But if you narrow it down to just the Oscar, which she accepted after tripping on her way up to the stage—it's true, she didn't become a different person, more untouchable or more mysterious, because she was an Oscar winner.
But that doesn't mean she wasn't forced to change.
The level she finds herself at today—getting props from Hillary Clinton, dancing atop Billy Joel's piano and popping in at Buckingham Palace for a private visit—doesn't have all that much to do with acting prizes at the end of the day.
Lawrence was already a unique duck at 22 before she hoovered up all the award season accolades in 2013, a celebrity who managed to pull off being at ease with herself and simultaneously reveling in her awkwardness—a delicate balance that so many others have tried and failed at.
Case in point: 2013 was also the year of Anne Hathaway's Supporting Actress Oscar run, and we know how that was received at the time. Being a great actress didn't help her in the court of extremely arbitrary public opinion.
Ironically, Hathaway was the original pick for Lawrence's role in Silver Linings Playbook, so it just so happened that fate worked out for both at the same time—albeit in different ways, with Lawrence's star going supernova and Hathaway feeling the need to hide for a year after their respective career milestones.
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"I feel sorry for a young actress like Jennifer Lawrence who gets so much success out of the gate," Ethan Hawke randomly mused to The Daily Beast at the end of 2014, "because how are you supposed to develop an appropriate work ethic? How do you push yourself to be better when you get an Oscar for buying breakfast in the morning?"
Well, Hawke's concerns have proved unfounded so far. For a star who's still only 26, Lawrence's work ethic has proved pretty unimpeachable so far, notwithstanding a David O. Russelltirade on the set of Joy that went viral. (It was ultimately chalked up to Russell being vintage Russell.)
Francis Lawrence, who directed the no-relation-to-him Lawrence in the second, third and fourth Hunger Games films (which coincided with her rapid journey from ingenue to Oscar winner to highest-paid actress in Hollywood), told the Los Angeles Times in 2015 that Jennifer hadn't really changed over the years, at least as far as working with her went.
"She's really instinctual, hates rehearsal," he said. "Doesn't like to talk about it all that much. So she and I talk before a shoot; I kind of run her through the script and talk about how I see the character and what the emotional arc and journey is, and she listens. If she has thoughts she sort of chimes in and then on any day, depending on scene, I just kind of try to land her as best as I can in her narrative and she goes with it."
True story about the talking: As much as Lawrence has had to say over the years about stomach flu and bowel movements, and armpits that look like vaginas, she's not one for going on about her craft—another aspect of her character that has kept her closer to the semblance of a regular person in her fans' eyes, as opposed to the actors who only want to talk about their craft and take on the air of people who never use the bathroom.
"Isabella Rossellini told me that I would love theater because it's only acting and none of the bulls--t," Lawrence said in the December 2015 issue of Vogue. "But if I have to do more than three takes I start to just, like, die." Asked about any aspirations she might have behind the camera, she said, "I want to direct. But I would rather just do it than talk about it."
But when she does talk—whether she's cracking jokes with her co-stars at a junket, telling a TMI story on a late-night show or self-awarely cracking wise about the downside of fame (knowing full well she can't really complain) to yet another writer tasked with writing a J.Law profile—she doesn't stray from the general script she's drafted for herself.
Self-deprecation, a few well-timed swear words, a funny story about throwing up somewhere fancy or in front of someone famous, professed love for food and booze and the Real Housewives franchise—and boom, it's like talking to someone you know, someone who's unlike all the unknowable movie stars in Hollywood.
Lawrence, who according to Forbes made $46 million between the summers of 2015 and 2016, admitted to Vogue that she indulges in private jets, though she insisted she'd prefer not to save the money and fly commercial.
"I always want to—it's cheaper, it's easier—but there can be 300 perfectly lovely people at the gate and one crazy person who ruins it for everyone, so flying private is great because I don't have to worry," she said, adding with what was described as a "big fake smile," "Is that relatable enough for you?"
Lawrence had been toiling along in mainly TV roles for about five years before bursting on the scene with an Oscar nomination in 2011 for the indie drama Winter's Bone (becoming an instant style darling in her deceptively simple-looking red Calvin Klein dress didn't hurt, either). Her splash was particularly well-timed because it coincided with the search for the right young actress to play Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games franchise, which at the time was considered the heir-apparent to the YA phenomenon that was The Twilight Saga (Lawrence was one of the many teen hopefuls who auditioned for the role of Bella Swan).
Having already secured the role of Mystique in the prequel leg of the X-Men films, Lawrence won the coveted part and her casting was announced on March 17, 2011.
The rest, as they say, is history.
"I don't think there's any actor who has more power in terms of box office," Hunger Games producer Nina Jacobson told Vogue ahead of the release of the franchise's final installment, Mockingjay Part 2. "I would be hard-pressed to think of anybody who has the freedom of choice that she has. What is great about her success is that her stardom is an incentive for Hollywood to do better—to write those roles so that they can then get Jen Lawrence in their movie. That's real power."
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And with power can come great responsibility, depending on the person. Some upgrade to private jets and annual attendance at the Met Gala and call it a day. Aside from her continued devil-may-not-seem-to-care candor, it was hard to tell which path J.Law was taking.
Talking about the very real perils of fame (such as weirdos camping outside her house and the police not doing anything because, hey, they're just fans), Vogue's 2013 September issue cover girl insisted to the mag, "I am just not OK with it. It's as simple as that. I am just a normal girl and a human being, and I haven't been in this long enough to feel like this is my new normal. I'm not going to find peace with it."
But three years can be a lifetime in Hollywood, and all signs point to her having made at least a reluctant peace with her lot in life.
She has exercised the voice that comes with her movie-star power more recently, penning an essay in Lena Dunham's Lenny Letter about the ongoing gender pay gap in Hollywood (which earned a "brava" tweet from Hillary Clinton) and, last November, writing an entreaty to devastated Clinton supporters via Vice's Broadly to not give up the fight for the values they hold dear.
But she also pulled a very movie star move after her last film, Passengers, opened to mixed reviews and underwhelming box office, despite the excitement whipped up online by the idea of The Woman and The Man of the Moment, Chris Pratt, joining forces onscreen.
Namely, Jennifer Lawrence astutely went away.
She surfaced this month in London, where she reportedly had an unexplained meeting at Buckingham Palace (the queen wasn't home at the time, but surely someone important is always hanging around) while on a break from shooting the spy thriller Red Sparrow, which reunites her with Catching Fire and Mockingjay Part 1 and 2 director Francis Lawrence. Otherwise, her exposure over the past five months has been primarily limited to paparazzi photos with her boyfriend Darren Aronofsky, who directed her in the psychological thriller Mother!
With Mother! not due in theaters till October, that gives Lawrence at least a few months still she has to start doing press for the movie—which, as was the case when she was dating X-Men co-star Nicholas Hoult, will presumably include a few questions about the on-set romance that blossomed between her and the 48-year-old Aronofsky.
Still only 26, Lawrence is nevertheless one of the biggest stars in the world—and this is exactly the time where it gets tricky.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Presumably she enjoys her lifestyle and would like to avoid peaking before she's 30 in the fame department. Unfortunately, no audience is more fickle than the very same one that on the surface has embraced Lawrence wholeheartedly. If you delve into her post-Oscar press, it's mostly pretty gushy, but there have always been skeptics nipping at her heels, wondering if her saucy-broad shtick wasn't already old.
You can only joke about your looks and your weight while also being a face of Dior and a Vogue cover girl and still be considered super "real" for so long. Lawrence's particular brand of tripping-over-everything realness even launched philosophical treatises about "It Girls" and "cool girls," and what it meant to be either one of those things.
Well, the general conclusion is that both are age-old societal constructs, and up until not that long ago both had way more to do with how men look at women than anything else. But with women all too often still proving to be each other's harshest critics, it can't be easy being generally well-liked but simultaneously on the verge of overdoing it with the very demeanor that people liked you for in the first place.
Public opinion turns on a dime, and anyone who has a public is aware of that.
Emma McIntyre/Getty Images
Or, maybe Lawrence really doesn't care about anything but acting (and one day directing). There's no question that she has the acting chops. Yet even then, to achieve a career approaching Meryl Streep-caliber longevity, she still has to pick the right scripts—at least 4 out of 5, even Meryl doesn't always get it right—as well as hope that the stars align accordingly.
But right now, while Lawrence traverses the still-unpredictable terrain that comes with being It for the time being (she's got company, Emma Stone having just joined her on the precipice), she's allowed to stop acting surprised at where she's landed thanks to her talent, dedication and the required sprinkling of good fortune.
Lawrence became a so-called cool girl by always being the first to insist how uncool she really is. She made a valiant argument for herself, but it's no use now. She's freakin' cool, and though there will always be naysayers, the real test of her staying power moving forward will be how she handles the acknowledgment that her establishment status is no longer up for debate.
"I feel like I'm growing," Lawrence said on Charlie Rose in December 2015. "I've achieved more than I ever thought was possible. When I first started acting and I was on a sitcom, I was happy to be on a sitcom for the rest of my life. I didn't really have these aspirations. This is so much bigger than anything I could have imagined. I can feel myself growing up and I'm still making mistakes that I'm learning from."
As she's gotten older, she said, "Your defenses change. My defenses used to be 'I'm little, I don't know.'" Rose in turn asked, "And what are your defenses now?"
She smile and replied as if confronting an imaginary foe: "I know exactly what you're up to."
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