AFTER a rough couple of months — private nude photos of her were leaked on the internet, and a romance with Coldplay’s singer Chris Martin that reportedly fizzled out — Jennifer Lawrence could be forgiven for lying low for a while.
But with a massive blockbuster movie — the third instalment of the Hunger Games franchise, Mockingjay – Part 1 — to promote, the show must go on for the Oscar-winning 24-year-old.
Dressed in a sharply-cut white power suit, her blonde hair in a choppy bob, Lawrence has echoes of her Hunger Games character, tough young warrior Katniss Everdeen, who begins the latest film (based on the bestselling novel trilogy by Suzanne Collins) battle-scarred and facing a fight for survival.
The actress says, however, that she handles emotions differently to heroine and reluctant leader, Katniss, and had she been faced with Katniss’ struggles “I would have been crying every single day,” the Kentucky-born star says with a mock wail.
“But I remember reading the first books, and when I read them I was going through my first awards season,” for Winter’s Bone, the 2010 drama, which earned Lawrence an Oscar nomination.
“I had never experienced anything like that; being put in dresses that are uncomfortable, and looking not like myself, and all of a sudden everybody’s listening to you and you’re like, ‘Don’t listen to me, I’m 20’, and then kind of growing into it, in a way.”
Since Winter’s Bone, her breakthrough, Lawrence has grown into life as a leading lady, with smart career choices and acclaimed performances.
Alongside her roles in the Hunger Games and X-Men franchises, she earned a best actress Oscar, aged 22, for the more low-key Silver Linings Playbook (Lawrence is the second-youngest actress in history to win that award), and a supporting actress nomination for last year’s comedy crime caper, American Hustle.
Lawrence’s sense of humour has also endeared her to fans (she describes her Hunger Games action gear as a “Bob the Builder kind of outfit”), down-to-earth attitude (“I cannot keep up with emails, so the idea of Twitter is so unthinkable to me”), and the occasional red carpet tumble (she famously tripped up while heading on stage to accept her Oscar).
In September, however, her world was rocked: she was one of the high-profile victims of the celebrity photo-hacking scandal. The actress later described the leaking of intimate personal images as “disgusting” and a “sex crime”.
She made headlines again when it was reported that Lawrence — who was previously in a relationship with her English X-Men co-star, Nicholas Hoult — and Coldplay singer Martin had split after four months of dating.
Today, though, on a press tour with the Hunger Games co-stars she now counts among her best friends, Lawrence is keen to focus on the film and Katniss, a character she “loves everything about”.
The first Mockingjay movie sees the reluctant heroine wake up in District 13, an unknown, underground world she didn’t know existed, separated from her fellow fighter, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). Her former home, District 12, has been turned to rubble, and she’s faced with the prospect of war against the wealthy Capitol.
“One of the first scenes I shot was when we first find Katniss and she’s locked herself in an air vent.
“Naturally, she’s in a darker place, because she’s completely stripped away from everything she knows and has to rebuild,” Lawrence says.
“In the first movie, she wanted to save her family. In the second, she tried to save her friends and herself. Now, she starts to realise the impact she has on the wider world and that she has a choice to lead this battle for what is right.”
Australian actor Liam Hemsworth returns to play Katniss’s devoted friend, Gale, while Julianne Moore joins as District 13 president, Alma Coin, who is keen to have Katniss lead the rebellion against the Capitol.
“Both our characters do actually have a lot in common; we’re both very strong and very powerful, so there’s something we respect in each other, but also something we both fear in one another,” Lawrence says of Coin.
Lawrence says learning fellow Oscar nominee Moore was signing up was “the most exciting, unbelievable news in the world. I think Julianne is one of the greatest actresses of all time, just absolutely phenomenal,” says Lawrence. “She was even more impressive in person. She is such a sweet, family woman and also hilarious. Working with her was a dream come true.”
With an incredibly loyal following (fans have bought 65m copies of Collins’ novels), Lawrence says fans and the original author are a constant reference point. “Before we make any huge decisions, there’s a conversation with Suzanne Collins. There’s definitely an awareness of our fan base, because it’s so giant and so important to us.”
With the fourth and final film due out next year, in which Katniss and District 13 embark on all-out war against the Capitol, Lawrence and her co-stars are preparing to bid farewell to the franchise.
“We had a feeling that these films were going to be big and this character was going to be with me for the rest of my life, but this surpassed every expectation we ever had. That made me nervous for a few days, because I’m an actor, I don’t want to just be remembered as one character,” Lawrence says.
“But I’m so proud of these movies. I love their message, I love this character, I’m actually honoured to carry this for the rest of my life and to have people remember me as this incredible, courageous hero...”
With a laugh, she says: “I hope people mistake it for me.”