Jennifer Lawrence is in Manhattan, and it’s hard not to know it. Outside the Park Hyatt Hotel in midtown, a throng of girls are pushing, shoving and screaming at the top of their lungs.
The entire cast of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay is inside the hotel for a press day, but there’s no mistaking whom the fans want to see. They want Lawrence, known to Hunger Games fans worldwide as rebel leader Katniss Everdeen.
Lawrence is only 24, and already she’s an Oscar winner, a star of two major Hollywood franchises — the other is the X-Men series — and wealthier than she ever imagined she’d be.
How does a 24-year-old, one who only four years ago was a complete unknown, cope with that level of success?
“I have an amazing group of people around me that I’ve made into my world,” she said. “I surround myself with people who tell me, ‘No. You look terrible. And stop doing that, right now!’”
Which isn’t to say that the Kentucky native has managed to take it all in stride. From tabloid fascination with her romantic life to a recent furore over nude photos stolen by hackers, she’s had her share of rough patches.
“Something strange does happen when you become famous,” Lawrence admitted. “The way people look at you makes you feel alienated. You feel odd.
“I surround myself with people who don’t look at me in an odd way,” she continued. “They don’t give me that fake laugh. I hate when people chortle!”
It was a dreary afternoon, but the actress looked red-carpet perfect in a black suit jacket over a dark-lace dress, black tights and stiletto boots. She didn’t look much like the stressed-out Katniss whom fans will rejoin in Part 1 of Mockingjay, which will release soon this year, with Part 2 to follow in 2015.
The two-part third film will wrap up the big-screen adaptation of Suzanne Collins’s young-adult trilogy, following The Hunger Games (2012) and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013).
This time out, a rebellion is brewing, a secretive movement aiming to overthrow the dictatorial Capitol and hand power back to the people. To do that, they need a mockingjay, as the face of the rebellion is called, to inspire the people to rise.
“I actually liked this movie the most,” Lawrence said. “This movie has taken on a different tone in a dramatic and powerful way. There are no actual games this time. It’s all about the rebellion.”
Katniss is no gung-ho revolutionary, however. The events of the first two films have left her scarred, physically and emotionally, and unsure of herself.
“Katniss represents the consequences of war,” Lawrence said. “She knows that the Capitol is a terrible government that’s only good for the elite 1 per cent, but she also knows that war is complicated and affects everyone on both sides.”
Part 1 of Mockingjay has the feel of a gathering storm. After the all-out action of the first two films, there’s a chance for audiences to get to know the characters better as they gird themselves for the final battle.
“Katniss is in a very different place, emotionally, at the beginning of this movie,” Lawrence said. “The games have changed her. She has to rebuild herself.”
In fact, she shoots only one arrow in the entire film.
Lawrence welcomed the opportunity to do a Hunger Games film without quite so much action, relishing the chance to end most days without any bumps or bruises. One of the trickier scenes in the film came when Katniss is called upon to shoot a propaganda video and finds herself tongue-tied.
Yes, an Oscar winner was being asked to play a bad actress.
“It’s odd to act like you’re acting in a movie and screwing it up,” Lawrence said, laughing. “To act badly, but make it look genuine, made me nervous.”
Actually, Lawrence admitted, the worst scene for her was one in which Katniss had to sing. “My biggest fear is singing in front of people,” the actress said. “I believe I sing like Gollum. I have a bad voice and sound like Amy Winehouse suffering from bronchitis.”
Lawrence has been in Hollywood for seven years, and in that time she’s gone from total obscurity to bit parts to out-of-nowhere raves — and an Oscar nomination as Best Actress for her performance in Winter’s Bone (2010) and then, in quick succession, X-Men: First Class (2011), The Hunger Games and X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014). Along the way she found time to pick up two more Oscar nominations for Silver Linings Playbook (2012) and American Hustle (2013), winning as Best Actress for the former.
Part 2 will be released next year, but it’s already been shot. The final day on the set was a hard one for her, Lawrence said. “It was such a long shoot,” she said. “There was a part of me that wanted to wrap to give my body a break, but it was sad to know that we wouldn’t have each other anymore as a cast.”
“I still see these guys way too much,” she added, citing Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson in particular. “If all I had from this experience was this friendship with Josh and Liam, I would still be the happiest person in the world.”