Hollywood’s blockbuster blonde comes to town this month with the final Hunger Games and David O. Russell’s Joy. So what’s next for Jennifer Lawrence? Buck the system, set up home, and try to find a date.
It’s sweltering in Los Angeles, the kind of heat that melts the ice cubes in your caramel macchiato faster than you can say Kardashian. I am holed up in my hotel room on Sunset Boulevard watching tennis, drapes drawn against the remorseless sun, when suddenly: Ding! A text. Jennifer Lawrence wants to ditch our plans. Forget meeting at the Italian restaurant on Laurel Canyon; just come to my house now. She sends her driver, Paul, a South African with a mellifluous voice, to pick me up, and before long, we are winding our way up, up into the Hills of Beverly, to the gated community where Lawrence lives in a house she bought last year for about $8 million. As we are waved through by a guard, Paul thoughtfully points out the other houses of note in this wonderland of privacy: There’s Cameron Diaz’s pile, and just over there, Ashton and Mila’s new place.
Watch Jennifer Lawrence nail the awkward interview.
Lawrence’s assistant, Talley, meets me at the front gate and ushers me through the house to the kitchen, where moments later Lawrence appears in a white crop top and faded boyfriend jeans rolled at the ankle. She is barefoot, tan, and very blonde, her hair cut into a short bob. The house—a convincingly faux-Tuscan villa, with five bedrooms, six bathrooms, a gym, a theater, and a hair-and-makeup room (“Thank God for Jessica Simpson,” says Lawrence of the previous owner)—is exactly as old as Lawrence herself. She just turned 25 a few weeks ago, with a party here; her friends persuaded Kris Jenner to come and present Jen with a cake in the shape of a pile of poop that read, Happy birthday, you piece of shit! “My knees buckled,” says Lawrence. “And then I got hammered and talked to her like I think I’m part of the family.”
The house had been renovated just before she bought it, so all Lawrence had to do was fill it with furniture. “I hired these decorators from Louisville, where I grew up,” she says. “There’s this place, Bittners, I would walk by when I was a little girl and go, ‘Ooooooh, one day,’ because it was so . . . fancy.” The result is a kind of luxe-comfy-chic, with some rustic flourishes, like tables made out of old Kentucky-bourbon barrels. “I can’t believe what a difference furniture has made in my overall emotional well-being,” she says.
As she opens a bottle of rosé, her dog, Pippi, comes scampering into the room. Smallish and brown, she is adorably hard to pin down. What kind of dog is that? “Oh, my God, I wish I could ask her.” When did you get her? Here I stumble into a subject that I wouldn’t have dreamed of bringing up so soon: the nude-photo leak. It was exactly a year ago that hackers stole photos from Lawrence’s iCloud account and posted them on the Web, an episode she labeled a “sex crime.” Her mother was visiting with a new puppy when the news broke. “I was outside crying, and Pippi jumped up on my lap and started licking up all my tears, and I couldn’t put her down for hours. And I mean, hours. I was like, ‘Well, obviously, you’re mine.’ ” Looking back, does she have more perspective on the ordeal? “It was all pain and no gain,” she says. “But I don’t dwell on it unless someone brings it up. Have you seen me naked?”
Glasses of wine in hand, we head upstairs, and when we walk into the enormous master suite she makes a sweeping gesture toward the bed and says, “This is where the maaagic haaaappens.” Then she shoots me a get-real look. “Literally zero magic has happened in here.” She holds up her glass in a toast: “Cheers to my hymen growing back!”
Of course she and Amy Schumer have hit it off; they’re both startlingly ribald and whip smart. Sitting next to her laptop is a printout of their screenplay. “We started writing a month ago, and we have 150 pages,” says Lawrence, who has already absorbed some of Schumer’s cadences. “It’s a lot of ballsy and not a lot of thinking twice. One time we laughed so hard our teeth clanked together.”
Forbes magazine recently reported that Lawrence is the highest-paid actress in the world, having made $52 million in the past year, but as giddy as she is about her new furniture, she doesn’t seem entirely comfortable in such grand, grown-up surroundings. Her bedroom is the only room that feels lived in because it’s where she spends much of her time—and where the two of us sit and talk for nearly five hours. “Sorry the wine isn’t cold,” she says. “I always forget you’re supposed to chill rosé—I’m new money.” We step through the French doors onto the balcony that overlooks the backyard. “I go outside in the morning and drink my coffee and try to be proud of myself and be like, ‘Look!’ It feels good not to worry about money, although I never did. Money never really affected my consciousness, if that makes any sense.”
But some old habits die hard. “I’m not cheap, but I don’t want to waste even $5.” Is there anything she indulges in? “Um, private jets? I have such a hard time flying 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.” A big fake smile spreads across her face: “Is that relatable enough for you?”
Suddenly, her phone chimes with the gentle sound of a reminder. Lawrence stares at the screen for a split second and then looks at me. “We have to wrap this up because I have an interview with Jonathan Van Meter.” She laughs. “We blew our dinner reservation. Shall we just stay in and order a pizza?” Sure, I say. “Oh, thank God, I can take off my bra,” which she does right in front of me and then tosses it onto her bed. She texts Talley, trying to find the number of the pizza joint she loves. She orders us a large pie, with pepperoni and jalapeño with ranch dressing on the side (not nearly as bad as it sounds).
In a few days, Lawrence will fly to Atlanta, where she will begin working after some well-deserved time off. “Downtime is normally the bane of my existence,” she says. “It makes me depressed, not relaxed. But I was actually enjoying myself this time,” she says. What did you do? I ask. “You’re looking at it. Hang out. Drink wine. I’ve got a bunch of friends who live really close, thank God. And I’ve made friends with Mila and Ashton, two doors down. They’re awesome. I go over there uninvited. They’re probably getting pretty sick of me.”
We head back down to the kitchen. Michael Fassbender recently taught her how to make a dirty martini, which she is eager to try out. She asks me to grab a couple of glasses out of the cabinet, which is not bare, exactly, but close. “I need a whole houseful of stuff,” she says as she swirls vermouth in a glass. “I’m starting from scratch.”
For the last five years—ever since the indie Winter’s Bone put her on the map—nearly every single movie that Jennifer Lawrence has made has been part of the X-Men franchise, or one of the four Hunger Games movies (the final installment, Mockingjay, Part 2, opens on November 20), or a David O. Russell film, including Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, and now Joy, which opens on Christmas Day. She has been nominated for three Academy Awards, winning the Oscar for Silver Linings. Her career is unprecedented on every level: the smart choices, the awards, the box-office clout, the near-universal lovability. So it should come as no surprise that Lawrence is a little wary about the future. “It’s scary,” she says, “because it will go away. I will have a flop.” Next up is Passengers, a space movie with Chris Pratt. I ask her to elaborate. “It’s a space movie with Chris Pratt,” she says, then cracks up. It is, indeed, exactly that: a love story set in the very distant future, aboard a ship carrying people over unimaginable millions of miles to other livable planets.
Of course she and Amy Schumer have hit it off; they’re both startlingly ribald and whip smart
“I knew that coming out of Hunger Games it was a bad move to do a big blockbuster,” she says. “I want to get back to my roots, back to indies, where I started. And then I read Passengers, and I loved it. This is my first time saying yes now that I am completely free of franchises. So there’s an elephant on my chest.”
You mean off your chest?
“No, on my chest,” she says. “Now it’s a lot harder. I’ve got to fill up my year with things that are all 100 percent my decisions.” She has already made at least two: She has agreed to star in Steven Spielberg’s next film, based on war photographer Lynsey Addario’s book, It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War. “It’s so good. Addario is a fucking badass.” And in mid-October, Darren Aronofsky pitched his next project by reading his entire screenplay to Lawrence over a bottle of wine in his apartment in New York and she signed up on the spot, which is what being franchise-free really means for her now: She is in complete control. “It doesn’t feel like I’m being towed behind something anymore,” she says. “It feels like I’m towing it.”
Being David O. Russell’s muse in three films was perhaps the most challenging franchise of all. In keeping with the storied tradition of mentors and protégées, Russell and Lawrence have a complicated relationship, one that, according to Lawrence, is built first on love and second on collaboration. “He has given me a life, creatively, that I would have never known,” she says, “what it feels like to really act, to be scared out of your mind on set and have no idea what’s going on. There are things that I’ve learned about myself that would have taken 20 years that he taught me in five.”
Although Russell is famously intense, Lawrence has not only handled the pressure and chaos but thrived. “Because I’m not so sensitive, we can really talk, like, man-to-man,” she says. “Sometimes he accidentally refers to me as he or him. But he really respects and understands women, and by that I mean he doesn’t treat a woman any differently than he’ll treat a man. He would never tiptoe around a woman.”
When I tell Amy Adams, her costar in American Hustle, what Lawrence said, she laughs. “Well, if you mean he doesn’t treat people like a lady, I can agree with that,” she says. “You have to have a certain kind of personality to be able to understand David’s direction without emotionally attaching yourself to criticism. And she’s able to do that. That’s why she gives such controlled performances in his films, because she’s able to go into the deep and heightened places where he operates from.”
Russell has been dogged by criticism that he has cast Lawrence in roles she is far too young to play. “I am obviously too young for all of David’s characters,” says Lawrence. “But none of that comes from David wanting a young girl in his movies. That’s not even in his atmosphere.” Audiences appear to have no problem accepting Lawrence in those parts. “Everybody already thinks I’m 40,” she jokes. Julianne Moore, who plays the president in Hunger Games, thinks Lawrence transcends her age. “She has found a conduit through which she is able to communicate this very rich inner life,” says Moore. “There are those scenes in Silver Linings Playbook where she kind of pops out and jogs alongside of Bradley and I remember thinking, She’s so incredibly alive and free and funny and accessible, and I bought it. It seems so simple, but it’s not.”
With Joy, in addition to being reunited with her Silver Linings cast mates Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro, Lawrence is once again tackling a mature role. The film is ostensibly about Joy Mangano, the Long Island housewife who, at 34, invented the Miracle Mop and got rich. “It started out as her true story, and then it went into Davidland,” says Lawrence. “He gets inspired by so many things, so it has to turn into a collage.” Russell acknowledges that like many of his films, Joy is half fiction. “I had to come up with a journey, the lifespan of a woman from ten years old to middle age, that I felt was worthy of Jennifer, so it’s almost a ballad of this woman’s life and her soul.”
The film was shot early this year in Boston, during that city’s record snowfall (110 inches!). “It was so miserable,” says Lawrence. “David and I kept saying, ‘Merry Christmas’ to each other to try to make ourselves feel better, but it didn’t work.” In February, word leaked out that Russell and Lawrence had “a screaming match” on set, and she quickly took to Facebook to quell the gossip. Today Lawrence seems eager to talk about it, mostly to clarify that, yes, they did have an ugly fight, but it was Lawrence, not Russell, who behaved like a monster. She was sick with the flu, throwing up between takes, and at one point exploded at Russell, who said to her, “Genuinely, from the bottom of my heart, I am scared of you.”
“I was fucking mean on set,” says Lawrence. “I wasn’t mean to anybody but David. I would never be mean to somebody who couldn’t be mean back. But when you really love somebody, you fight with them. There have been times where I’ve said, ‘We should go to couples therapy.’ ” (For Russell’s part, he’d like to leave a little mystery “because that’s part of what makes our relationship special. But I will say that we both thrive in that place where the ridiculous meets the very serious.”)
The bruising honesty of their relationship—and Lawrence’s desire to be open about it, warts and all—echoes the film in some ways. Amid the comic-tragic family dysfunction, there is a scary ferociousness to Lawrence in Joy that we haven’t seen before. “It’s an honest portrayal of success,” she says, “including the unlikable part. And then the struggles that happen afterward.” It was an inspired bit of casting, especially given where Lawrence is in her life. “She is finding her voice and finding her footing,” says Russell, “very much like the character. I’m watching her take bigger chances. Her motto should be ‘Don’t mistake my sense of alive fun for a lack of seriousness.’ ”
Darren Aronofsky pitched his next project by reading his entire screenplay to her over a bottle of wine and she signed up on the spot
The day I am at Lawrence’s house also happens to be the day after the infamous county clerk Kim Davis gets out of jail, where she had been sent for defying a court order requiring her to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Lawrence brings it up, calling her that “lady who makes me embarrassed to be from Kentucky.” Kim Davis? “Don’t even say her name in this house,” she shoots back, and then goes into a rant about “all those people holding their crucifixes, which may as well be pitchforks, thinking they’re fighting the good fight. I grew up in Kentucky. I know how they are.”
There is a rabble-rousing spirit in Lawrence that gets stirred up when certain subjects are broached. “I was raised a Republican,” she says, “but I just can’t imagine supporting a party that doesn’t support women’s basic rights. It’s 2015 and gay people can get married and we think that we’ve come so far, so, yay! But have we? I don’t want to stay quiet about that stuff.” It is not that big of a stretch to imagine her becoming a modern-day Jane Fonda, whom she deeply admires. When we discuss the presidential race, she says something that she will later repeat to a reporter from Entertainment Weekly. “My view on the election is pretty cut-and-dried: If Donald Trump is president of the United States, it will be the end of the world. And he’s also the best thing to happen to the Democrats ever.”
Nina Jacobson, who produced all four Hunger Games movies, can’t help seeing the connections between Lawrence and Katniss Everdeen, the character that made her so famous. “It’s endlessly meta,” says Jacobson. “This idea of whether I want people to watch and listen or not, they are, so I better have something to say.” It’s rare to hear a box-office heavyweight be so outspoken. “She’s feisty, a real fighter,” says Elizabeth Banks, another Hunger Games costar. “That’s the reason that Katniss really works on her. It’s a little bit of her-against-the-world now, you know? When the world shows up at your doorstep and wants a lot of things from you, you get a little punk-rock.”
More evidence of Lawrence’s newfound voice showed up in mid-October in Lenny, the feminist newsletter from Lena Dunham and her Girls co–show runner, Jenni Konner, in which Lawrence published an essay titled, “Why Do I Make Less than My Male Co-Stars?” It’s staggering to realize that the highest-paid actress in the world gets paid millions less than male stars doing the same work. “When the Sony hack happened,” wrote Lawrence, “and I found out how much less I was being paid than the lucky people with dicks, I didn’t get mad at Sony. I got mad at myself. I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early. . . . I didn’t want to seem ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled.’ ” The essay touched a nerve; no less than Hillary Clinton tweeted, “Brava.”
But there was a certain amount of backlash, too, which seemed to take Lawrence by surprise. “What I was trying to say is that we’re not victims. I am holding my own self back. The men aren’t to be blamed for asking for more and getting it.” As we’re all discovering, Lawrence is constitutionally unable to not say what she thinks. She herself calls it “a taboo impulsivity: If you shouldn’t say it, it’s all of a sudden coming out of my mouth.”
She’s got a big soul and a big life ahead of her, and she can do really whatever she wants
DAVID O. RUSSELL
Two weeks later, I am once again holed up in a hotel room, getting last-minute texts from Lawrence. We are in Atlanta, where she is living in a rented house in Buckhead for the next four months while filming Passengers. Our plan to go to a music festival was nixed by her security guys. It is a Saturday afternoon, and Lawrence is at the dentist getting two veneers replaced. Ding!
Jonathan! it’s Jennifer Shearer Lawrence
Is your middle name Shrader?
Hahaha yea . . . if I was gonna make something up I would’ve said “danger” or “night hawk”
I meet her at her house; it’s the same one she rented in 2013 to film the last two Hunger Games. She greets me at the door in tight jeans, a white flowy-gauzy top, and Lanvin wedges. Her hair is even more blonde this time. “Oh, this is movie hair.” Pause. “I guess this is what sluts look like in space.” Half her face is still numb from the Novocain, so we sit in the backyard and wait for it to wear off. “Watch this,” she says, and then tries to smile but can’t, really. “I feel like Brandi from Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. She got work done and was like, I had an allergic reaction to aspirin!” And then: “Did you see that Kim Kardashian got lip injections? She took a selfie and wrote, ‘pregnancy lips!’ Honey, that’s not a thing.”
Talley is visiting her family in Georgia this weekend, so Lawrence is alone in this big old creaky house, which it turns out Jennifer Garner had just vacated. “There’s adorable little baby spoons in the drawer, and I saw a little Cheerio in between my mattress and my box spring. I want to email Jennifer Garner. I just have a couple of questions: Did you ever feel like you were being watched?” She lets out a mordant chuckle. Lawrence thinks a lot about the isolation that comes with being so famous. “I was talking to the dentist about this, actually. Because he was like, ‘I wouldn’t make a good celebrity, because I’m a homebody.’ I was like, ‘No, you would make the perfect celebrity.’ But the feeling does change when there are people outside of your house, waiting, and you’re forced into it.”
She’s been spending a lot of time on her own in the past few months, ever since breaking up with Chris Martin, whom she had been seeing for about a year. Dating is tricky at this point. “No one ever asks me out,” she says. “I am lonely every Saturday night. Guys are so mean to me. I know where it’s coming from, I know they’re trying to establish dominance, but it hurts my feelings. I’m just a girl who wants you to be nice to me. I am straight as an arrow. I feel like I need to meet a guy, with all due respect, who has been living in Baghdad for five years who has no idea who I am.”
As we talk about the gamesmanship of love in your 20s, she mentions someone she dated whom she describes as “sexy,” and then says, “but I didn’t like how he made me feel. When someone makes you insecure, it’s strangely exhilarating because you keep trying to fight for that validation.” She pauses for a moment. “It’s what you want to have before you get married, so that you don’t seek it out once you are.” Lawrence’s best friend Justine just got married this fall, and her other best friend, Laura, is getting married next year, so there has been a lot of girly wedding talk in her circle lately. “I can’t wait to be married,” she says. “I feel like if I find that one person who I want to spend the rest of my life with, who I want to be the father of my children, that I would absolutely not fuck it up.” She waits a beat. “But I’m also not banking on that.”
The numbness has worn off, so we head out to dinner at a big, noisy steakhouse. The hostess makes a fuss over a dress Lawrence once wore to the Oscars, which gets us talking about her Dior contract. When I tell her I love that ad campaign, she says, “To paraphrase Candice Bergen in Sex and the City: Dior clothes! Dior makeup! Dior airbrushing! It’s like the prettiest a girl could ever hope to look.” (Later she is shocked to hear the news that Raf Simons is stepping down. “I just want him to be happy . . . but I will miss those clothes. That’s a big job. Maybe he just needs a breather.”)
As we get seated in a dark corner, tucked away from all the commotion, I notice a tattoo on her hand. “It’s just H2O, to remind me to drink more water,” she says. “I’ve never had a symbol or a quote that was so important to me that I wanted it tattooed on me. So I was like, I’m going to need to stay hydrated. Forever. It’s very practical.”
It makes perfect sense. There is something almost elemental about Lawrence. It reminds me of what her good friend Laura Simpson, who met Lawrence when she was seventeen, told me: “What I first noticed is that she was so pure.” But that’s not the same as being naive. As our table is covered with food—baby back ribs, lobster fritters, jalapeño creamed corn—we get to talking Hollywood. For a 25-year-old, she seems surprisingly sanguine about the extraordinary position she finds herself in. “My idea of big-money Hollywood is the symbiotic parasite,” says Lawrence. “You can use me; that’s fine, because I’m using you, too.” This echoes something that Jacobson said: “I don’t think there’s any actor who has more power in terms of box office. 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.”
Most actresses who become box-office heavyweights end up creating their own production companies to develop material for themselves, like Sandra Bullock, Drew Barrymore, and Reese Witherspoon have. But Lawrence is not so interested in producing. “I want to direct. But I would rather just do it than talk about it.” Jacobson thinks Lawrence will probably direct a movie when she’s still in her 20s, like Jodie Foster. “I think as a woman, she knows: You may need to create the content that is worthy of you. So to give yourself the tool kit is just smart adaptive behavior.” As part of her film schooling, Lawrence has been sitting in on Russell’s editing sessions for Joy. “It’s funny because I’m like, This process is so unique to him. There’s almost nothing I can take away from it. It would be like watching a dolphin and being like, Oh! So that’s how you swim in the ocean!”
When I ask Russell about the idea of Lawrence directing, he starts to laugh. “Well, first of all, I can’t wait to see this creature of now, of pure this-momentness, have to be the one who has to worry about everything. I think it will be a very interesting change for her. But she’s got a big soul and a big life ahead of her, and she can do really whatever she wants.”
Lawrence seems determined to learn as much she can from the legends and lunatics she is often surrounded by. It’s as if she hopes to fill in the gaps in an education that was eclipsed by her own raw talent: “I have a seventh- to halfway through eighth-grade education. But I’m not stupid.” Her Hunger Games nemesis Donald Sutherland recently gave her a big box of classic books. “Anna Karenina, it was just like, putting your socks on and reading, like, a pile of Vogues. East of Eden, I love it so much, but there’s a part of me that thinks it shouldn’t be a movie. The beauty is in the writing.”
Despite her aura of fearlessness, there are some things about which she still feels insecure. Theater, for instance: “It scares me. My fear comes from feeling like theater is vocal and physical, and film is all eyes and subtlety. That I can do.” She pauses for a moment. “Isabella Rossellini”—who plays the girlfriend of her father in Joy—“told me that I would love theater because it’s only acting and none of the bullshit. But if I have to do more than three takes I start to just, like, die. Every time I’ve said that to somebody from theater, though, they always say it’s completely different every single night.” She’s such a live-wire presence in person and on-screen, it’s hard to imagine that wouldn’t translate onstage.
VogueLawrence, who grew up in horse country, fifteen minutes from a farm where she went to ride every day as a kid, managed to scare herself at her Vogue shoot, which took place in the desert outside L.A. “They gave me this amazing horse,” she says, eyes wide at the thought. “Fastest I’ve ever ridden in my life. As soon as we wrapped, I took that horse and galloped him so deep into the desert. That horse has seven speeds. I would give him one more kick and he just kept going faster. And there was this sunset in the desert and these big desert rocks and I just kept going and going and going, and by the time I turned around, I couldn’t see people and I was worried I wouldn’t find my way back. I can’t see anybody! And I gave him one kick, and horses are amazing: He was like, Food! And he galloped all the way home.” She laughs. “Oh, and I was wearing Tom Ford.”
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