Jennifer Lawrence Interview
Actress Jennifer Lawrence’s first major film role was in The Burning Plain, where she played a young version of Charlize Theron’s character. In her latest film, Winter’s Bone, which is directed by Debra Granik and based on the book by Daniel Woodrell, she plays Ree, an Ozark girl who goes looking for her drug dealing father so her family doesn’t lose their home. Here she talks to View’s Matthew Turner about switching off, skinning squirrels and her favourite scenes in the film.
What attracted you to the film and how did you get involved?
Jennifer Lawrence (JL):
I thought it was the best female role I've ever seen and I thought it was the best script I've read. So I auditioned for it twice in L.A. and then I flew to New York for the last audition.
I heard there was an amusing Q&A story that you told in relation to the auditions. So what happened, exactly? It wasn't quite as simple as that, was it?
(laughs) Yeah, it wasn't that simple. Well, I auditioned twice in L.A. and then they said that I was too pretty, so they turned me down. And then they continued the auditions in New York where I chased them and flew on the red-eye [flight] and showed up at the New York auditions and I was like, 'I'm back!' So I auditioned again and then we talked for hours and did some improv and I basically convinced them I was ugly enough to do it.
How did you manage that?
A red-eye will do the trick.
Did you deliberately deprive yourself of sleep, just to make sure?
Well, I don't know about purposely depriving yourself of sleep - that's never a good idea – but I was definitely deprived of sleep and I didn't brush my hair, I don't think I showered. Oh, it was pretty gross.
What was it that spoke to you about the project in the first place?
Ree. I just really admired her.
So you'd read the book or the script?
I'd read the script. My mom read the book five years before and said if they ever made it into a movie, I'd be perfect for it. It's such a bizarre coincidence.
Did you read the book after you read the script?
Yes. I read the book right before filming. And during.
Did Debra ask you to read the book beforehand?
Yeah, but it was also something I would have done anyway.
How much research did you do? Did you meet any real-life Rees?
No, I didn't. I mean, I lived there, obviously, for six weeks while we were filming, so that was all the research I really needed, you know, I was totally immersed in the life there.
So did you meet any local people who kind of informed the way you spoke or behaved or what have you?
They all spoke in the accent and I picked it up eventually. Actually, I picked it up pretty quickly.
Do you have a favourite scene in the film?
I loved filming all the scenes with the children and I feel like those are like a breath of fresh air, every time those scenes come on. So I think all of the scenes with the children.
What was the hardest scene to film?
I think the barn scene, just because there were so many extras and we were shooting nights, 5pm to 5am. You know, it was just like, choreography with a lot of different people, it was just hard. I'm tired just thinking about it.
Talk me through the squirrel-skinning scene.
Well, a local hunter already had squirrels in a deep-freezer (laughs). He had them and so he said, you know, if we need any for filming, so, yeah, I skinned the squirrel (laughs).
How long did it take to learn to do that?
Erm, just once. I really didn't want to do it more than once.
Just one take?
Yeah, a one-take wonder.
That's impressive. That'll go on your resume now.
Yeah, sing, dance, skin squirrels, yeah.
Was there anything cut out that you hated to lose?
That's an interesting question. There was a scene where I walk myself into a cave. And I go into a cave and I make myself a fire and I lay down on the rocks and sing myself to sleep. And it probably got cut out because of my singing. And, yeah, that got cut out, but I thought that was beautiful.
I asked Debra the same question and she said she really loved that scene too, but she felt she had to cut it because it showed you being self-sufficient and able to take care of yourself in a moment when we had to kind of be worried for you. Does that make sense?
Yeah. Yeah. No, I know that everything that Debra did, there's such a purpose to it, but I just loved that scene.
What's your approach to choosing scripts, generally? Is it the words on the page, the specific part, working with a particular director or something else?
It's all of the above. I like anything if it's good. And then there are some things that you just want to be a part of, there are some people that you want to work with. Yeah, so I usually look for the whole package.
What was it that drew you to The Burning Plain?
The same thing, the people. Guillermo Arriaga is, I think, one of the best writers in the world. Charlize Theron has been my favourite actress since I was 13. And I thought the script was beautiful.
Do you tend to take your characters home with you and how easy is it to switch off at the end of the day?
Very easy. I switch off on “Cut”.
So, literally, you finish skinning the squirrel and you're on your iPhone?
Yeah, and then I'm on my Blackberry, jumping up and down and squealing. Yeah, I'm only acting between 'Action' and 'Cut' and then I'm acting like an idiot and going to Craft Service and eating.
What was it like working with John Hawkes and Garrett Dillahunt and did you get different things from each other?
Of course. Well, you do that with all actors, but I think that both of them are incredible and I had a blast shooting with Garrett. He's hilarious and we had a lot of fun. It was kind of like a vacation every time I had a scene with Garrett. And with John, he's just incredible, he's such a sweetheart. I just think he's so talented, I'm such a fan of his.
What's your next project?
I have a movie coming out called The Beaver, with Jodie Foster and Mel Gibson. I know that's hilarious out here. That comes out in November. Mel Gibson plays a manic depressive schizophrenic that forms another personality that takes over his life.