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Like so many of the uninitiated, The Hunger Games first landed on my radar as a trailer before another film. I knew of the hit book trilogy of the same name and was faintly aware that a movie had been optioned, but this was my first real exposure to the post apocalyptic Most Dangerous Game-style plot, and certainly to the actress playing lead heroine Katniss Everdeen.

Or so I thought. It turns out I had spent more time with the comely and natural-looking brunette from the Hunger trailer than I had originally thought. You’ve likely seen her, too, and just not realized it. Since her discovery at 14 she has appeared in a string of gradually more impressive TV and movie roles, culminating in the highly regarded Winter’s Bone. There she garnered a score of accolades for her turn as Ree Dolly, a teen girl from rural Minnesota hunting for a father who skipped on bail and put the family house up for collateral.

Hunger Games Jennifer Lawrence

If you didn’t recognize her there, it was understandable, as she spent most of the movie in a baggy gray sweatsuit and with unwashed, natural blond hair. And even discerning eyes might have missed her appearance as the blue-skinned shape-shifter Mystique from last summer’s X-Men: First Class.

blue-skinned shape-shifter Mystique from X-Men: First Class

Now, Lawrence finally gets to wear her own face as the lithe and noble Katniss, who volunteers herself in place of her sister for the Hunger Games. In the series’, the leaders choose which regions of the country get food based on the performance of their randomly selected teenage champions. These champions are taught to kill, then given weapons and sent out into the woods for a last-teen-standing competition. The whole deadly affair is televised for the audience’s enjoyment.

While Katniss hails from District 12, Lawrence hails from Louisville, Kentucky. Discovered at 14, the cheerleader, hockey player, softball player, and model flew to New York to follow her dreams. She impressed the agents she saw so much, they convinced her mother to spend the summer in Manhattan. From there her roles expanded to a role on the three-season long Bill Engvall Show on TBS, along with minor roles in Cold Case, Medium, and Monk.

“When I first got to New York, my feet hit the sidewalk and you'd have thought I was born and raised there. I took over that town. None of my friends took me seriously. I came home and announced, 'I'm going to move to New York,' and they were like 'OK.' Then when I did, they kept waiting for me to fail and come back. But I knew I wouldn't. I was like, 'I'll show you,'” remembered Lawrence.
But Lawrence’s fairytale got complicated when she was offered the starring role in Hunger Games. She had never carried a major franchise before, much less one with an established, devoted fan base with their own ideas about who Katniss should be. Lawrence was used to the much less glamorous world of independent films like Winter’s Bone.

Winter’s Bone

“I knew as soon as I said ‘yes,’ my life would change. And I walked around an entire day thinking ‘It’s not too late, I could still go back and do indies.”

She sought a little maternal wisdom to help her make the decision.

“I called my mom, and she called me a hypocrite because when I was doing indie movies and everyone was asking why I didn’t do studio movies, I said, ‘The size of the movie doesn’t matter.’ And she said,  ‘Here’s a movie you love, and you were thinking of turning it down because of its size.’ I thought: ‘I don’t want to miss out because I’m scared. Me being scared, I never want that to stop me from doing something.’ But I knew in my heart that I wanted it — it was about working out all the fears.”

The 21-year-old was already a fan of the series. “I love this story,” said Lawrence, “and if I had said no, I would regret it every day.”

She wouldn’t have been the only one. The Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins called to congratulate her. According to Lawrence, Collins said her agreement to play Katniss was a huge relief.

Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games

While much of the extra attention has been for her role as Katniss, she’s getting plenty of looks for her ultra-fit figure - a bonus from training to be the sleek hunger hunter. “I did a lot of running because that’s all she does... then hand-to-hand combat and yoga... I trained about four hours a day. Trying to find what Katniss’ body should look like put a lot pressure on my shoulders,” said Lawrence, who trained to do as many of her own stunts as she could.

Complemented by her natural blond hair and a runway-worthy dress, she and her Katniss-ready body sends camera shutters clicking everywhere she goes, a fact she hasn’t missed. “I’m excited to be seen as sexy. But not slutty.”

If you want to know her secret, sorry, she doesn’t have one - just a healthy self-confidence. “I don’t diet or anything. I’m miserable when I’m dieting and I like the way I look.... I’d rather look a little chubby on camera and look like a person in real life, than look great on screen and look like a scarecrow in real life.”

As though Hunger Games wasn’t enough, Jennifer Lawrence is all over the news once again, having been spotted with blonde hair and dressed retro-chic, in a new movie photo from the upcoming drama flick Serena, in which she plays the leading role. She looks very different from both Ree and Katniss in the shot, as she's seen with her co-star Bradley Cooper. The film is an adaptation of a New York Times best-selling Ron Rash novel. Beginning in 1929, the film focuses on a newlywed couple, who travel to North Carolina to seize control of the timber industry there. Infidelity and infertility leads Serena to plot the murder of George’s illegitimate son, while attempting to keep their timber land from being taken by the government. It's scheduled to hit theaters sometime in 2013.

Katniss BarbieAnd just as all this hit the news, Gary Ross, Hunger Games helmer, has announced he won’t be returning to direct the sequel called “Catching Fire”. With everyone from Kathryn Bigelow to David Fincher being named as a possible replacement, teen-agers and their parents’ breathes are being held until the decision is made.

And as all this isn’t quite enough, Lawrence has been honored with - an honest-to-God Barbie doll that looks exactly like- Katniss. Jennifer is very level-headed about her career and what she has achieved but she totally lost it when her Barbie arrived," an anonymous source has been quoted as saying. "She used to play with Barbie all the time as a kid so this is a massive deal for her.”

Oh, and one more thing. Lawrence is not flying solo in the game of love either. As she stands on the brink of megafame with the release of The Hunger Games, Lawrence, seems ready to bring her boyfriend Nicholas Hoult along for the ride. Hoult first appeared in Hugh Grant's 2002 film About a Boy, and the pair met on the set of X-Men: First Class, in which they both appeared. Says Lawrence, I fumbled all my lines because as he was talking, it's like 'He's so pretty"'.

Though Serena is still filming, Lawrence will soon appear as Elissa in House at the End of the Street, which is scheduled for a September, 2012 premiere. She will also appear as Tiffany in The Silver Linings Playbook, which is diirected by David O. Russell, and also stars Bradley Cooper, Julia Stiles, and Robert De Niro! and is scheduled for a November, 2012 release. / Issue 134 - September 2018
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