There's no guarantee that Jennifer Lawrence's millions of new Hunger Games fans will follow their heroine to other movies. It has, after all, taken Kristen Stewart years to convince her loyal Twihards to try her out in different roles — a goal achieved (after many underseen indies) only this summer with Snow White and the Huntsman.
But this month we'll get our first inkling of how Lawrence will be received post-Hunger Games when the fright flick House at the End of the Street hits theatres. Then two months from now her talky farce Silver Linings Playbook — which co-stars Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro, and premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival — will show a much different side of the 22-year-old actor.
Filmed in Ottawa (filling in for small-town America) in the summer of 2010, House at the End of the Street is one of those horrors where all is not as it seems. "It's about a teenage girl who moves into a new house with her mom, and finds out that this boy in the neighbourhood who she has a crush on her may not be as trustworthy as she thought," explains Lawrence during a recent chat in Los Angeles.
That girl, Elissa (Lawrence), and her mom Sarah (Elisabeth Shue) move into a nice — and surprisingly affordable — house in a forested neighbourhood, only to learn that not long ago a girl in the house next door killed her parents and then disappeared into the woods. When the murderer's brother Ryan (Max Thieriot), who had been living with relatives, returns to the property, Elissa is intrigued. She finds him sweet and sensitive, even something of a gentleman. Uh-oh. That doesn't bode well...
"[It's] a psychological thriller, which is something that I really wanted to do," says Lawrence, who became the second-youngest Best Actress Oscar nominee two years ago for her stunning performance in Winter's Bone. "And it was a very fun shoot, it was a blast, lots of running and screaming. I love the director, Mark Tonderai, who is also an actor and knows what to do with us."
So, we presume, does the director of Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell. He coached Christian Bale and Melissa Leo to Best Supporting Actor Oscars for The Fighter the same year Lawrence earned her nod for Winter's Bone.
Adapted from Matthew Quick's novel, Silver Linings Playbook is a character-driven comedy that charts the rehabilitation of a former psychiatric patient (Cooper) as he moves back in with his parents (De Niro and Jacki Weaver) and tries to reunite with his ex-wife. Complicating that effort is Tiffany (Lawrence), a young widow with a checkered past and certifiable impulses of her own.
Pretty funny in real life, Lawrence welcomed the chance to show off her comic chops, but says Silver Linings required a lot of acting, too. "Tiffany's not cracking jokes, she's not, like, my kind of funny," Lawrence notes. "She's funny in the sense that she's dead serious in everything that she's saying, but what she's saying is absolutely nuts. She's an ex-nymphomaniac, and knows from the second she meets Bradley Cooper, who just got out of a mental institution, that they're meant to be together."
Of course, what we really want to know is how the one-two punch of being history's second-youngest Best Actress nominee and headlining The Hunger Games, one of the year's biggest hits, has affected her own mental stability.
"I'm doing okay," Lawrence assures. "It's one of those things that's so big you don't even feel it, so I don't really know how to react to it. I feel like I've been doing this for so long…. I know that I'm young, I started when I was 14. So in a lot of ways, I feel like I'm an actor, now I'm being recognized, and that's what happens. The progression of the fame was very quick; in just a matter of months, people were screaming my name.
"It still hasn't sunk in," she adds. "I still go out looking like crap. And when I get recognized I still get weirded out. It'll sink in soon, I can feel it starting to. But it hasn't taken hold yet."As for her family back home in Louisville, Kentucky, Lawrence says her two older brothers aren't into Hollywood stuff and, therefore, are immune to their little sister's blazing success. Her parents, meanwhile, are just exhaling.
"They think it's great," she says. "It's always worrisome when you have a kid like me who doesn't like school and doesn't like sports. I think there's just a huge sense of relief in my family that, okay, at least she's talented in something. And they're happy for me because I'm happy."