LA Times: Is Jennifer Lawrence A Real Life Katniss Everdeen?

Watching this interview, no, Miss Lawrence and the world she lives in are a moon shot away from Appalachia’s Seam and the hard-core survivor that is the heroine of The Hunger Games. But the back story of the actress and how she came to play Katniss is a stunner. She actually hails from Kentucky, coal country.

Go to Mockingjay.Net for the second and third parts of this Hollywood Access interview, if you must. I confess my first response to it was thinking up three snarky questions for the actress that no one has asked her, to my knowledge:

(1) When you make “scare quotes” with your fingers, do you know that the deaf think you are telling a Beatrice Potter story?

(2) Were you teased on the school playground as a child because you have an androgynous name (“Jenny Larry”)? If so, does playing the male-female role of Katniss Everdeen now make you understand how Rudolph felt when he was loved at last for his shiny and mission-saving red nose?

(3) When you run up a $500 gummy bear room service charge while making a film about social injustice and hardship in all the Districts consequent to Capitol/Hollywood excesses, does an irony alarm go off in your head? No? How about the photo of Katniss and Peeta taken at the Hollywood Premiere with you dressed like Glimmer and the screaming fans hysterically giving the three finger salute the miners give those about to die? A twitch of that irony nerve?

Snarky, as I said. But this last question I hope is more than “Nobody John bashing Hollywood Bimbo No-Brain Starlet because HogPro is Such a Loser.” I’m curious if she gets the contradictions and parallels of her life and the character she is playing, not to mention her awareness of the dangers of Capitol-ization (Can you say “Whitney Houston”?).

Miss Lawrence has obviously read and enjoyed the books. Knowing that, when she endured the stylist sessions for the movie and again now for the $45 million marketing run-up, you have to think the parallel with her situation and the character she is portraying who despised everything about the Capitol taking her to Beauty Base Zero had to have struck her. What do you think she made of that satire/real life reflection with her face being the one in the mirror?

There are suggestions about the answer to those questions in the LA Times story on Miss Lawrence’s seemingly miraculous discovery by scouts while on a trip with her mother to NYC and about her intellectual and personal insecurities growing up middle-class in Nowhere, Kentucky.

Read these selections if you cannot read the whole article:

For Lawrence, growing up in Louisville, Kentucky, as the youngest of three children of a construction worker father and a mother who ran a summer camp, acting was as viable a career option as becoming a professional surfer. She loved movies, though her family was more familiar with John Candy’s oeuvre than Woody Allen’s. Lawrence spent most of her playtime pretending to be a telephone operator, and she thought she’d go to college and maybe find a career as a travel agent. She suffered through school, never quite finding her niche.

“I always felt dumber than everybody else,” she said, recalling an incident in which a math teacher embarrassed her in a class when she kept asking questions because she didn’t understand the material. “I hated it. I hated being inside. I hated being behind a desk. School just kind of killed me.”

Lawrence’s perspective changed during a trip to New York with her mother. It’s a story that seems impossible today — one that happened only to pretty, young girls in a bygone era, before fame was a top career choice for teenagers. A talent agency photographer snapped Lawrence’s picture, and that photo landed her a few auditions and meetings with agents during her short stay.

“I remember being in New York, reading a script and I completely understood it. I knew I could do it,” she said. “They were offering me contracts on the spot and telling my mom I was good. I was finally hearing I was good at something. I didn’t want to give up on that.”….

The wikipedia story on her “early life” puts this miracle discovery in a different light. Miss Lawrence “decided to pursue an acting career, persuading her parents to take her to New York City to find a talent agent. Although she had no training or experience, she received high praise from the agency for which she auditioned. She graduated from high school two years early in order to begin a career in acting.”

I’m guessing “two years early” means she’s got her GED at 16 and volunteered for the Reaping to get to the Capitol, perhaps to save her own life. Back to the LA Times piece:

Despite her reputation as a promising young actress, Lawrence said her career hit a speed bump after “Winter’s Bone.” She had trouble landing auditions for more feminine characters, so to shake up her image, the actress posed in a skimpy bikini for a well-orchestrated photo shoot in Esquire magazine.

“There’s just no imagination” in Hollywood, she said. “I wanted to show people ‘Winter’s Bone’ for the performance, but it ended up having the opposite effect. People were like, no, she’s not feminine, she’s not sexual.”

Lawrence endured a good heap of criticism for what many saw as an exploitative play, but it worked. “A lot of people said, ‘Oh, now we have a great actress come along and she’s showing her boobs.’ But that’s exactly what I had to do so I could keep working. Honestly, that photo shoot is what helped me get ‘X-Men,'” she said, referring to the comic-book blockbuster “X-Men: First Class” in which she played the sexy mutant Mystique. ….

Lawrence said her favorite scene to shoot in “Hunger Games” was opposite Stanley Tucci inside the opulent Capitol — the nation of Panem’s power center where the government operates and its citizens flounce around in garish dress and makeup. She said she loved sparring with Tucci, who plays Caesar Flickerman, the Hunger Games emcee, a sort of wildly flamboyant, futuristic Ryan Seacrest, with bright blue hair and brilliantly capped teeth, who interviews the contestants before the event begins.

“It was … the moment when Katniss realizes that she has to play the game,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence, too, understands that she now needs to play the game. With her face plastered on billboards across the country and fans lining up to see the film — which is on track to open to more than $100 million at the box office, according to early estimates — the actress says she is excited to play Katniss as the character takes a more active role in the fate of her nation in the three upcoming “Hunger Games” sequels.

My last question, given the actress’ background, is really one for us: are we watching in The Hunger Games movie process the further Capitol-ization of a real-life Katniss Everdeen? I can only imagine the madness she is experiencing as the focus of this global roll-out and media tornado; can she be aware of the ironies of her playing herself in large part, parallels so obvious to us out here?

Oh, well. That can wait for the Plutarch directed bio-propo and photo album with narrative for the DVD. An aside somewhere in there reflecting her authenticity… I want to say, “Poor kid,” but, given her race to the Capitol and Esquire photo shoots to stay in the Games, part of me thinks, “This is what she always wanted.” A Victor’s Tour.

Your comments and corrections, as always, are coveted. Anyone betting that her math teacher in Louisville is in therapy now?


  1. From Today’s Parade Magazine article:

    “I love Katniss,” says Lawrence, who spent weeks in combat and archery training before filming began. “She doesn’t have a lot, but she’s happy, and she faces death out of love for her family. She doesn’t want to be a hero, but she becomes the symbol for a revolution, a kind of futuristic Joan of Arc.” Lawrence felt a deep connection to the broader themes in the books as well, particularly the pointed critique of the current mania for reality TV. “I was watching the Kardashian girl getting divorced, and that’s a tragedy for anyone,” the actress says. “But they’re using it for entertainment, and we’re watching it. The books hold up a terrible kind of mirror: This is what our society could be like if we became desensitized to trauma and to each other’s pain.”

    Wonderful. I’m thinking she sees the book’s satirical shots at the Capitol/Hollywood. I wonder still if she sees herself in the mirror yet or just cartoons like the Kardashian ladies. The Esquire swimsuit shots reveal more than her figure; the young woman, like Katniss, has clearly had her moment of realizing what it takes to “play the game” in the Capitol — and she willingly pays that price to “keep working.” I wonder. Is she more Katniss deflowered or Tigris-in-the-making? Time will tell. (Hat tip to Deborah!)

  2. Miss Lawrence’s web site biography pushes the story that her discovery was not something she came to NYC to find:

    So how did Jennifer Lawrence, a young aspiring actress start a career in the busy acting world? Well, Jennifer threw her foot in the door by chance by vacationing in New York City and getting her photo taken on the street. The next day they called her in for an audition for a Reese’s Peanut Butter Puff commercial. The agents didn’t give her the part but they were so impressed with her acting abilities that they signed her on the spot. Her first gig ended up being for MTV (My Super Sweet 16), shortly after that she landed commercials for Burger King and Verizon Wireless and others.

    The phrase “threw her foot in the door by chance,” of course, doesn’t make any sense. The wiki note that the aspiring actress went to NYC in order to find an agent and audition makes more sense than the studio cliche of the starlet discovered at the lunch counter. Maybe the agent took her photo outside his office building?

    [The picture is from Miss Lawrence’s web site biography page. Check out these ‘Fun Facts’ from there, too:

    Fun Facts:

    *So far Jennifer Lawrence has won 3 awards directly, while movies and television series she acted in has (sic) won 3 awards, thats (sic) a total of 6 awards due to her tremendous acting talent.
    *In between acting jobs, Jennifer went on a missionary trip to the Dominican Republic and worked as an assistant nurse at a summer camp.
    *Jennifer Lawrence Is an avid reader.
    *She is featured in the music video for the song The Mess I Made, by the band Parachute from their album Losing Sleep.
    *The only girl to be born on the Lawrence side of the family in fifty years
    *Jennifer Lawrence refuses to have a facebook account, and a twitter account is in her words, “out of the question.”]

    Love it! She’s a missionary, a nurse’s assistant, Ginny Weasley, an avid reader, and she’s not a ‘social media’ addict. I think, though, we have to assume Miss Lawrence is more Career Tribute than Coal Miner’s Daughter or St. Joan of Arc.

  3. The dichotomy of Jennifer Lawrence: blonde-bombshellish-photo-princess vs earthy-brunette-on-screen-persona cannot fail to parallel the Capitol’s obsession for ever-changing appearance and search for perfection. That being said…each interview is sure to cause a stir as bits and pieces of her bio surface and comparisons are made. You make excellent observations, Professor.

    I was not a JL fan in the early stages of HG casting. From the trailers and other online snippets and tv propos…I can now say without question that I am intrigued. Her transformation from JL to KE is definately Capitolistic…but aren’t “most things Hollywood” superficial modification, followed by behavioral adaptation??? I propose that any young woman chosen for the role would have found herself evolving in some manner. Miss Lawrence will have to work doubly hard to maintain a grounded life!

    Understanding that she spent X-amount of time training for HG, I expect JL will not be allowed to go into the next 2-3 films without thorough preparation: with HG behind her, audience expectations will be very high. She will not be allowed to fail; her real-life-Presidents Snow/Coin-days are in her very near future.

  4. Elizabeth says

    I am just fascinated that everyone in NYC and LA thinks Louisville is coal country. Louisville is more midwest than Appalachia, a good two hours from my hometown on the line between the bluegrass and the mountains. This is like saying someone knows all about NYC because he grew up in Buffalo. But then, the media has always had geography problems where Appalachia is concerned…

  5. Well, no one that I know of in LA or NYC said that Louisville qualified as coal country. That ignoramus, of course, was me, stretching to make a point about Miss Lawrence that I don’t think anyone has made, that is, the coal mining backdrop of her real and fictional lives. Even if there isn’t any mining in her part of Kentucky, as you say.

    I do know that Louisville is more Ohio River Valley than Appalachia because I’ve given talks at ULouisville and Church conferences in that fair city. But I still think the Kentucky childhood was fair game, if only to make the Reaping departure for the Capitol as a 15 or 16 year old parallel, this one, of course, an ambitious child fleeing the country for the lights of the Big City rather than a protective sister offering herself to the Evil Big Brother in an act of sacrificial love.

    My apologies to Cardinals not wanting to be confused with Miners!

  6. RandomThoughts says

    *Jennifer Lawrence refuses to have a facebook account, and a twitter account is in her words, “out of the question.”

    For that alone I admire the heck out of her. That, and her awareness of how the whole Kardashian reality tv thing creepily mirrors the Capitol’s concept of entertainment.

  7. Elizabeth says

    Oh, it’s not you, Headmaster! That business started the first day her name came up! All I could think was Effie Trinket talking about coal turning into pearls…

    But, it’s a bit like those dreadful costumes worn by our Tributes, um, I mean our beauty pageant contestants: they are supposed to reflect the flavor of one’s state. For Miss Kentucky, that usually means something based on a jockey’s silks, even if she’s from Harlan County, or on the mountains (coal can be a touchy subject, policially), even if she’s from Bowling Green. Does Miss Texas come from a ranch? Who cares; she’s wearing spurs and a ten-gallon all the same!

  8. Two more conflicting stories about whether Katniss Everdeen, Whoops, Jennifer Lawrence went to NYC looking for an agent or was *discovered* by a photographer on the street which led to overnight stardom.

    She told ‘Esquire’ in the interview accompanying the soft-porn photographs she said recently were only done to get her better role offers that she was discovered:

    Lawrence has been working steadily since she was discovered while visiting New York from Louisville with her mom five years ago. “A guy asked to take my picture,” she says, with just a hint of her native Kentucky accent. “We probably should have realized how creepy that was.” It led to her landing an agent, though, and she was eventually forced to choose between being, as she recalls, “a supermodel or a starving actress.” She moved out to L. A. with her parents, who figured she’d soon give up in frustration. “They never would have let me try this if they’d known I’d be successful,” she says….

    This fall, Lawrence will appear in The Beaver, a dark comedy directed by Jodie Foster about a teacher (Mel Gibson) obsessed with his sock puppet (not a euphemism). It’s another brooding role for Lawrence, so much so that her publicist wants to make sure no one forgets that she’s also a woman who can, say, pull off a pictorial for Esquire. “I’m excited to be seen as sexy,” she says. “But not slutty.”

    Hmmm. That’s a close call. But was this only “playing the game,” as she said in Parade? In last week’s Chicago Sun Times she remembers:

    A native of Louisville, Lawrence decided as a young teen to hightail it to the Big Apple to audition for acting roles and even try her luck at modeling. She spent a summer in New York shooting commercials for MTV and H&M.

    “I loved it so much,” she says. “I was 14 and wearing my brand-new Forever 21 boots. There I was storming the sidewalks knowing where I was going. It just seemed like home.”

    After moving to L.A., she graduated from high school two years early and then nabbed a role on the TBS sitcom “The Bill Engvall Show” (2007). Film roles followed in “The Poker House” (2008) and “The Burning Plain” (2009).

    I think the discovery story has to be filed under “Possible, but unlikely.” And Miss Lawrence has to be understood, not as a young innocent, struggling to keep her bearings in the Capitol-ization process, but as a Career Tribute in the dog-eat-dog game for all she can get out of it. And more power to her, I guess.

  9. If I learn TMI about the actor, I usually end up hating their movies, because my mind can’t seem to let them do what they do…which is ACT! Hollywood is corrupt. The fact that poor little Jennifer Lawrence got sucked into it is a sad reality that 99% of all celebrities find themselves in. It seems unfair, at Jennifer Lawrence’s expense, to post your talking points about how she’s simply another victim of the machine.

    P.S., I see most of humanity struggling inwardly over whether or not we are a Career, a Katniss, or Capitol citizen. No doubt, we may even have days when we’re all of the above.

  10. mattie clayton says

    LOUISVILLE, KY — Jennifer Lawrence, Louisville, KY native, is from a metropolitan area of more than a million people. She did NOT grow up in coal country, also quite a distance from horse country. That’s hilarious.

  11. Celebrities human side says

    I passed through Jennifer’s childhood house and school at Louisville yesterday. She lived in a medium to high class house at Indian Hills. That made me think that all she says about her adventures in a horse ranch are made up to make fun of herself. I think that half of the things she mentions are made up just to be funny as she is always laughing about life. Louisville has wealthy and refinated families as you can find in LA or NYC, so Jodie Foster’s comments on “north kentucky girl” are a wrong interpretation of her life style. She was a girl with means to afford not studying high school (as she did not graduated early, she has mentioned that) nor college, marry a wealthy guy and go out with girlfriends to talk about superficiality. About the way she got her picture taken in NYC… mhmmm I have my doubts as she has not the best looks without the hollywood makeup and photoshop. That, besides she making up things to be funny puts it on doubt. She was looking to getting out of school and one way was acting/modeling and becoming famous so it could have been that she was moving around talent agents events and that’s where she got the picture. If what she is saying is true, then, she was amazingly lucky. There are thousand of talented people like her out there that never become famous. Getting into hollywood is: 1) great talented people winning the lottery at an audition by meeting the directors looks for a role 2) medium talented that will always perform similar roles but got there because they have great contacts (friends or family are directors or producers)
    I like Jennifer and admire her a lot. She is really talented and can do anything looking natural, and sympathizing with the suffering in the roles she plays. Even though she is not pretty and has little eyes, there is a unique charming expression on her face and look in her eyes that makes the viewer feel compassion when she suffers, laughter when she jokes, sexy when she models, etc… and that is something that 0.0001% of celebrities can achieve. I foresee a super carreer on her and I hope she doesn’t start falling on the Angelina Jollie’s failure doing weird stuff. I hope she becomes solid like Meryl who she admires so much, marries and makes a family once and forever, and supports good social iniciatives. We’ll see.

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