Jennifer Lawrence hasn’t been collecting her press clippings since rocketing to stardom on the back of this spring’s critically hailed indie drama “Winter’s Bone.” She does, however, have one magazine feature courtesy of a friend who found it while waiting in a dentist’s office.
“Somebody had drawn a moustache on me,” Lawrence says. “(My friend) sent it, writing, ‘I didn’t even do this. Somebody else doesn’t like you.’ Nobody really cares. Acting’s my job, but it has absolutely nothing to do with who I am.”
Lawrence’s line of thinking isn’t altogether uncommon among the group of young actresses under 35 years old that are gaining attention in this year’s Oscar race. In an entertainment landscape increasingly populated with people famous for being famous, these actresses — Lawrence, Natalie Portman (“Black Swan”), Anne Hathaway (“Love and Other Drugs”), Michelle Williams (“Blue Valentine”) among them — have long eschewed celebrity, typically using it only as a means to promote their work.
“You see somebody like Annie who feels very grateful about her success,” director Ed Zwick says of his “Love and Other Drugs” lead. Zwick sees the same qualities in Hathaway that he found in other young actresses he worked with, including Claire Danes and Evan Rachel Wood.
“She’s not entitled in that way that is sometimes very hard to accept in young actors,” Zwick notes. “Her ambitions are artistic, not materialistic. That’s how you have a long career.”
Like Danes and Wood, Hathaway enjoyed her first success as a teenager, starring opposite Julie Andrews in Garry Marshall’s G-rated Disney crowd-pleaser “The Princess Diaries.” She credits director Ang Lee for giving her a chance to go outside her comfort zone in “Brokeback Mountain” and Jonathan Demme for casting her in her Oscar-nominated role in “Rachel Getting Married.”
“That movie changed my life, and gave me my heart as an actress and it pointed me on a path,” Hathaway says of “Rachel.”
Every one of the actresses in play this year would take similar pains to stress the importance of aligning with A-listers and pursuing artistic excellence over commercial paydays. Of course, if a project in question offers a chance for both, the choice is easier.
Lawrence parlayed her “Winter’s Bone” success into winning the role of the shape-shifting mutant Mystique in Fox’s upcoming big-budget “X-Men” prequel, “X-Men: First Class.”
“If I fall in love with the script, I’ll do it no matter what the budget is,” Lawrence says.
That ability to draw a line between project promotion and self-promotion is the key to both career success and personal sanity, Zwick says. Williams and Hathaway have both endured a stretch under tabloid scrutiny for reasons outside their control, and both took a very private approach to the unfortunate situations.
“Some people take a perverse pleasure in people’s difficult times,” Portman says, “and it’s not getting better. The best thing you can do is draw a line around your personal space and protect your privacy. It’s your profession, but it’s not your life.”
And, if you happen to have a family member in the business, all the better, says 12-year-old Elle Fanning, star of Sofia Coppola’s drama “Somewhere.”
When asked if big sister Dakota offers advice, Elle says she volunteers something far more important.
“She brings encouragement,” Fanning says. “That’s all I really need.”
Annette Bening | Sally Hawkins | Nicole Kidman | Jennifer Lawrence | Natalie Portman | Tilda Swinton
Lead actresses in the mix
Amy Adams | Helena Bonham Carter | Melissa Leo | Miranda Richardson | Jacki Weaver | Dianne Wiest
Supporting actresses in the mix