One of the most talked about films of the year, “Winter’s Bone” nabbed the grand jury prize at Sundance and might very well be on its way to more awards. But it’s star Jennifer Lawrence who has critics talking. I recently caught up with the 19 year-old Louisville native about her role in Debra Granik’s harrowing adaptation of the Daniel Woodrell novel.
How’s it going?
I’m fine, thanks, now that I’m eating a cheese quesadilla. (laughs)
Yeah, it’s crazy busy. I’m flying all over but it’s a part of the job so I understand that and tackle each one of you guys individually. Not literally though (laughs).
Are you getting a lot more meetings out of the buzz?
At the moment, I’m really busy doing press for this but yeah, I’ve been getting a lot of meetings and scripts and all sorts of stuff but nothing is finalized yet so we’ll see.
Were you there at the Sundance awards ceremony?
No, I was there when the movie premiered but I had to leave unfortunately. So happy for Debra (Debra Granik, director/writer).
We met at the audition.
The first two were good but then they said I was too pretty for the role so they said ‘No.’ I was really upset about that so I flew on the red eye to New York, which, for the record, will take care of that, no problem. (laughs) So I showed up with icicles in my hair and was borderline psychotic. The rest is history.
Did you read the novel before accepting the role?
My mom actually read the book five years before and said ‘Jen if they ever make this into a movie you’d be perfect for it’ but I didn’t listen to her since she’s my mother (laughs). Five years later, I read the script and instantly fell in love with this character.
About your character, Ree, she’s a 17 year-old whose also responsible for raising her two younger siblings. Where do you think she gets her strength from?
I think within herself and I think she was forced to become an adult before most people her age. How could you blame her though? She was forced to deal with things far beyond her age and I think she had to step up to the plate because of her two younger siblings. She had the choice of destroying her life and, well, she didn’t.
How was that, acting with kids? Were you rehearsing a lot? I hear it can be quite challenging.
We just did a lot of improv because the kids were wonderful and we didn’t want to feel like they had to act. And, going in, I loved kids so that was the best part for me. So yes, most of the scenes with the children are all improv.
You guys shot where the story is set: the Ozarks in Southern Missouri. How long was the shoot?
We shot for 25 and a half days and we were there for six weeks.
Did the locals resent you Hollywood-types?
By the time we got there Debra had given them books and explained to them that we weren’t trying to put them in a negative light or a positive light. We were just trying to tell a story about a girl who lived there.
I think just the hours and the temperature, it was very physically grueling. I mean, really, it wasn’t fun. It was cold!
I don’t want to jinx it but there’s some early Oscar buzz around this film. That surprise you?
I personally don’t know how you prepare for something like that. It’s an honor, we’re thrilled to even be in that realm but we don’t really talk about it or plan on anything.
You and your co-star John Hawkes have a wonderful chemistry on-screen in this film. What was it like working with him?
Fantastic! He’s wonderful and such a sweetheart in real life. He’s what every actor should be, just a complete chameleon on set. I’m crazy about the guy.
As a 19 year-old, are you thinking about college at all at this point? Or are you focusing on your career?
I never want to say ‘never’ but right now it’s (college) not the right time for me. I’m working and I’m busy and I’m doing what I love and I feel like you go to college to find what you love doing and make money doing it. Luckily, I’ve been fortunate enough to have that in my life.
Well, I’m doing an all improv love movie with Anton Yelchin. And that’s good because it’s only a week for me. Then, well, we have a few projects on our radar but I can’t talk about them yet because, well, I just can’t.
No! (laughs) They’ll kill me.
Well congratulations and good luck with the rest of the press. You’ll need those quesadillas for energy.
Thank you! (laughs)