You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

A Look Back at Jennifer Lawrence’s Bizarre Pre-‘Hunger Games’ Career

Jennifer Lawrence’s career can be divided into two distinct parts: before and after Katniss Everdeen.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2” opens on Friday, concluding the series that has guaranteed her global attention, in which the digital world has recorded each sentence, movement and rumor (95% of them not true).

Her work before the first film in 2012 was also pretty interesting, though less scrupulously documented.

She grew up in Louisville, went to New York during spring break at age 14, and persuaded her parents to allow a summer there to explore acting. On July 17, 2007, Variety‘s Brian Lowry reviewed a new Bill Engvall sitcom, “The Bill Engvall Show,” which was hoping to tap into his “blue collar comedy” audience. The standup comic played a family counselor who couldn’t control his own family, including a teen daughter (Lawrence). Lowry wrote that the show was a “decidedly slim and rarely funny,” and there was no mention of the actress beyond the credits.

However, things started to pick up quickly: On June 30, 2008, she won an award at the L.A. Film Festival for her work in Lori Petty’s directing debut, “The Poker House” (in photo above). On Sept. 8 of that year, Lawrence won the Marcello Mastroianni Award for young performers for Guillermo Arriaga’s “The Burning Plain.” Accepting the prize, she thanked her mom; at a press conference afterwards, she said “This is my best 18th birthday present ever.”

But her biggest boost was the 2010 indie “Winter’s Bone,” as a backwoods teen trying to find her missing father. The project had begun in May 2005, when Anonymous Content’s Alix Madigan-Yorkin read an unpublished manuscript by Daniel Woodrell. She passed it along to clients, producer Anne Rosellini and writer-director Debra Granik, who quickly optioned it. They shopped it around, but were told it was too dark. “I was given a list of high-profile actresses that I was told (could secure financing),” said Rossellini. “We weren’t super-psyched about the women. And half the actresses they brought were like 27.”

Eventually they raised $2 million through funders with no industry ties. It won the top jury prize at 2010 Sundance Film Festival.

On the basis of that, Variety picked Lawrence as one of its 10 Actors to Watch. Lawrence had never taken an acting class, but explained how she prepared for the role: “My brother’s friend came over with a squirrel he’d shot and we skinned it in my backyard.”

The film earned four Oscar nominations, including best picture and best actress.

She was on her way. On March 14, 2011, Variety‘s Justin Kroll broke the story that Lawrence was about to be signed as Katniss in “The Hunger Games.” A few months later, director Gary Ross said her audition “was so powerful that it was sort of stunning.”

The following year, the film opened to spectacular box office (nearly $700 million worldwide). Lawrence also starred in “Silver Linings Playbook” in 2012, the David O. Russell film that scored her a best actress Oscar.

More Film

  • 'The Apollo' Review: A Legendary Theater

    Tribeca Film Review: 'The Apollo'

    You should never take for granted a documentary that fills in the basics with flair and feeling. Especially when the basics consist of great big gobs of some of the most revolutionary and exhilarating popular art ever created in this country. Roger Ross Williams’ documentary “The Apollo,” which kicked off the Tribeca Film Festival on [...]

  • Playwright Mark Medoff author of "Children

    Mark Medoff, 'Children of a Lesser God' Playwright, Dies at 79

    Mark Medoff, the playwright who wrote Tony Award-winning play “Children of a Lesser God,” died Tuesday in Las Cruces, N.M. He was 79. His daughter Jessica Medoff Bunchman posted news of his death on Facebook, and the Las Cruces Sun-News attributed the cause to cancer. “Children of a Lesser God” starred John Rubinstein and Phyllis Frelich [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Interscope Films Relaunches With Full Slate at Tribeca (EXCLUSIVE)

    The Interscope record label’s interest in film/music crossover isn’t exactly a secret: With hit companion albums for “A Star Is Born,” “Black Panther” and “La La Land,” they’ve seemed to own the soundtrack space at times in recent years. And the company hasn’t completely made a secret of its desire to move into film production. [...]

  • Avengers: Endgame

    'Avengers: Endgame': Fans and Theaters Assemble for Biggest Marvel Movie Ever

    For San Diego resident Shawn Richter, “Avengers: Endgame” is more than the conclusion to a monumental period in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As the West Coast branch chair of Avengers Initiative, a cosplay charity that raises money for causes like the Ronald McDonald House Children’s Charities, the comics of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby are [...]

  • Jillian Bell appears in Brittany Runs

    Amazon's 'Brittany Runs a Marathon' Sets Summer Release

    “Brittany Runs a Marathon” will be rushing to theaters on Aug. 23. Amazon Studios dated the comedy on Wednesday. The pic, starring Jillian Bell (“Rough Night,” “22 Jump Street”), won the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival. The flick follows the titutal Brittany, who decides to run around New York City in order to [...]

  • Lionsgate Hires Lynn Whitney in Marketing

    Lionsgate Hires Former Warner Bros. Exec Lynn Whitney

    Lionsgate announced Wednesday that Lynn Whitney will become head of worldwide paid media, partnerships, promotions and consumer products. Whitney was formerly the executive VP of worldwide media at Warner Bros.   In her new role, Whitney will build out media campaigns for movies like Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron’s romantic comedy “Long Shot.” “I am [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content