Jennifer Lawrence Looks Back On A Career-Changing 'Yes-Or-No Question' Lawrence got her big break as Katniss in the Hunger Games series. She says concerns about the price of fame made her hesitate before saying "yes" to the role. She's now starring in the drama Joy.

Jennifer Lawrence Looks Back On A Career-Changing 'Yes-Or-No Question'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. My guest Jennifer Lawrence is starring in two new films - the fourth and final installment of the action series "The Hunger Games" and the new film "Joy." "Joy" is Lawrence's third film directed by David O. Russell. All three - "Joy," "Silver Linings Playbook" and "American Hustle" - also starred Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro. Lawrence won the best actress Oscar for "Silver Linings Playbook." She was nominated for Oscars for "American Hustle" and her breakthrough role in the independent film "Winter's Bone."

"Joy" is a comic drama loosely based on the story of Joy Mangano who invented the Miracle Mop and other household objects and became known not only for her inventions but for her sales pitches on QVC and the Home Shopping Network. In the film, before Joy is a successful business woman, she's lost. Her mother is so depressed she stays in bed watching soap operas. Her father, played by De Niro, is temporarily sharing the basement with Joy's ex-husband. Nobody is getting along and Joy is having trouble supporting her two young children.

When she invents a mop that is self-wringing so that you don't hurt your hands wringing it out, she can't find anyone to sell it, until she goes to QVC and meets with an exec played by Bradley Cooper. He likes the mop and gets one of QVC's best on-air pitchmen to sell it on air, but that guy botches the on-air demonstration and no one buys the mop. In this scene, Joy arrives at QVC unannounced and corners the Bradley Cooper character, trying to get a second chance.


BRADLEY COOPER: (As Neil Walker) I'm in a meeting with our lawyers. What do you think you're doing?

JENNIFER LAWRENCE: (As Joy) Go home, Joy, and watch the numbers roll in on television. Make 50,000 mops, borrowing and owing every dollar, including your home.

COOPER: (As Neil Walker) It could've been handled better. I'll let Todd have another shot.

LAWRENCE: (As Joy) I don't want Todd or anyone else to try it. It should be me.

COOPER: (As Neil Walker) We don't have regular people. We have celebrities, we have spokesmodels do the selling. I told you this.

LAWRENCE: (As Joy) Who showed you the mop? Who sold it to you? Who taught you how to use it? And who convinced you that it was great after you thought it was worthless?

COOPER: (As Neil Walker) Excuse me, can you give us a second?

GROSS: That's a scene from "Joy." Jennifer Lawrence, welcome to FRESH AIR. As part of your preparation for the film, did you try out the Miracle Mop, the self-wringing Miracle Mop?

LAWRENCE: I did not. I probably should have.

GROSS: I can't believe you didn't.

LAWRENCE: Well, I was - I did mop, but I didn't have a Miracle Mop. I had a sponge mop (laughter) but I did mop and then there was a mop my trailer. And so I would practice it, you know, practice, like, technique and then - and just kind of getting used to it. And there were so many Miracle Mops on set and I would start working them and, like, really just trying to study it because the amazing thing about Joy - a lot of people have inventions or they have ideas and then they bring it to somebody else and say I have this idea. I don't know how to make it, but Joy grew up in a metal garage. So she was in complete control of all of her creations. And this is how I want it to be made, which is very different than just having an idea.

So I studied the mop more to just try to understand somebody's mind, peeling it back and looking at each, you know, how would you think that this clipping onto this and then a cup holding here. And then all of that fascinated me, so I dealt with the mop. But when I first showed Bradley Cooper in the showroom the mop, he watched me and he was like, no, no, no, Jen, that's not how you mop. And he showed me how to properly mop.

GROSS: I read that Bradley Cooper actually used the Miracle Mop when he was in college.

LAWRENCE: He did. His mom watched QVC every day. They always had QVC boxes in the house. I mean, he knew all about that world and I knew nothing. And I had an OCD mom, so she would always give us a bunch of chores and tell us what to do, but she couldn't actually live with it being done the wrong way, so it never actually mattered. She would always end up doing it (laughter).

GROSS: So one of the trademarks of David Russell's movies, particularly the trilogy that you're in - "Silver Linings Playbook," "American Hustle" and "Joy" - is that they're very kinetic. There's always movement happening. Like, characters are walking in and out of the frame, like, scenes just kind of blend into another. And I'm wondering how aware you are of that when you're on camera and the film is being shot. Do you have any sense of what it's going to look like, how it's got to be edited, how kinetic it's going to be?

LAWRENCE: No. And it's such a great thing because on set, you know, every time you do a movie it's scary because you can read a script and say I love the script. Oh, this is a great co-star. This movie's going to be great. But you don't really have control over it. You know, you can walk onto a set and be like, this set is terrible. This is, you know, you start watching the director and you don't have any control. But with David I have 1,000 percent trust, so all I do is focus on my performance. And it's not until seeing the movie that I see an amazing camera move that he did, you know, or notice that Eastern Airlines, like, zoom - zoom in past all of the people or something like that. On the day, I don't pay attention to any of it.

GROSS: One of the things he does not like to do is to say cut. So from your perspective as an actor in his films, what difference does it make whether he's yelling cut or not?

LAWRENCE: I don't know. I've never really particularly noticed him not really calling cut. I mean, I think that he likes - everybody refers to his sets. You know, everybody says the same thing, that it's crazy and it's hectic and, you know, I've said it, too. It's hectic and it's just nuts. You know, but I think that there is a real specificity (laughter) that we just don't really realize, but he's doing all of that on purpose. He wants all of the energy translated on the scenes in the movie. He wants everybody on their feet. Everybody's on their toes. You never know when the camera's going to move and be on you, so you are in the scene the whole time. You have the camera guys - I mean, the real movie is watching the camera guys try to keep up with all this. There's a little light guy with this - you know, with like a light on a stick and they're just running around trying to zoom and get everything.

So when you call cut and everything stops and everything dies and then you call action and then you have to get it started up again. I think that probably he's just trying to keep momentum and keep the energy up and keep people on their toes.

GROSS: How many takes do you like to do when you're shooting a scene and how does that compare, say, with Robert De Niro, who you've worked with on other films with David O. Russell?

LAWRENCE: I've never noticed Bob feeling one way or the other about takes. David doesn't really do a lot of takes. You know, the first time I did the QVC - her first time on camera, you know, and there was a - I had to quickly memorize this monologue. I didn't really know that I was going to have to do it, which is my fault. I didn't really pay attention to what I was doing when I came into work. And then I was trying to memorize it and David did a whole 360 shot around my head. And then was like, cut, move on. And I was like, oh, my God, please, please, let me have another one.

I think it depends completely on the scene 'cause sometimes I feel like it dies, you know, after - especially with emotional scenes. It's fresh two, maybe three times. And then you just lose the feeling. Like, that adrenaline just kind of goes away and then you're just copying what you were doing before, which is fine because it's necessary and a part of the job. Sometimes with dialogue it's not until the 10th or 11th time and all of a sudden you start hearing it and you're like, oh, that's what I'm saying. So it really just depends.

GROSS: The first movie that you made with David O. Russell was "Silver Linings Playbook." You won an Oscar for your role in that, so I want to play a scene from that. Bradley Cooper plays someone who has bipolar disorder. He gets out of a mental facility - a mental health facility at the beginning of the film. He is obsessed with getting back with his wife who has left them. In the meantime, you play his best friend's sister-in-law. You're a young widow who has her own mental health issues, but you get him. You understand him. And you've enlisted him to be your partner in a dance competition.

But one day, he doesn't show up for rehearsal because his father, played by De Niro, needs him at the Eagles game. The father is a bookmaker and he's got a lot of money riding on this game. But Cooper gets into a fight at a tailgate party, never makes it into the stadium, and when the Eagles lose, the father blames Bradley Cooper's character for the loss and for bringing bad luck. And he's blaming you, too, for bringing bad luck because you - he thinks you're taking up too much of Bradley Cooper's time. So this scene takes place at the home of the Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro characters - their family - after the game - after the Eagles lose. And you walk in and De Niro tells you that the bad luck is basically your fault.


ROBERT DE NIRO: (As Pat Sr.) Ever since - ever since he was with you - ever since he was...

LAWRENCE: (As Tiffany) You think that I'm why today has happened?

DE NIRO: (As Pat Sr.) That's right. You are why today's happened.

LAWRENCE: (As Tiffany) I'm the reason why today happened.

DE NIRO: (As Pat Sr.) I think so.

LAWRENCE: (As Tiffany) Let's talk about that.

DE NIRO: (As Pat Sr.) Be my guest.

LAWRENCE: (As Tiffany) The first night that Pat and I met at my sister's, the Eagles beat the 49ers handily 40 to 26. The second time we got together, we went for a run and the Phillies beat the Dodgers 7 to 5 in the NLCS.

SHEA WHIGHAM: (As Jake) She's right, Dad.

LAWRENCE: (As Tiffany) The next time we went for a run, the Eagles beat the Falcons 27 to 14.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Wow.

LAWRENCE: (As Tiffany) The third time we got together, we had Raisin Bran in the diner and the Phillies dominated Tampa Bay in the fourth game of the World Series 10 to 2.

COOPER: (As Pat) Oh, wow.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) Fascinating.

DE NIRO: (As Pat Sr.) Let me think about that. Wait a minute.

LAWRENCE: (As Tiffany) Well, why don't you think about when the Eagles beat the Seahawks 14 to 7.

DE NIRO: (As Pat Sr.) He was with you?

LAWRENCE: (As Tiffany) He was with me. We went for a run.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character) Really?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: (As character) That's crazy.

LAWRENCE: (As Tiffany) There have been no games since Pat and I have been rehearsing every day. And if Pat had been with me like he was supposed to he wouldn't have gotten in a fight, he wouldn't be in trouble, maybe the Eagles beat the New York Giants.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #5: (As character) She's making a lot of sense, Pop. That's all right on all counts.

GROSS: (Laughter) That's Jennifer Lawrence in a scene from "Silver Linings Playbook." David O. Russell sometimes gives actors music to listen to to help set the mood. Has he given you music to listen to for your roles?

LAWRENCE: A little bit. That's - we normally start arguing about that, though. I always think it's annoying, but it's necessary. But I was asleep one time we were flying to New York together and I was fast asleep on a flight. And all of a sudden there was an earbud shoved in my ear with music from "Raging Bull." And I was like, what the - so it - basically everything that David and I argue about on the day that I think is unnecessary - David, I don't want to talk about the scene. I don't want you to go through the whole movie with me. Like, I know what the movie is about. Let's go. I don't want to listen to this song.

When I see the movie and I see what he's doing and how he's put everything together, I'm always wrong. It will always change something in some way that I didn't know. You know, in "Silver Linings" when Bradley and I are at a diner and I'm talking about how I got fired from work by having sex with everybody in the office, I had read the scene one way. And David - Bradley and I had both read it a certain way and we're doing the scene and then David told us to do the entire thing in slow motion, which seemed like a crazy note. And we did and that is the scene - that's the take they ended up using and it looks phenomenal. And it felt so weird and, you know, I questioned him. I think on the next one I'll finally stop questioning him.

GROSS: So what was the difference between the way you were doing it and the slow motion in terms of the meaning it gave that scene?

LAWRENCE: I was just doing it very matter of fact. You know, this is what happened. I, you know - so I had sex with everybody in the office and then I got fired and, you know, so then I sued them for sexual harassment - just kind of how somebody would discuss over dinner how you got fired from your job without really any feeling in it. You know, just kind, yeah, this happened. And when he told me to do it in slow motion, I realized I was seducing Bradley. And that changed the whole meaning of the scene in the moment because - and then that made complete sense because that - of course you would be because you're probably is doing that - she probably seduces people without even knowing that she's doing it. That's where her comfort lies is being found sexy by people.

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Jennifer Lawrence. She's starring in two films now - "Joy," which is a new film directed by David O. Russell and the fourth and final installment of "The Hunger Games" films. So both of them in the theaters at the same time. Let's take a short break. Then we'll talk some more. This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. And if you're just joining us, my guest is Jennifer Lawrence. She's starring in her third film with David O. Russell. It's called "Joy." She also was in his films "Silver Linings Playbook" and "American Hustle." At the same time that "Joy" is about to open, she is starring in the fourth and final installment of "The Hunger Games" films.

How did you get the role of Katniss in "The Hunger Games?" What did you have to do in the audition? Did you have to show off your use of a bow and arrow?

LAWRENCE: I did not. That came after the job. I auditioned. I auditioned with the scene after I've been chosen, after I volunteer and I have to say goodbye to my family and the scene with Peeta in the cave when his leg is hurt. Yeah, I auditioned and the director cried, which I took as a good sign. And then I left and they offered it to me. I really wanted it really badly. I loved the books. I loved the idea of it. And then when they offered it to me, I took a few days before saying yes, which an executive told me later he thought was a negotiating move, which it wasn't. It really hit me what a huge decision it was. It was such a - you know, "Twilight" had come out, and we had seen how big those were and how instant that was, and I had really, you know, kind of done indies. And I just thought it needed more thought. You know, a yes or no question very rarely changes your entire life, just saying yes to something, so I just thought it needed some thought. So I thought about it for a few days and then I said yes, and I'm very happy I did.

GROSS: What was the thought process like when you were weighing the pros and cons of saying yes? What were some of the things in each column?

LAWRENCE: I would go - you know, if I was sitting - I remember sitting with a friend eating and I was just wondering, you know, what is it going to be like? Like a year from now, if these movies come out, am I even going to want to be able to do this? My parents' house, when I go home, like, that's not private. Are our neighbors going to be - you know? And I was right about all of these things. My parents did eventually have to move. I was just thinking about fame, really, and also just kind of my future. I don't know if men do this, but as a woman I've always imagined being a mother. And I've always loved acting, but I didn't think it would take up a huge part of my life. I thought, you know, I'll act, I'll do some movies 'cause I really love it. And I was happy. I was originally on just on a sitcom, and I was happy to just stay on the sitcom forever. And so I was kind of a little bit more casual about acting and was more kind of focused on my future kind of as a human and being a mom. And, I don't know, what would that be like being a super incredibly famous person? How would that affect everything in my future? I just wanted to just think about it.

GROSS: And so when you decided to say yes were you - did you feel resigned to the downside of fame?

LAWRENCE: A little bit. I mostly just kind of said, you know what, I love this character, I love this movie, I believe in it, and I'm going to say yes for the same reasons that I would say yes to any indie. And then - but I was still afraid of those things. But I remember there was a moment when I was on set of "The Hunger Games," and I was, like, thinking about my life, and I was like, you know what, I don't like going out. I'm a total homebody. I'm always looking for excuses not to go out. I was like, I'm actually probably built for this. I can now use famous as an excuse. I can't go there. I'm too famous. And I do.


GROSS: I don't think I've ever heard that before, that it's a great excuse to not go out.

LAWRENCE: You would if you were - if we had each other's numbers. I'd be like, no, why don't you guys come over here and we'll drink wine? I'm too famous to go to that restaurant.

GROSS: So I know a little bit about a bow and arrow 'cause when I was in summer camp we were taught archery. So I feel like I'm qualified to ask (laughter) so qualified to ask you, what was it like to learn how to become a master archer?

LAWRENCE: It was really cool. I really, really enjoyed archery. I had an amazing instructor, Khatuna. She was Georgian. She was an excellent instructor - very strict. You know, if I had bad form she'd pinch my ear. She didn't really put up with anything. And it totally changed my body. It was so crazy. When I went back for the fitting for the second movie, for "Catching Fire," my shoulders were two inches broader, my right arm is one inch longer than my left arm - permanently, I guess. But I really enjoy it.

GROSS: She'd actually punch your ear if you did something wrong?

LAWRENCE: Not punch it, pinch it.

GROSS: Oh, pinch it.

LAWRENCE: Sorry, god, I'm happy we straightened that out. She'd punch me in the head.

GROSS: (Laughter) Great. So what's one of the worst things you had to put yourself through in making "The Hunger Games" movies endurance-wise?

LAWRENCE: You know, you really have to get in shape just to be able to film those movies. 'Cause whatever I'm doing, whatever you see, whatever action sequence - if it's running, fighting, whatever it is - you know, that's - we're doing that for 12 hours a day or more. The water stuff is very tricky. In "Catching Fire," all of the water stuff was done in November and December in Atlanta in freezing cold water. So it's just a horrible feeling when you're shivering when you're dry and then you have to dive into freezing cold water is just the worst. And I perforated my eardrum doing a water stunt - when I had to jump into the water and a jet perforated my eardrum. And I'm an idiot so, you know, I couldn't hear for three days, and I was like, I don't have to go to the doctor, and now I have, like, a permanent ear problem (laughter).

GROSS: Can you hear in that ear?

LAWRENCE: I can hear fine. It gets a little painful sometimes when flying. Overall I'm totally OK and don't need to be whining about it.

GROSS: You mentioned fire. I mean, one of the things your character does is wear, like, a flaming costume and a dress that breaks into flames when you twirl. Is that like what magicians use?

LAWRENCE: It was all Cg. The only real fire we really dealt with was on the...

GROSS: Oh, why didn't I think of that?

LAWRENCE: ...Was on the first movie.

GROSS: (Laughter) Right.

LAWRENCE: I had to run through a trail. There were fireballs being fired at me. And so these trees would ignite into fire. And so they would mark the trees and marked a path - run through here and you'll be safe. These trees are going to explode. When you start running and all the trees start exploding you can't see the tape anymore. So I'm running. I have no idea what tree is going to explode. And it was the scariest thing I've ever done in my entire life 'cause then I was really running through a forest of exploding trees with fire. And somebody made a video of it, and I was just like, how on earth did they insure me to do this?

GROSS: So what kind of precautions do you insist on when you're doing a film like that? Safety precautions.

LAWRENCE: None really. I always just kind of assume by the time I'm there they figured it out. There was some things in harness work that, I don't know, scares me as a woman. There's, like, these bands that push against what I assume would be, like, my female organ area. I'm just like, I don't know, this doesn't seem right to be hanging from this with this much pressure for hours. So I put my foot down about that the other day at work. I was like, I have to be able to have children one day. I don't know if I want to hang from my uterus for four hours.


GROSS: My guest is Jennifer Lawrence. She stars in the new film "Joy" and is also starring in the fourth and final episode of "The Hunger Games" films. After we take a short break, we'll discuss speaking out about getting paid less than her male counterparts in films and her outspoken response after nude photos were hacked from her iCloud account. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross back with Jennifer Lawrence. She stars in the new film "Joy," which is one of three films, along with "Silver Linings Playbook," and "American Hustle," that she's made with director David O. Russell. Lawrence is also starring in the "Hunger Games" films. The fourth and final episode is currently in theaters.

As a woman who is now an action star in addition to being an indie movie star, what are some of the things that viewers project onto you in your action star persona?

LAWRENCE: You mean like project onto me in my personal life?

GROSS: Yeah.

LAWRENCE: I don't know. I feel like if I go to a spinning class, I'm, like, God, I better - I can't quit. Everyone's going to be like, Katniss sucked out. (Laughter).

GROSS: (Laughter).

LAWRENCE: I don't know. I don't know the - I mean, I think that there's - you're always aware, just as a celebrity in general, that there can be one moment. You know, I always hear - my friends and family will tell a story about a celebrity. I don't think they're very nice because they were offered popcorn, and they said, you know, I'm not a big fan of popcorn. It's like, who doesn't like popcorn? I don't think I like them anymore. And I'm like, oh, God...

GROSS: (Laughter).

LAWRENCE: Like, how many things have I said that, like... It's amazing how you - celebrities, there's some bizarre thing where, like, you say one thing. You do one thing. You know, and if you don't know a person, how you can judge their entire being based on, you know, one thing that you've said. It's a huge amount of pressure.

GROSS: Your breakthrough role was in "Winter's Bone," an independent film. And you play a teenage girl in the Ozark Mountains, where there isn't much work except cooking and selling meth, which your character's father and his friends do. But your father's arrested. He puts up the house for bail, then skips town. So unless you can track him down, your family, which is already pretty poor, is going to lose their house, which is basically all your family has. So you're going on - around talking to all your father's friends, trying to figure out where is he. So I want to play a scene in which you're knocking on the door of one of the leaders of this meth ring. And that guy's wife answers the door.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (As character) You've got the wrong place, I expect. Who might you be?

LAWRENCE: (As Ree Dolly) I'm Ree. My dad's Jessup Dolly.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (As character) You ain't here for trouble, are you?

LAWRENCE: (As Ree Dolly) No, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (As character) Because one of my nephews is Buster Leroy. And didn't he shoot your daddy one time?

LAWRENCE: (As Ree Dolly) Yes. But that ain't got nothing to do with me. They settled that their selves, I think.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (As character) Shooting him likely settled it. What is it you want?

LAWRENCE: (As Ree Dolly) I got a real bad need to talk with Thump.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (As character) Well, he ain't got no need to talk to you.

LAWRENCE: (As Ree Dolly) But I need to. I really, really got to, ma'am. Please. Some of our blood at least is the same. Ain't that supposed to mean something? Isn't that what is always said?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (As character) Ain't you got no men could do this?

LAWRENCE: (As Ree Dolly) No, ma'am, I don't.

GROSS: My guest, Jennifer Lawrence, in a scene from "Winter's Bone." So for this part, you were told you were too pretty. So did you...

LAWRENCE: (Laughter).

GROSS: (Laughter) What did you do to change that so you could get the part?

LAWRENCE: Well, they turned me down. And then they moved casting to New York. And I put myself on a redeye to just show up to casting the next day in New York. So that always helps - redeye, not showering, no makeup. Eventually, they went, oh, she's right. She's not cute. (Laughter).

GROSS: (Laughter). You grew up in Kentucky, near Louisville?

LAWRENCE: In Louisville, yeah.

GROSS: In Louisville. And in school, were you athletic? 'Cause you've done such athletic things for "The Hunger Games."

LAWRENCE: Yeah, our parents had a rule. We all had to be in sports. So I played softball, basketball. I was a cheerleader - and field hockey.

GROSS: Did you enjoy it?

LAWRENCE: No, not at all. I hated team sports.


LAWRENCE: I don't like being - I've always had anxiety about being in a heard. I felt that way in school. I even felt that way in field trips. I was like - felt like cattle or something. I don't know. I just wanted to break free, be an individual (laughter). So I don't know. There was something about team sports, classes. I didn't take well to it. I didn't like it.

GROSS: Did you like solo sports?

LAWRENCE: Yeah. Eventually, when I started learning archery, I really enjoyed that. You know, with archery, you can see yourself, as you practice, getting closer and closer to the target. And it's just between you and your eyes and your shoulder blades (laughter) and your aim. And, you know, it's just between you and the bow. And I enjoy that.

GROSS: What got you interested in acting and in taking it seriously?

LAWRENCE: Just loving it. I did an indie called "The Poker House" in between the hiatus from my sitcom. And I did "Burning Plain." And then I did "Winter's Bone" also all on the hiatus for this sitcom. Because when I first got onto the sitcom, like I said, I was like, I'm good. I'm a Lucille Ball. I can be on a sitcom for the rest of my life. This is great. And then I fell in love - I fell in love with film. I loved - it's really so much about just pure acting with me. I mean, even when I'm - when I have time off, I just really miss acting. So my love for acting turned into doing more movies. And then that turned into a whole business side of things that, you know, I'm still pretty overwhelmed by, figuring out the business of all of it.

GROSS: When you were 14, you went to New York in the hopes of getting roles there. Did one of your parents go with you?

LAWRENCE: My mom was with me for when we went for spring break. That was just going to be, like, a little trip that we were going on together. And then I ended up getting discovered at Union Square. And I talked about it every single day. I talked about acting and - every single day when we went back to Kentucky. And eventually it was just like, I'm leaving. And I had saved up enough babysitting money. And I was like, I'm going. So they tried to find a nice balance between me kind of running away and being completely unsafe and having a little bit of supervision. So I had a horrible apartment. And it was completely rat infested and I think it's probably gone now.

GROSS: In New York?

LAWRENCE: Yeah, in New York. And my brother went - who was 18 - went with me at first. And my parents left us. And we were both like, we're going to die. And then a girl who worked at my parents' children's camp came out and watched me for a little bit. And they would just kind of trade-off. Eventually, my mom saw how happy I was and how I didn't have anxiety anymore. I didn't have all of these things that I had when I was in school and unhappy. I was so happy that I think it was kind of hard for her, as a mother, to send her back. I think it also- just kind of some sort of maternal instinct, that she knew it was the right thing to do, which I'm so grateful for to this day.

GROSS: What kind of anxiety did you have?

LAWRENCE: I don't know. I just, like - I was - I remember just always feeling exhausted when I was at school. And I think about it now, wondering what that is. I don't know if that's actors - I work with an actor who always says actors are chameleons. You know, even if you don't really realize, you're adapting to kind of everyone that you're around, which I don't feel that way, really, about my personality. I don't really feel like I change who I am depending on who I'm with. But I think you feel a lot of things. The only way to do an emotional scene is to feel empathy for your character, to think what that character is going through and really open up and feel it. And now that I know what that is and that that's my job and I can channel that, I can understand that feeling. I understand when somebody's telling me a story and it's really sad. And I feel like I can feel it. I know that that's just - that's just - it's normal for me now. But as a kid, I think by the time we'd get to lunch, I was so exhausted. I think I was around a hundred kids and feeling every single thing. I don't really know. I've tried to figure it out. Maybe just - I mean, I guess the simple answer would be social anxiety.

GROSS: That kind of fits into you not wanting to go out, even now (laughter) like, wanting to just stay home.

LAWRENCE: Yeah. Yeah, I don't like being around big - I get overwhelmed. My favorite thing to - I much prefer just small circles of people who I actually want to be around and I actually want to talk to and being able to just be... You know, like when you're out and you've got to spend your whole night going, thank you, oh, my God, yeah - like, I look at people - when my - I'm the age now where everybody's getting married. All my friends are getting married. And I'm like, you don't want to spend your whole night going, thanks, thank you, thank you for coming, thank you so much, you know? It just seems like a nightmare. It seems like awards season. (Laughter).

GROSS: So, you know, being in an apartment at age 14 that had rats, I wouldn't be able to go to sleep at night. How - how did you...

LAWRENCE: Oh, nights, night was horrible. That's when they all come out.

GROSS: How did you do it then?

LAWRENCE: I wouldn't go to the bathroom. I just - I really wanted - my dad still talks about that. He says, that's when I knew you were serious. That's when - I think that that was the turning point for my dad letting me do this because he came and saw the conditions I was living in, you know, no hot water. There was no kitchen. It was like a closet with a hot plate. And I got to the point where I was literally just sharing food with rats 'cause I got - I went to Chinatown. That's where I got most everything - or Duane Reade. I didn't - you know, I didn't really have any money. So, like, if a rat had eaten my loaf of bread, you know, before, when I first got there, I'd be like, ew and throw the whole loaf of bread away. But eventually, I was like, God, I'm not going to be able to afford bread. So I started just cutting around the hole that the rat had ate. (Laughter). It got to the point where I was literally sharing food with a rat. So that's when my parents were like, yeah, I think she really, really wants to do this.

GROSS: So did they help you out financially?

LAWRENCE: Eventually, yeah. We moved to LA. We got in our car from Kentucky, and we drove to LA. And that's when I got on the sitcom. And then they didn't need to support me financially anymore.

GROSS: My guest is Jennifer Lawrence. She stars in the new film, "Joy," and she's currently in theaters starring in the fourth and final episode of "The Hunger Games" films. More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with more of my interview with Jennifer Lawrence. She stars in the new film "Joy" and in the fourth and final episode of "The Hunger Games." So you mentioned you were discovered in New York in Union Square. Tell us the discovery story.

LAWRENCE: I was watching street dancing, and some man named Daniel - I believe was his name - said I'm a model scout - can I take your picture? And I was, like, oh, well, yeah. My brothers always talked about how ugly I was, so that was a shock. So I let him take my picture. And, you know, my mom and I didn't know that any of this was creepy. We were just from Kentucky, which it wasn't - it didn't end up being creepy, but that it could potentially be creepy. And so she gave him her number, and he called the next day and said, you know, all these modeling agencies want to meet with her. And we didn't have anything else to do in New York, so we went to the meetings and then somewhere in there, I read my first script. And I just - I knew.

GROSS: So your brother used to tell you that you were ugly?

LAWRENCE: Yeah. You know, they were brothers. They used to call me Uggs before Uggs were, you know, the boots.

GROSS: Did you believe them?

LAWRENCE: Yeah, but it didn't - I didn't care. It didn't matter. I feel like if I have a daughter one day and she asks me if she's pretty I'm just going to be like - why does it matter? I never grew up with that - it didn't really matter to me.

GROSS: I like your answer. Why does it matter?

LAWRENCE: Oh, thank you.

GROSS: That's good.

LAWRENCE: It doesn't matter. Yeah, they were - I remember one time crying because these girls at school left me out. Everybody was going to the movies, and they didn't invite me. And my mom was trying to comfort me, and she goes, they just - they're just jealous of you. My brother walks in and goes, don't tell her that. They probably don't like her because she's an [expletive].

GROSS: (Laughter).

LAWRENCE: And he goes don't ever think somebody doesn't like you guys because they're jealous...

GROSS: My grandmother used to say it's because they're jealous...

LAWRENCE: ...I think that happens way too much between mothers and daughters.

GROSS: ...And I knew that was not it. I know. It's such an - it's really, like, an annoying -totally annoying answer.

LAWRENCE: I don't really think that that's a very good lesson to teach somebody. I think you should look in at yourself. If you feel like somebody doesn't look like you, think back. Is there something you could've done? Could you have offended them?

I don't think I should just go, oh, you're just jealous. Why would you raise - why would you put in your kid's head?

GROSS: (Laughter).

LAWRENCE: Like my mom - bless her heart, you know, this is what moms are for. And I'm probably going to do the same thing when I'm a mother. You know, when we're watching "Joy" and then I forgot that the singing part comes on. And I'm like, oh my God, oh my God, oh my God. And I put my hands over my head and, like, I can't watch it. I can't watch it. And my mom listens. She goes - you are the best singer in the entire world. You are the greatest singer in the whole world, just very sweet. But I'm, like - but that's just not true.


GROSS: So you said a couple of things - a couple of big public statements that have actually made news. I want to ask you about what you said after the Sony hack.

And when a lot of Sony emails - people who - executives who worked at Sony, a lot of their emails were made public. And through those emails you learned that men you worked with on movies were getting paid much more for those movies than you were. And you attributed it to a gender double-standard, and you wrote about it in Lena Dunham's publication Lenny. You wrote (reading) I didn't get mad at Sony. I got mad at myself. I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early. I didn't want to keep fighting for millions of dollars that, frankly, due to franchises, I don't need, parentheses, (I told you this wasn't relatable, don't hate me).


LAWRENCE: Then you wrote - (reading) but if I'm honest with myself, I would be lying if I didn't say there was an element of wanting to be liked that influenced my decision to close the deal without a real fight. I didn't want to see seem difficult or spoiled.

And then you say you realized from the hack that, quote, "every man I was working with definitely didn't worry about being difficult or spoiled."

So, how did you decide to say that in public?

LAWRENCE: I was aware of gender inequality, of the, you know, 21 percent general pay gap between men and women. And, you know, when that hack happened and I saw those numbers, I really didn't look at that and say something unfair was done to me. I think that it's very possible that, you know, when we're talking about this gender bias, that it also exists in us as women. That we - it's very possible, as individuals - are doing this to ourselves, that we have a historical, global reputation that isn't being a baller or a badass or being aggressive. You know, that's not attractive to do those things.

But more than that - you know, that wasn't really the pay gap. The pay gap and why I wanted to discuss it was because I was, like, if I'm having these feelings, and I - it's my own kind of mentality that's getting in my own way and these statistics are inarguable, maybe I'm not the only woman who feels this way. And I figured if I had a voice, I should use it in case there are other women out there that are not getting paid or not asking for money the way that they should be because of the same kind of relatable feelings that I was having.

GROSS: So did that affect your ability to equalize the playing field financially?

LAWRENCE: I'm still working on it, you know. I wish that I could say that I wrote it and then, boom, the problem was fixed, but that's just not true. I was writing about a very true problem that I have, that, you know, I'm still struggling with it.

GROSS: How did you start thinking this way? Did you always think this way? Is this a kind of thinking that came recently to you?

LAWRENCE: I think I've always been outspoken and opinionated, but I'm growing up and learning more...

GROSS: But I'm talking specifically about - just thinking in terms of gender, about what gender equality means now.

LAWRENCE: Of gender - it was recent. It was recent. It was getting into the world of commerce. It was getting into, you know, having a power on set and not wanting to use it or not wanting to recognize it because oh, oh, I just want to be likable. I just want to be likable - and then realizing you just get screwed over.

So I think it just came - it developed over time from working because I was saying yes to these things and doing overtime for free and all this stuff because I wanted to be liked. It just seemed ridiculous, and I didn't meet one actor who would do the same. I didn't meet one male actor who did the same thing.

GROSS: My guest is Jennifer Lawrence. She stars in the new film "Joy," and she's currently in theaters starring in the fourth and final episode of "The Hunger Games" films. We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross back with more of my interview with Jennifer Lawrence. She stars in the new film "Joy" and in the fourth and final episode of "The Hunger Games." I asked her about an incident she was very outspoken about.

After your iCloud account was hacked and naked pictures of you were posted, you called it a sexual violation. And you said, anybody who looked at those pictures, you're perpetuating a sexual offense, you should cower with shame. You were quoted as saying that in Vanity Fair. And that's a very strong thing to say. And I thought it was very interesting that instead of, you know, being embarrassed or anything that these pictures were shown, you expressed anger not only at whoever hacked and posted these but at anybody who was just going to look at it thinking like, well, it's posted, everybody else is looking, so why can't I? You said they were guilty, too. Can you talk about deciding how to frame your feelings about the hack of your photos?

LAWRENCE: I wasn't the first victim of that. You know, there have been hacks like that going on for years. And I have never once ever looked at a photo of a naked person's body without their permission. I think that that's a disgusting thing to do. It's unthinkable. I would never do it. Those hacks have happened for years. And it's - I would feel so creepy looking at someone's naked body without their permission. And, you know, when it happened to me, I wasn't embarrassed. I was in a long-distance relationship for four and a half years. And even if I wasn't in a long-distance relationship, it wouldn't matter. It was my body. It was my private email. I had the freedom to do what I wanted. And I was angry. Hackers are hackers. And hackers are gross, disgusting perverts. And what they did was wrong. And that goes without saying. But the idea that when something becomes popular all of a sudden, it's now OK. It's just shocking how it's not personal to people anymore. It's why people can say whatever they want about me in the news or they can hear me say one thing about me not liking popcorn and then judge my entire personality. It's like as soon as you're a celebrity, it's so impersonal. But those pictures were incredibly personal to me. And my naked body I haven't shown on camera. I haven't done anything, you know, by choice. It's my body. And I felt angry at websites reposting them. And I can't really describe to you the feeling that took a very long time to go away, wondering at any point who's just passing my body around, who's got a picture of my body on their phone and is at a barbecue and looking at them, or who's - it was an unshakable, really awful feeling that after it healed a little bit made me incredibly angry.

GROSS: So you're involved with two projects now that I'm very excited about. One is you're working on a project with Amy Schumer.


GROSS: And the other is you're going to play Lynsey Addario, the great New York Times war photographer who wrote a terrific memoir about her experiences in war zones. So tell us a little bit about one of those projects before we wrap up.

LAWRENCE: Oh, I have to choose?

GROSS: Well, why don't we go with the Amy Schumer 'cause I think that's more of a wildcard (laughter).

LAWRENCE: OK, good, because, yeah, because I'm more involved in that one (laughter).

GROSS: 'Cause I have no idea what that project is.

LAWRENCE: Amy Schumer and Kim Schumer, her sister, and I finished a script about a week ago. It's a comedy. And we really love it. It's just now starting to get passed around. We're hopefully going to make it. You know, Amy, I've never seen this side of her before, this character that she's going to be playing. Nobody's seen - the character that I'm going to be playing is a new side of me. And it was incredibly fun to develop. And the two of them being sisters, Kim and Amy, they get along like siblings I've never seen before. And being incredible writers has brought such a harmonious, unbelievable, wonderful relationship to the screen. You know, that helped us develop these characters so kind of quickly and thoroughly. I'm really excited about that

GROSS: I'm wondering if it's particularly fulfilling for you to work with Amy and Kim Schumer because so much of their writing has a kind of a gender awareness to it, a kind of feminist bent.


GROSS: And these are things that obviously rising to the surface and your concerns about, you know, pay equality, about nude photos, about how women are perceived. And of course, you're doing it as a comedy and not as like a speech (laughter).

LAWRENCE: Yeah, well, Amy and I both are...

GROSS: But still, you know, they bring - yeah, go ahead.

LAWRENCE: Amy and I are both share - Amy, Kim and I all kind of share similar politics. And, you know, they're brilliant. They're some of the smartest people I've ever met in my entire life. Amy is so incredibly observant - people, I mean, even my dog. She can imitate my dog perfectly. She's a very brilliant woman. And, yeah, and we didn't - the comedy, it's not very broad. It's got some feeling in it.

GROSS: Well, I look forward to seeing it.

LAWRENCE: Thank you.

GROSS: Thank you so much for talking with us. I've really enjoyed it.

LAWRENCE: Thank you. Thank you so much.

GROSS: Jennifer Lawrence stars in the new film "Joy" and in the fourth and final installment of "The Hunger Games." Tomorrow on FRESH AIR...


DAVID THEWLIS: (As Michael Stone) What is it to be human? What is it to ache? What is it to be alive?

GROSS: The new movie "Anomalisa," about loneliness and disconnection, is told through stop motion animation using puppets and miniature sets, but it looks oddly authentic. I'll talk with the film's directors, Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson. Kaufman also wrote "Anomalisa" as well as the films "Being John Malkovich," "Adaptation," and the "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." I hope you'll join us.

Copyright © 2015 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.