Jennifer Lawrence plays Ree Dolly in Winter's Bone.
Interview with the star of Winter's Bone
Jun 25, 2010 Web Exclusive
In her most recent films, 19-year-old Jennifer Lawrence has portrayed resilient, mature-minded teens who, by default, have assumed the mother role in their respective families. In Winter's Bone, which won the Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic at the Sundance Film Festival in January, Lawrence plays Ree Dolly, an impoverished 17-year-old living in the Missouri Ozarks who is hellbent on keeping her preteen brother and sister out of the hands of unreliable surrogate parents. Though Lawrence is the youngest in her family, she admits that her maternal instincts are evident in real life. "I've always been a babysitter and a nanny," she says. "All my friends call me mom."
In the last three years, Lawrence has taken on a string of heavy, dramatic film roles—a trend uncommon for an actress her age. However, she doesn't consider herself a serious person. For three seasons, she appeared on the sitcom The Bill Engvall Show as Engvall's daughter Lauren. "The Bill Engvall Show, I'm so grateful for it," Lawrence says. "I had so much fun on that show, and we all became like family. It funded my indie career, so I could do the movies that I want."
That strategy has paid dividends for Lawrence. In 2008, she won an Outstanding Performance award at the Los Angeles Film Festival for The Poker House, in which she played a high-school student who is raped in her home by her mother's pimp. The same year, Lawrence's supporting role in The Burning Plain earned her the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best New Young Actress at the Venice Film Festival. And earlier this month, Lawrence was awarded Best Actress at the Seattle International Film Festival for her lead performance in Winter's Bone.
Winter's Bone was adapted by director Debra Granik and co-screenwriter Anne Rossellini from Daniel Woodrell's novel of the same name. In the film, Ree's father has gone missing after putting the family home up for his bail bond. He was arrested for cooking meth, and Ree has about a week to find him or prove that he's dead. If she fails, she, her younger siblings and their catatonic mother will be forced to scatter and find dwelling elsewhere. To preserve her fragile family unit, Ree battles the elements of the woods and the lies of both family members and locals who fear that helping Ree will incriminate them. For Lawrence, whose character traverses woodsy hills throughout the film, the outdoor filming during the months of February and March presented the biggest physical adversity. "It was very, very, very cold," she says. "That was challenging."
A Louisville native, Lawrence wanted to act at an early age. "I was never shy," she says. "I've just always loved stories, in any way, shape or form. TV, movies, books, writing. If I was in the car, and I had no way to any of those things, my parents had to tell me one story after another after another. So now I get to tell stories for the rest of my life."
Though Lawrence played a skilled high-school basketball player in The Poker House, she never became immersed in her home state's passionate basketball culture and says her athleticism "sprouted from hyperness." "I'm not a sports fan," she confesses. "I put up with it, because I have brothers, so I know I would never change the channel on a game or ever complain about a game, but I've never gotten into sports."
Lawrence next can be seen as Nora in Jodie Foster's directorial effort The Beaver, which stars Mel Gibson and Foster. "Nora is a high-school girl, who used to be a kind of undercover graffiti artist, but her brother died, and she kinda felt the need to take his place and became the perfect child and the valedictorian and the cheerleader," Lawrence explains. "And that's when she meets Anton Yelchin to help her write her valedictorian speech, and they both fall in love and have a very explosive love story."
Update: Lawrence is unable to attend the July 3 Q&A. Jennifer Lawrence and co-star John Hawkes will appear in person for a Q&A after the 7:35 p.m. screening of Winter's Bone at the Arclight Cinemas in Hollywood on Saturday, July 3.
Jennifer Lawrence will appear in person for a Q&A after the 7:40 p.m. screening of Winter's Bone at the Arclight Cinemas in Hollywood on Saturday, June 26.