With Jennifer Lawrence, it’s always going to be a candid interview. She is currently promoting Causeway, the first film she’s ever produced, in which she also stars, and in a new profile with Kyle Buchanan for the New York Times, she talks about how the project is the culmination of what she’s been through professionally and personally.
Just as it was with her Vogue cover story last month, in which she spoke with startling honesty about the complicated relationship she has with her family who evidently do not support reproductive rights, which is human rights, and equal rights. She put her relatives on blast, and that includes her parents. So while the purpose of that Vogue interview was professional, Jennifer got really, really personal. In this interview with the NYT, she’s still personal, but the personal details are more of a framework for a conversation about her professional choices. And the candour is, as usual, present and accounted for.
JLaw has been thinking about her professional identity. She has been trying to redefine her professional identity and, at the same time, her relationship to fame. Jennifer Lawrence became famous fast; she was just 19 years old and nominated for an Oscar for her work in Winter’s Bone. After that she was cast as Katniss Everdeen, at which point, like all big movie stars at her level, she could no longer control how she was perceived in the public eye.
It must be a mindf-ck, right? To be in your 20s, trying to figure out who you were as millions of people are deciding who they think you are? That’s why she has separated “Jennifer Lawrence” from herself privately. Now that she’s married, she’s taken on her husband’s last name. As she explains:
“God, I had such a feminist meltdown about changing my name because it’s my identity, it’s the first thing I’m given.” But ultimately, she liked the idea that by sharing a different last name with her husband and son, she would be able to toggle more easily between her own world and her public persona.
“I was born with the name Jennifer Lawrence, but that got taken from me when I was 21 and I never got it back,” she said. “So it didn’t feel like I was giving up anything. That name already belongs to them.”
Who does she picture now if asked to visualize Jennifer Lawrence? She thought about the question for a moment.
“Jennifer Lawrence is Katniss Everdeen, I guess,” she said. “Is that weird?”
It is weird, of course it’s weird. But being a celebrity is weird. Knowing that most people know you but you don’t know them is weird. Having to separate that life from real life, then, is indeed weird, but it’s also necessary. It’s necessary for Jennifer as a person, but it’s also necessary for Jennifer as an actor.
This is why she hit pause on her career for a few years. “I felt like more of a celebrity than an actor,” she says. And it wasn’t just because she was treated that way by the public, there were people on her team who treated her that way too.
“I found out that a lot of filmmakers that I really loved and admired had scripts that weren’t even reaching me,” she said.
Eventually, Lawrence realized that too many people were involved in making the decisions that should have been hers alone, and in August 2018, as she wrapped reshoots for the “X-Men” film “Dark Phoenix,” she left CAA, the agency that represented her for 10 years.
“I had let myself be hijacked,” she said.
In doing so, in letting herself be hijacked, she prioritised strategy over creativity in choosing her projects. And here’s the part in the interview where she namechecks the movies that she’s been in that she now knows she said yes to out of a misplaced desire to remain relevant.
“Lawrence had stopped listening to her gut and begun picking projects from a defensive crouch. “Everything was like a rebound effect,” she said. “I was reacting, rather than just acting.” She followed the too-glossy “Passengers” with Darren Aronofsky’s ultra-harrowing “Mother!,” then made the sexy spy thriller “Red Sparrow” to prove she’d graduated from her young-adult roots. And though they produced diminishing returns, she kept starring in “X-Men” movies because hey, when you’re a movie star, aren’t you supposed to be making superhero sequels? Seemed like part of the deal.”
Jennifer Lawrence certainly wouldn’t be the first actor to go down this road and eventually jump off. But she is one of the few who can discuss it so honestly, to admit that she succumbed to the “Hollywood way”, the “fame way”. But then again, few can resist that lure, right? Fame is a powerful drug.
In order to get away from that intoxication, Jennifer stepped away. And now she feels more in control of her celebrity and her career. Part of that, of course, is getting older and gaining more perspective. But that perspective was shaped from taking time away, from intentionally leaving the spotlight, refusing to be seduced by the siren song of celebrity, the compulsion for more. That’s a choice she made for herself. And she’s better for it.
Another choice she’s made is, apparently, walking away from playing Elizabeth Holmes in Bad Blood, the long-awaited biopic from Adam McKay.
Jennifer Lawrence will no longer star as Elizabeth Holmes in Adam McKay's BAD BLOOD, she told me. She came to that conclusion after watching Amanda Seyfried play Holmes in "The Dropout": "I thought she was terrific. I was like, 'Yeah, we don't need to redo that.' She did it."— Kyle Buchanan (@kylebuchanan) November 2, 2022
Not sure if Adam knows this yet but if this is true, it’s another good decision.
Read Jennifer Lawrence’s full interview in the NYT here.
Attached - Jennifer in New York with her baby over the past few days.