Jennifer Lawrence on Her New Movie, New Relationship, and How She Stays So Damn Relatable
VOGUE – Behold, a miracle: Jennifer Lawrence, sitting still.
It’s a warm evening in Los Angeles, and Lawrence and I are alongside a fire pit in the backyard of a Mediterranean-style home high in the hills, where the air smells of flowers, money, and the negligible carbon burned thoughtfully by electric cars. The chaos of Hollywood feels a zillion miles away.
This is not Lawrence’s actual home. It’s a rental. Lawrence’s real home “broke” while she was away—a madcap story involving crystals and . . . well, let Lawrence tell it:
“When I first moved in, the house was crystalled out—crystals everywhere, and geodes,” she explains. “And I was like, ‘Please get rid of these; I don’t want people to come over here and think I’m a crystal person.’ Not that there’s anything wrong with that!”
“But everyone told me, ‘You can’t do that. You can’t move them. You have to have the crystal lady who put them in move them. . . . ’ ”
You know where this is going. Lawrence did not get the crystal lady. “I just had all the crystals yanked out. Sold them. And then my fucking house flooded.”
“I hate crystals,” Lawrence says.
There are no crystals in the rental. There’s not much evidence Lawrence is living here, other than an oil painting of her dog, Pippi, over the fireplace. I’ve brought bourbon: a bottle of Old Grand-Dad, a nod to Lawrence’s Kentucky roots. It’s after 5:00 p.m. and we’re having one, because . . . wouldn’t you?
“This is delicious,” Lawrence says, pulling a blanket over her sweater and wide-leg Zimmermann pants.
And this booze cost only $19.99, I tell her.
“Wow,” she says, deadpan. “I shouldn’t be wasting this on you. I’m going to save it for company.”
A few days prior, Lawrence had visited with the acclaimed American painter John Currin for the work that appears opposite. “Pretty unbelievable,” she says. “He took photos, and posed me like one of those French girls. I think Pippi might actually be in some of them.”
Is she going to get the finished Currin?
“How do I broach that?” she asks. “Who else would want it?”
Lawrence laughs. She almost never does this: sit around, watch the fire, do not much of anything. At 26, Lawrence is already one of the most successful and exalted actors on the planet. She’s a four-time Oscar nominee and Best Actress winner (Silver Linings Playbook) who simultaneously built a history-making franchise (The Hunger Games) while costarring in another (X-Men). Next March, she’ll be seen in Red Sparrow, an action-thriller she made with her friend and Hunger Games director Francis Lawrence (no relation): In the film, Lawrence is a ballerina drafted into a Russian spy agency (newsy!) who falls in love with a CIA agent played by Joel Edgerton. Before that, in September, there’s the shrouded-in-secrecy Mother!—a tour de force from Darren Aronofsky, the filmmaking auteur and Lawrence’s boyfriend of the past year.
It’s an incredible run, groundbreaking in its creative and financial might, but Lawrence got there by working almost nonstop through her teens and 20s. “She’s a bit like a shark in that way—she needs to keep moving to stay alive,” says Francis Lawrence. “There’s part of me that can’t imagine Jen not working, or not working for long.” Lawrence herself has said that this is her metabolism, that she can’t stand the idea of “waking up with nothing to do or going to sleep without accomplishing anything.” Lately, however, she’s come around to the idea that a little bit of rest might be good.
You’ve said in interviews before that you don’t like time off.
“Yeah, that was ridiculous,” she says. “I was crazy. This is great.”
By now, you’ve probably read a thousand things about how Jennifer Lawrence is just like the rest of us, how she is exactly the kind of Hollywood non–head case you’d want to chill at a fire and share reasonably priced bourbon with. This is true. Amid a breezy conversation that ranges from the Moonlight/La La Land Oscars screw-up (“Everyone handled it gracefully, but fuck”) to whether or not it’s worth trying ayahuasca (She hasn’t: “I haven’t had the calling”) to Lawrence’s famous adoration of reality TV (“You can look at someone else’s life and say, ‘Well, obviously, you shouldn’t marry that guy,’ and it makes you feel like God for 30 minutes”), it’s easy to forget you’re in the company of someone now hailed as movie-industry royalty—a description that will surely cause Lawrence to draw a finger to her mouth and make the barf sign.
“I’m not sure she has the capacity to be anyone but herself,” says Lawrence’s best friend, Justine Ciarrocchi, one of her roommates back in their shared-apartment/ramen-noodles days. “You can’t go wrong being yourself, as cheesy as that might sound.”
Lawrence’s normality is one of her signatures, so much so that the singer Ariana Grande spoofed it on a Saturday Night Live “Celebrity Family Feud” sketch with an impression (“They told me not to do a game show, but I was like, ‘Screw it, I can have fun, I’m a regular person’ ”). Lawrence praises Grande’s take as “spot-fucking-on”—even if she takes issue with the notion that she’s ever described herself as a “regular person.”
“That’s what other people have said,” she says. “If I’d said, ‘I’m a regular person,’ I’d want to kill myself.”
Blunt is still a fair word to describe Lawrence, and it’s delightful to experience. Trust me: There are actors who get paralyzed about ordering lunch in front of an interviewer for fear of saying the wrong thing. Such anxiety does not grip Lawrence. This is not to say she doesn’t worry about blowback or misinterpretation or the types of things she might say if she had another Old Grand-Dad, but she can be deliciously, admirably truthful. “She has no filter and will say anything out loud that comes to mind,” says Michelle Pfeiffer, one of Lawrence’s costars on Mother!, who calls her “wicked smart.”
“I like how clear Jen is,” says Lawrence’s friend Emma Stone, who, as it turns out, was here at the house the night before. “She makes her opinions very, very clear to me, all the time—whether I ask for it or not.” Stone laughs. “I appreciate that quality. She’s just fun, a shot of light.”
It says a lot about Hollywood culture (or all culture these days) that what it takes for someone to be considered “real” is a habit of honesty. But if asked, Lawrence will give a respectably straight answer on, say, her 2016 sci-fi film Passengers, which was a box-office success despite a thumping from critics—she’s proud of it but agrees with those who suggested the film would have benefited from a reedit and started with her character waking up. “I’m disappointed in myself that I didn’t spot it,” she says. “I thought the script was beautiful—it was this tainted, complicated love story. It definitely wasn’t a failure. I’m not embarrassed by it by any means. There was just stuff that I wished I’d looked into deeper before jumping on.”
Then there’s Lawrence’s pithy reaction to her sole celebrity dustup (if you can call it a dustup) from the past year, when she was videotaped—somebody alert Interpol—pole dancing at a birthday party in Vienna, Austria.
I wish I could convey the full-body eye roll that Lawrence does when talking about this weeks later. I don’t blame her.
“My biggest fear from that whole thing was that people were going to think that I was trying to be sexy,” she says.
“Also, it looked like I had taken my shirt off. I was in a crop top. I did not take off my shirt. I’m on the phone with my lawyers, and everybody’s like, ‘Is there anything we need to know before it comes out?’ And I’m like, ‘No, it’s all there.’ ”
Lawrence wrote a hilarious Facebook post on the “controversy”—“I’m not going to apologize, I had a BLAST that night”—but the episode was still jarring. She has already endured the awfulness of having personal intimate photos hacked and leaked, a felony that she forcefully spoke out against but that has left her on edge.
“It’s scary when you feel the whole world judges you,” she says. “I think people saw [the hacking] for what it was, which was a sex crime, but that feeling, I haven’t been able to get rid of it. Having your privacy violated constantly isn’t a problem if you’re perfect. But if you’re human, it’s terrifying. When my publicist calls me, I’m like, ‘Oh, my God, what is it?’ Even when it’s nothing. I’m always waiting to get blindsided again.”
This is now an insta-judgment Instagram world, of course. Lawrence tries to regulate it when she can—for example, she’s stopped trying to placate every selfie request. “I’m happy to meet people, give autographs, shake hands, and say ‘Thank you,’ ” she says. “I wouldn’t have a job if people weren’t going to see my movies. It’s just . . . if I’m on an airplane and I have no makeup on, I don’t want to take a selfie that’s going to end up on E!”
Lawrence’s beloved Pippi rambles out to where we’re sitting, which makes her nervous because the dog is smaller than a toaster, and up here in the hills, there are all kinds of predators who might enjoy a delicious Pippi sandwich.
“Coyotes, bigger dogs, rattlesnakes, big crows,” Lawrence says. “Every 20 minutes I have a heart attack. I’m going to be a great mother.”
The next time I see Lawrence, it’s in Brooklyn, where she has gamely agreed to join me for more stillness: specifically, a visit to a sensory deprivation–tank spa called Lift. Here’s the basic idea: You enter a room (alone), strip down, step into a handsome white tank that looks a little like an early-generation iPod, and close the lid. You float there by yourself, in darkness, for an hour, just you and your thoughts, and, if you like, a little mood music. It’s pretty trippy.
It also may be completely the wrong time to do this, because Lawrence has just seen Mother!
What shall we say about Mother!? What can we say? Lawrence chooses her words carefully, as will I. There’s an obsessive code of secrecy about the film, which I’ve agreed to honor. I wish I could give you a few basics—that Mother! is about, say, sea horses from outer space who take over the White House, but I can’t. (OK: It is not about sea horses from outer space who take over the White House.)
The public’s first clue as to what lurks inside Mother! was a gorgeous but gory movie poster painted by artist James Jean, in which Lawrence is depicted lifting her bloody heart out of her ripped-open chest.
Wait, what? It only raised more questions.
“The themes are just huge,” Lawrence says. “They’re. . . . ” She pauses. “I can’t use the word I want to use, but the movie is unique.”
I’ll say this: Mother! is an unsettling, multilayered film in which Lawrence gives a devastatingly beautiful performance that is equal parts vulnerability and rage and unlike anything she’s done before. The film jarred me for days after I saw it, and I want—need—to see it again. I think it’s going to be the kind of film that people argue about at dinner parties for months, if not years.
I also can’t believe I took Lawrence to a sensory-deprivation tank after she saw it. That’s not the place you want to be.
This is what Aronofsky does, of course. A celebrated director (Pi, Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan), the 48-year-old Brooklyn native has never been afraid of challenging the audience. “I think [Mother!] works as a truthful, realistic relationship movie . . . but also works on an allegorical plane, too,” the soft-spoken director tells me in a New York City editing suite in early summer. At the moment, only a handful of people have seen the film, and Aronofsky is cautious about saying anything revealing. “Different people will see it different ways, and I’m always inspired by films you remember and are still talking about a few days later.”
After writing the script in a flurry—five days, he says—Aronofsky was thrilled to get Lawrence for the part, considering her hectic schedule and the fact that Mother! would begin with three months of rehearsals in a Brooklyn warehouse involving the primary cast, which besides Lawrence and Pfeiffer includes Javier Bardem and Ed Harris.
“To get that type of commitment from an actor is hard,” he says. “To get it from the biggest actors in the world is really, really hard. It was an amazing luxury to have that much time.”
Lawrence admits she wasn’t a rehearsal person before making Mother! but says that the process made her the most “in tune” she’s ever been with a character. Aronofsky describes Lawrence’s process during rehearsal as almost low-key—“She’s in a very Zen, peaceful gear”—and says she didn’t unleash the full arsenal of her performance until cameras were rolling.
“It’s such a raw, natural talent she has,” he continues, with a touch of wonderment. “I always kind of compare her to Michael Jordan.”
“She’s a very brave actress with no boundaries and doesn’t need to be hurt in order to create pain,” says Bardem, adding that Lawrence has the “strength of a bull. . . . She’s truly committed to go as far as needed.”
“I hate talking about acting because it’s so hard to talk about it without sounding like a douche,” Lawrence says in her ever-Lawrence way. But she says there were moments in Mother! that were unlike anything she’d experienced as a performer. “I had to go to a darker place than I’ve ever been in my life. . . . I didn’t know if I’d be able to come out OK.”
One moment during filming got so intense, Lawrence says, that she hyperventilated and dislocated a rib. “I ended up getting on oxygen,” she says. “I have oxygen tubes in my nostrils, and Darren’s like, ‘It was out of focus; we’ve got to do it again.’ And I was just like, ‘Go fuck yourself.’ ”
Wanting to protect Lawrence’s well-being amid that darkness, some of the Mother! crew assembled a “Kardashian tent” for the actress off set—a refuge where she could get away from the work and decompress with her chatty friends from reality TV. “It was a tent that had pictures of the Kardashians and Keeping Up with the Kardashians playing on a loop—and gumballs,” Lawrence says. “My happy place.”
(“I wasn’t involved in that,” says Aronofsky. “I was like, ‘What are you talking about, ‘the Kardashians?’ ”)
Not long after Mother! wrapped, stories began circulating that Lawrence and Aronofsky were an item. Lawrence says the pair began seeing each other after the movie finished.
“We had energy,” Lawrence says, then adds drily: “I had energy for him. I don’t know how he felt about me.”
We’ve finished our hour in sensory-deprivation tanks and have stopped for a cup of coffee up the street. Lawrence says her tank experience was mostly positive until the end, when she realized she’d spun herself around and couldn’t find the hatch opening, and had a brief moment of panic until she located it and got out. “Disorienting,” she says. “But other than that, I had a lovely time.”
The truth is, she can’t stop thinking about Mother! She’d sat with Aronofsky and watched it just a couple of hours before. She’d gone in bracing for the darkness but was taken with how beautiful she found it.
“When I saw the movie, I was reminded all over again how brilliant he is,” she says of Aronofsky. “For the past year, I’ve been dealing with him as just a human.” She praises Aronofsky as an “amazing father” (the director has a son from a prior relationship with the actress Rachel Weisz) and for his directness of purpose. “I’ve been in relationships before where I am just confused. And I’m never confused with him.”
Lawrence and Aronofsky do seem like opposites in some ways, and there’s the age difference, but the partnership clearly appears to be working. “I normally don’t like Harvard people, because they can’t go two minutes without mentioning that they went to Harvard,” she says. “He’s not like that.”
Lawrence’s reality-television obsession, however, continues to cause a bit of an impasse with Aronofsky.
“He just finds it so vastly disappointing,” she says, then laughs.
In recent years, Lawrence has found herself at the front of the growing discussion over gender pay inequality in moviemaking and the workplace in general. Her own awakening happened, oddly, because of a hack: The infiltration of Sony emails in 2014 revealed that Lawrence’s compensation for the film American Hustle had been less than that of her male costars. Rather than staying silent, she chose to speak publicly about it, writing a funny but pointed essay for Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner’s “Lenny Letter” in which she lamented getting paid “less . . . than the lucky people with dicks,” and railed against the idea of women being expected to be polite in negotiation, lest they be called “difficult.”
“I’m over trying to find the ‘adorable’ way to state my opinion and still be likable,” Lawrence wrote. “Fuck that. I don’t think I’ve ever worked for a man in charge who spent time contemplating what angle he should use to have his voice heard. It’s just heard.”
What made Lawrence’s letter go viral was not only its authenticity (it was, word for word, pure Lawrence) but that the criticism was coming from someone in a presumed position of power: Lawrence has been one of the most successful and highest-paid actors for several years now. In 2015 and 2016, Forbes placed her at the top of its list of highest-paid actresses, thanks largely to Hunger Games and X-Men. If she was still vulnerable to being taken advantage of, what actress was not?
“My thing with talking about pay equality is not—I use myself as an example, but that’s not what I’m talking about, obviously,” Lawrence says. “I’m not talking about actresses getting paid millions less than their male costars.” Rather, she says, she saw the moment as an opportunity to address a gender pay gap that exists in almost any work environment. If critics shouted, “Shut up and act!” so be it.
“My opinion is: You can have millions of dollars and a dream career, but if you’re not willing to stand up for what you believe, or if you see wrongdoing and don’t talk about it, then you have nothing,” Lawrence says.
“It’s the opposite of ‘Shut up and act!’ If you have a voice, use it. I don’t want to go into the grave just being like, ‘Well, I introduced the world to the Hunger Games movies and I bought a house on Coldwater! Goodnight!’ For me, it’s worth the criticism. The more criticism I get, the more the conversation is happening.”
Meanwhile, amid these rancorous political times, Lawrence has become a board member of an organization called Represent.Us, which seeks to pass anticorruption laws in local, state, and national government. There are conservative as well as liberal voices in the organization, which Lawrence likes. “If you’re a Republican, if you’re liberal, it doesn’t matter,” she says. The goal is “getting money and corruption out of politics” and “freeing our democracy.”
Lawrence is no fan of the current Trump administration, but “there needs to be a bridge,” she says. “We can’t continue this divide and anger. There are issues affecting us as human beings, not as liberals and not as Republicans. We have to protect the foundation of this country, and acceptance. If you’re preaching acceptance, accept immigrants, accept Muslims, accept everybody.”
Soon Lawrence was set to begin filming another X-Men, her fourth installment of the Marvel juggernaut (She jokes about what it’s like to be in such a special effects–driven movie. “When I do an X-Men movie, I have no idea what is going on,” she confesses. “Then I see it and I’m like, ‘Whoa! Cool!’ ”). She took a summer trip to Paris for the couture shows and a photo shoot as a face of Dior, a label partner she loves but an environment that still feels surreal to her. She’s excited by the installment of former Valentino boss Maria Grazia Chiuri as Dior’s artistic director. “The new stuff has been really amazing, cool and young,” she says. “She’s awesome.” (There’s also an episode in June when a plane Lawrence is flying on suffers a double engine failure and is forced to make an emergency landing—nobody’s hurt, but the incident is understandably frightening.)
After X-Men, Lawrence is likely to move on to one of a handful of impressive-looking projects. Among the films she’s tied to are a Steven Spielberg movie about the wartime photographer Lynsey Addario, whom Lawrence has already spent time shadowing, and one about Zelda Fitzgerald directed by Ron Howard. There’s also Adam McKay’s take on the Silicon Valley Theranos scandal unmasked by Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou (Lawrence is attached to play Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes). And she was recently spotted having a lunch meeting with Quentin Tarantino, who is reportedly at work on a script about the Manson Family murders.
Oh, and there’s the Untitled Jennifer Lawrence/Amy Schumer Project. The Internet lost its mind a couple of years ago when Lawrence befriended Schumer after seeing Trainwreck, and the pair were photographed riding on a Jet Ski together and said to be collaborating on a script.
“We’re meeting with directors,” Lawrence says. She describes the plot as “dysfunctional twins. But it’s sad. Then funny.”
“She’s the funniest person I’ve ever met,” Lawrence says of Schumer. “She’s also an amazing dramatic actress, which I want to bring out.”
“Jen is funny like a comic,” Schumer writes in an email. “She understands the rhythm of a joke and how to play both the straight man and the idiot. She has one of the darkest senses of humor I’ve ever encountered and it’s delightful. My only problem with her is that she’s fat.”
For Hollywood, a Lawrence/Schumer caper would be a dream combination—and a reminder that for all that Jennifer Lawrence has accomplished so far, so quickly, there are still so many places left she can go. Lawrence jokes that after her next flurry of films she’ll need to take some more time off (“The American public—the international public—will need a break from me . . . even the aliens are annoyed”), but it’s obvious she loves what she does. A bourbon by the fire is nice, but let’s be real. You can only sit still for so long.