And seen her, moving around and smiling. She is an actress. An extremely talented one. No, really.
Jennifer Lawrence is hungry. It's 9:00 A.M., she's been up for an hour, and she hasn't eaten a thing. "I'm freakish about breakfast," she says, by which, thank God, she doesn't mean she wants an extra diet cookie. "You're not gonna order, like, fruit or something, are you?" she asks, with real concern. "Because I'm gonna eat." She orders the eggs Benedict without looking at the menu.
The place she chose to breakfast-up for this day of studio meetings ? she's got four of them, all in response to her performance in a Sundance breakout called Winter's Bone ? is a diner with a patio, which is where we sit. It's a beautiful morning in Santa Monica and she's got no reason to tuck into a booth. She doesn't even wear shades. Lawrence is at an enviable point in her career: The attention that comes with being an ascendant Hollywood actress ? the paparazzi, the romantic linkage to John Mayer, the ANOREXIC? headlines because she orders her hollandaise on the side, which, for the record, she does not ? is still a few months out. For now, she's just trying to enjoy a moment that never lasts long enough. But it didn't happen overnight.
Lawrence has been working steadily since she was discovered while visiting New York from Louisville with her mom five years ago. "A guy asked to take my picture," she says, with just a hint of her native Kentucky accent. "We probably should have realized how creepy that was." It led to her landing an agent, though, and she was eventually forced to choose between being, as she recalls, "a supermodel or a starving actress." She moved out to L. A. with her parents, who figured she'd soon give up in frustration. "They never would have let me try this if they'd known I'd be successful," she says. She landed a role on the sitcom The Bill Engvall Show and a starring role (alongside Charlize Theron) in Guillermo Arriaga's The Burning Plain.
No one out on the patio here recognizes Jennifer Lawrence from that stuff. In a couple of months, after her next two movies come out, that will change. For now it's enough to get recognized by the right people: Steven Spielberg stopped her in the hallway at DreamWorks the other week to ask if she was, in fact, the Jennifer Lawrence who starred in Winter's Bone.
The film is a bleak family mystery set in the Ozark Mountains. She plays Ree Dolly, a survival-minded teenager who has to find her meth-head dad in order to save her family home. It's her movie, no question ? she's in every single frame ? but she almost wasn't in it at all. The producers initially rejected her because she was too attractive. Director Debra Granik (Down to the Bone) was savvy enough to cover up her pretty lead with a wool cap pressed low on her head for much of the movie. But Lawrence's role demanded a lot more than some uglying-up. She handles her character with a balance of rural resignation and girlish fear, and she never loses her grip. It's the kind of place-specific performance Daniel Day-Lewis would spend a year cooking meth in the mountains to get just right.
This fall, Lawrence will appear in The Beaver, a dark comedy directed by Jodie Foster about a teacher (Mel Gibson) obsessed with his sock puppet (not a euphemism). It's another brooding role for Lawrence, so much so that her publicist wants to make sure no one forgets that she's also a woman who can, say, pull off a pictorial for Esquire. "I'm excited to be seen as sexy," she says. "But not slutty."
After this breakfast, she's headed straight to her first meeting. "The miserable ones are the ones where all the girls auditioning are in the same room," she says. "There's no talking in those rooms. I've tried." She's finally graduated from those calls, but the appointments are still a slog. A lot of making nice to execs ? a high-class problem, sure, but she's so new to Hollywood, it's hard not to sympathize. "Yesterday I had to do an interview. I was in a horrible mood. I couldn't think of basic words. I could see my publicist in the background, mouthing things to say. They want you to be likable all the time, and I'm just not."
She's beautiful, she can act, and she loves breakfast. Seems likable enough to us.