There were small stacks of clothes covering the carpeted floor of Jennifer Lawrence’s bedroom in her duplex in Santa Monica. Downstairs, it was tidy and suburban cozy: The couch was overstuffed, family snapshots were stuck on a corkboard, there was a cantaloupe in the fruit bowl waiting to ripen. Upstairs, it was organized chaos. “I call this the International Quarters,” Lawrence said, on a cloudy day this past June, as she stood among the neatly folded piles of shorts and pants and shoes and sweaters. She was wearing skinny jeans, a hip-length white undershirt, and a waist-length black jacket. Lawrence is tall and curvy, and her long blond hair was twisted into a loose bun. The overall effect, like the apartment, was chronologically schizophrenic. Although she just turned 20, Lawrence can seamlessly switch from her young self—an actress who just may be the best of her generation—to her mature, almost parental self. “I don’t feel young,” she said as she surveyed the room.
There were stylist-sanctioned gowns hanging in their pristine plastic shells, with Baggies full of jewelry attached; scripts were piled everywhere; and the bed was unmade. “It may not look like it, but I do have things organized,” Lawrence continued. She pointed to the piles on the floor: “These are my flying clothes. I just pick them up from each pile and put them in the suitcase and then put them back in the piles when I come home. Lately I haven’t had any time to put things away. There’s no point—I’m always leaving.”
A few days earlier, Lawrence had returned from Scotland, where Winter’s Bone, in which she stars, was shown at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. In the movie, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, Lawrence plays Ree Dolly, a willful and fearless 17-year-old who must fend for her two younger siblings and find her missing father. The film is set in the Missouri Ozarks, which is its own world, full of rituals and secrets. Ree is searching for the truth behind those mysteries, and her quest puts her life in peril. Lawrence perfectly captures the stubborn courage of the character, as well as her sense of adulthood and responsibility. “The movie would be unimaginable with anyone less charismatic playing Ree,” David Denby wrote in The New Yorker. “She’s more believable as a heroic character than any of the men we’ve seen peacocking through movies recently.”
Initially, Debra Granik, the director of Winter’s Bone, felt that Lawrence was too pretty for the gritty role of Ree Dolly. “They told me that my look wasn’t right,” Lawrence said as she headed downstairs to her kitchen. “And my agent acted like that was the end of it. I said, ‘It’s not.’ I flew to New York that night and auditioned again. I made them see me. And I apparently looked pretty bad from flying on the red-eye—my look didn’t seem wrong anymore.” Lawrence paused. “There are actresses who build themselves, and then there are actresses who are built by others,” she said. “I want to build myself.”