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'Down-to-earth' star taking fame in stride

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Jennifer  Lawrence was initially reluctant to take on the role of Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games series.

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Jennifer Lawrence was initially reluctant to take on the role of Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games series.

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- It's not always easy being an Oscar-winner.

When Jennifer Lawrence returned to the set of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire after winning the best-actress Academy Award for last year's Silver Linings Playbook, she was treated to a round of applause.

Then the teasing began.

"I kind of wish just the Hunger Games group didn't know about (the award) because anytime I mess up my lines, Woody (Harrelson) is like, 'Ya better give that Oscar back!' " said Lawrence.

"But when I got back, I told everybody that things were going to be very, very different," the actress said, puffing out her chest before bursting into laughter. "The applause was sweet, but really it was like, "Let's move on.' "

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Move on she did, back in theatres this weekend as heroine Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games: Catching Fire sequel. Although the role isn't traditional Oscar material, playing a bow and arrow-bearing fighter in the screen adaptation of Suzanne Collins' bestselling trilogy also isn't hurting Lawrence's established Oscar track.

"I don't really look for something (like Oscar potential) when I sit down to read a script," Lawrence said in a recent interview. "It's a bizarre instinctual and emotional thing that just hits me."

Able to tackle dramatic and comedy roles with ease -- both in studio blockbusters and smaller independent films -- Lawrence says her continued universal success wasn't by design.

"It just sort of happened and everybody complimented me on it," said the actress. "I started out in indies and I always imagined myself being in smaller movies for the rest of my career. Then Hunger Games came along and I was in a big pickle. I would have done it in a heartbeat if it were an indie, but it was giant! I had to take a few days to think about it."

Lawrence accepted the role largely because of her fondness for the strong-spirited lead character. "The stakes are high for her," said the actress. "It's exciting to have a female hero like this. It says a lot about our society."

Though she was already on Hollywood's radar after starring in the acclaimed 2010 drama Winter's Bone, which gained her an Oscar nomination, Lawrence said Hunger Games raised the bar. "It took everything to a different place that I could have never imagined. And the (Oscar) did wonderful things for my career. "

Deemed Hollywood's "normal" girl, Lawrence's accessible personality contributes to her demand. She endearingly stumbled while accepting her Oscar in February. She refuses to starve to fit the entertainment industry's ideals of beauty. And at the Nov. 11 premiere of Catching Fire in London, Lawrence diverted from the red carpet to embrace a teary-eyed fan in a wheelchair.

"It's refreshing," said Lawrence's Hunger Games co-star Liam Hemsworth of the actress' disposition. "She's not trying to be anything she's not and she's got one of the biggest hearts of anyone I've ever met."

Adds Catching Fire director Francis Lawrence (no relation): "Jen is such a down-to-earth goofball that she sets the bar for everybody. She doesn't take herself too seriously. She's able to do an intense scene. Then she'll stop and joke."

Does she take pride in being so relatable? "Not really, because I never really meant to," said Lawrence, who's ditched her skirt and heels and has changed into a pair of sweats for her late afternoon interview.

Returning to theatres Dec. 18, Lawrence will share the screen with veteran actors Robert De Niro and Christian Bale in David O. Russell's 1970s corruption tale American Hustle.

She admits working with the seasoned cast made her nervous. "But Christian is the nicest and made me feel so normal and welcome," said Lawrence. The film was also a chance to again work with Russell, her Silver Linings director. "He's like creative epinephrine," she said.

Next up for Lawrence are roles X-Men: Days of Future Past and Dumber and Dumber To.

Lawrence will soon go behind the camera as producer of the adaptation of Jeanette Walls' 2005 bestselling memoir, The Glass Castle.

Feeling "very satisfied" with the course of her career thus far, Lawrence said she's yet to reach her professional sweet spot. "I don't feel like I've gotten to a place where I am like 'Oh, yes!"' said the actress. "But I've always just had, fortunately, a very relaxed way about all of it."

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 22, 2013 D8

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