Talent and Oscars are one thing, but in Hollywood, box office is king. First Class was a solid hit, and Hunger Games became the highest-grossing movie ever made built primarily around a female lead (second-highest if you call Titanic Kate Winslet’s movie). Lionsgate and Fox have Lawrence locked into their billion-dollar franchises, but even they have to acknowledge and adjust to her growing clout. Last April, Fox pushed back its start date for Days of Future Past, sidestepping a scheduling conflict with Catching Fire, which filmed last fall and just wrapped reshoots. Days of Future Past finally gets underway April 14 in Montreal, and Lawrence’s character is expected to play a larger role in the sequel, though Singer says that was always the plan and nothing has been changed plotwise to showcase her presence.
“You have to be careful not to suddenly lean the movie all towards her just for her rise in popularity,” Singer says. “It has to work for the character. She’d be the first person to argue that. It’s an ensemble movie. It’s definitely not suddenly her movie, but she factors in it significantly. She’s going to be more bad-ass in this movie, which will be nice. A lot more bad-ass than Hunger Games. Which will be fun to see, because she’s very feisty, as you may have noticed in Silver Linings.”
Lawrence isn’t a brand, per se, like Julia or Angelina. There isn’t yet such a thing as a “Jennifer Lawrence” Movie because she’s still doing so many things. She’s dabbled in horror with House at the End of the Street — which came on the heels of Hunger Games and flopped. She was perfectly lovely playing the Other Girl in the sweet Sundance romance, Like Crazy, opposite Yelchin and Felicity Jones. Neither were star-making roles in any sense, but that may not be a major focus for Lawrence. “I don’t know that she really cares about being famous,” says Ross. “I think she loves to inhabit a role, and she’s great at it. She loves doing her job, but I don’t think the trappings of fame or success are really what drive Jennifer at all.”
“In an industry where people are so worried about everything and put such importance on the process it takes to get ready for the Academy Awards — like what was your process to put on a dress and take a shower? — she understands the lack of importance of that,” says Singer, who got to know Lawrence better in England during the filming of Jack the Giant Slayer, which stars Lawrence’s now ex-boyfriend Nicholas Hoult. “She doesn’t care what people think about her, what she looks like, her weight, her attitude, her anything. She just doesn’t.”
Might that be her one fatal flaw? After all, Tom Cruise and Angelina Jolie are not accidental successes; they are self-motivated to extreme, uncompromising, worldwide artistic domination. A more realistic model for Lawrence might be her friend Jodie Foster, who’s mixed personal films with the occasional edgy thriller, like Panic Room and Flightplan. But Foster famously said goodbye to Clarice Starling after one classic movie; Lawrence is wed to Katniss for three more. (That’s a safe bet for at least $1.2 billion in Lionsgate’s coffers, just from the domestic box-office alone.) Could that juice alone propel her to the upper Hollywood stratosphere — whether she cares or not — just as Batman did for the enigmatic Christian Bale?
“The proof is in the choices and in the material and in her desire to be an action star,” says Singer. “Or will she want a diverse career? In a diverse career you don’t always get those big paychecks. That’s a choice. And the choice will be half hers and half the audience’s.”
Lawrence’s next movie is Serena, a Depression-era drama with Bradley Cooper due in September. After completing Days of Future Past, Lawrence plans to reunite with Cooper and director David O. Russell again for a still-untitled movie about a 1970s FBI sting operation. She’s also attached to Russell’s The Ends of the Earth and another film based on gossip columnist Jeanette Walls’ memoir, The Glass Castle, but both remain in development. She certainly has the safety net of the Hunger Games — with a reported $10 million salary for Catching Fire — to go the eclectic route, but as the gender landscape of Hollywood has changed, Lawrence is positioned to raise the ceiling on what is possible. Charlize Theron, who produced and co-starred with Lawrence in 2009′s The Burning Plain, told EW she was “crushed into silence” when she first encountered Lawrence’s audition tape. “When we first met in person it was so clear that this girl was going to take over the world,” she said.
Lawrence is the heir to many great acting legacies, and it’s fun to hear insiders rip off names of the iconic actresses they most see in her work: Julia, Jodie, and Charlize, of course, but also Shirley MacLaine and Meryl Streep. “I think she’s one of those actresses that you’re going to absolutely going to look back on,” says Glasser. “It’s like when you look 30 years back at Meryl Streep, you think of Sophie’s Choice and Kramer vs. Kramer. Thirty years from now, you’ll look back and you’ll say Silver Linings and Winter’s Bone. You’ll be having that same conversation about her 30 years from now.”
But could Lawrence be something new, something even “bigger” than the world’s undisputed greatest actress who has 17 Oscar nominations and three statues? “These kind of franchises didn’t exist in the [glory] days, the way the studio system used to work,” says Singer. “She’s totally unique, being in both these big franchises, and also the Academy Award, the age, the previous nomination, the whole damn thing. It’s almost weird. It’s almost like, ‘Do I know this person? I do! Wow! How cool! How cool for me!’”