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 a bout of laughter. “The applause was sweet, but really it was like, ‘Let’s move on.’ ”
And move on she did, back in theaters 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’ best-selling 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 at a “Catching Fire” media event. “There is not really a lot of thought. 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 2008 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. I’m just rolling with it.”
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 averted 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. It’s pretty rare to be able to do it to the level that she can.”
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. “A girl can only take so much!” she sighed.
Returning to theaters 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 will be appearances in “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and “Dumber and Dumber To.”
And as if she wasn’t busy enough, Lawrence will soon go behind the camera as producer of the adaptation of Jeanette Walls’ 2005 best-selling memoir, “The Glass Castle.” “I don’t know if I will be any good,” Lawrence said, “but I’m trying it.”
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.”
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen and Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark in a scene from “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.”×
Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” cast members Josh Hutcherson (from left), Liam Hemsworth and Jennifer Lawrence pose for a portrait with director Francis Lawrence at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif.×