As a way of celebrating this year’s nominees for the Spirit Awards in the weeks leading up to the ceremony, we reached out to as many as we could in an effort to better understand what went into their films, what they’ve gotten out of the experience, and where they’ve found their inspiration, both in regards to their work and other works of art that might’ve inspired them from the past year. Their answers will be published on a daily basis throughout February.
One of the recurring oddities of awards season is reconciling the actors and actresses who walk the red carpet with the roles they so thoroughly inhabited that got them honored in the first place. For Jennifer Lawrence, the difference has been particularly stark, radiating old school Hollywood glamour as she’s strolled through one ceremony after another in recent months for her performance in “Winter’s Bone” where as the steely Ree Dolly, she couldn’t be further away in the Ozarks. However, what makes it easier to reconcile the two is knowing the other things Lawrence radiates – an intelligence and inner strength – that makes Ree no victim and the actress no ordinary thespian.
In both circumstances, it took someone to recognize this and put in the proper context. Just as Ree has John Hawkes’ enigmatic Teardrop aid her on her quest to find her father, Lawrence has Debra Granik to guide her after proving to be herself to be one of the most exciting actresses of her generation with searing, if underseen turns in “The Burning Plain” and “The Poker House.” Dressed in layer upon layer of baggy clothing, the weight of Ree’s attire in “Winter’s Bone” is no match for the burden she carries throughout the film, tending to her incapacitated mother and her young brother and sister while navigating the backwoods of Missouri, strewn with abandoned cars and farm equipment and knee deep in meth labs and in-laws she’d prefer not to see again.
Incidentally, it was Lawrence’s own mother who was the first to realize she’d make a fine Ree Dolly while reading Daniel Woodrell’s original novel long before she ever auditioned for Granik. (There might have been second thoughts if she knew it entailed an education in skinning squirrels and handling rifles, both of which Lawrence had to learn during preparation for the film.) Still, there’s no doubt that good instincts run in the family since with a script where every word counts, Granik and co-screenwriter Anne Rosellini don’t let Lawrence convey as much verbally as the actress does for herself with not much more than her piercing set of blue eyes and a world-weary hunch that few teenagers could (or should) ever shoulder. In the same spirit, Lawrence kept her answers to our questionnaire relatively short, but given that it’s one of the most talked-about performances of the year, it’s clearly an achievement that speaks for itself and the announcement of an actress with many superlatives in her future.
Why did you want to make this film?
Because I loved it and I would have done anything for it.
What was the best piece of advice you received that applied to the making of this film?
Do whatever it takes.
What was the toughest thing to overcome, whether it applies to a particular scene or the film as a whole?
The physical elements – the cold and the long hours.
What’s been the most memorable moment while you’ve traveled with the film, either at a festival or otherwise?
Being recognized by Steven Spielberg at DreamWorks – the fact that he had seen the movie. I just couldn’t get over how tiny the movie was compared to how big he is.
What’s your favorite thing about your film that’s been largely uncommented upon?
One of my favorite things about the movie is the folk music. It’s written and sung by people from the area where we shot the film. It’s stirring…I really love it.
What’s been the most gratifying thing to come out of this film for you personally?
The fact that people have seen it. Working so hard on something and knowing it’s been appreciated.
Your favorite film, book or album from the past year?
My favorite films were “Inception” and “The Social Network.” My favorite book was “Hunger Games.”