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CNN Spotlight: Jennifer Lawrence

Aired November 21, 2014 - 22:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, HOST: Exceptional talents.

JENNIFER LAWRENCE, ACTRESS: I volunteer as tribute.

BALDWIN: Candid honesty.

LAWRENCE: I have no idea what I'm doing here. This just feels insane.

BALDWIN: And a wicked sense of humor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you going to do if you lose?

LAWRENCE: I'm just going to go -- what?


BALDWIN: That catapulted Jennifer Lawrence to the top.

LAWRENCE: It's absolutely incredible. I've been incredibly blessed.

BALDWIN: Starring in the biggest hits.

CHARLIE SEXTON, DIRECTOR, WALDEN THEATRE: You can't really pigeon hole her into a certain type.

BALDWIN: Winning the most prestigious award.

LAWRENCE: It is just so unexpected. It just kind of feels like you're like living in a dream.

BALDWIN: Collecting one of the largest paychecks for an actress under 30.

DAVID O. RUSSELL, DIRECTOR, "SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK": She almost has a timeless quality to her which I do feel.

BALDWIN: Never afraid to take chances.

AMY ADAMS, ACTRESS: She is so much fun to work with, and just so free and just uninhibited.

BALDWIN: Never afraid to fall down.

LAWRENCE: What went through my mind when I fell down? A bad word that I can't say. FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Dozens of celebrities were exposed

this week when their photos were stolen and posted online.

BALDWIN: And through it all resilient even in the face of scandal.

AMANDA CORNISH, FAMILY FRIEND: She's got a voice. She's got thick skin.

BALDWIN: Tonight we focus our CNN SPOTLIGHT on Jennifer Lawrence.

The look. The laugh. And that confident work. It's an attitude Jennifer Lawrence has had her whole life.

SEXTON: See how she's walking across.

BALDWIN: That's her?

SEXTON: That's her right there. Yes.

You've got to make a strong start when you're talking about auditions.

BALDWIN: Charlie Sexton remembers it well. He was her eighth grade acting coach.

SEXTON: She's sort of had that sort of nonchalant.


SEXTON: Nothing is really going to bother me air about her.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is happening for you?

LAWRENCE: What is happening?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is happening is happening.

SEXTON: She's always said, I am doing this. I am going to make it.

BALDWIN: Years before the red carpet, Hollywood's it girl was strutting her stuff across this stage. Far from the spotlight.

This is it.

SEXTON: When Jennifer was here this would have been a classroom space.

BALDWIN: In this very space.

SEXTON: In this very space.

BALDWIN: Walden Theater in Louisville, Kentucky, where Jennifer Lawrence calls home.

JOSH MOSS, LOUISVILLE REPORTER: She grew up in Indian Hills, which is a nice suburban neighborhood in Louisville.

BALDWIN: Local reporter Josh Moss landed a rare interview with Jennifer and her family in 2010.

MOSS: Growing up here was easy for her to be sort of grounded in her family. And family is really important to her.

BALDWIN: The youngest of three, Jennifer was the first girl on her dad's side in 50 years.

MOSS: Her brother Ben told me that her nickname was Nitro growing up.


MOSS: They think she just probably had so much energy. Being around them, sort of trying to follow in their footsteps.

CORNISH: She can be roughed around. I mean, she had two older brothers. She can -- she can hold her own.

BALDWIN: Amanda Cornish knew the Lawrences well especially Jennifer.

CORNISH: They're tight. They're supportive of each other. They work together. You look at them working on the camp hi-ho together.

BALDWIN: Jennifer and her brothers spent their summers at the family's camp just outside of Louisville.

CORNISH: It was kid fun land.

BALDWIN: Amanda was a counselor there.

How important was that camp to the Lawrence family?

CORNISH: I think very important because they got out of Louisville and they got to go to the country.

BALDWIN: It was where Jennifer loved horseback riding and eventually graduated from camper to assistant nurse.

LAWRENCE: I was going to be a doctor. But I think I was always putting on shows.

BALDWIN: Early on. A different dream started to stick.

LAWRENCE: I was like, I would put on an outfit and go and knock on our front door and be like my name is Judy. And my car just broke down.

BALDWIN: Jennifer's knack for performing even upstaged the family's passion for sports.

MOSS: And all Jennifer wanted to do was play the positions where she could put on a costume. So that was the catcher or goalie. And her mom said that Jennifer would turn cart wheels down the field as opposed to playing. BALDWIN: Jennifer was hooked.

MOSS: Even at that young age she knew that that's what she wanted to pursue.

BALDWIN: But knowing the fact that her family is such a sports oriented family did they recognize that early on?

MOSS: Her mother said had Jennifer been able to throw a pitch, we would have recognized the talent because they were familiar with sports. But with acting they just didn't know what a good actor was or a good actress was.

LAWRENCE: So it was like I was always an actress. We just didn't really realize it until I became an actress. And they were like that makes sense.

BALDWIN: Her first official performance came at the age of 9.

She played a role at church?

MOSS: Her mother said that they were doing a play about the book of Jonah, her quote was -- she played a prostitute from Nineveh, which she said she played the best little prostitute, which is -- I mean, she was laughing about it.

SEXTON: She definitely stood out as somebody that just absolutely wanted to do this.

BALDWIN: Jennifer enrolled in her first acting class right after her 14th birthday.

Do you remember her sort of saying, Charlie, put me in?

SEXTON: Yes, she was precocious and she was energetic.

BALDWIN: A few months in and Jennifer was tackling the role of Desdemona in Shakespeare's "Othello." Her performance captured in this never-before-seen video.

So did the 14-year-old version of Jennifer Lawrence pull off Shakespeare?

SEXTON: I think so. She sings in the scene, too. She had to sing acapella and you know that's not easy to do. And a lot of kids will --

BALDWIN: That's brave.

SEXTON: Well, that doesn't surprise that she had the courage to do that. She was determined and unflappable.

BALDWIN: When she wasn't performing, the budding star was just a normal student at Camera Middle School.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One and two, and ready, and go. And -- BALDWIN: Where Amanda Cornish was also her band teacher.

What was she like in class playing this oboe.

CORNISH: Quick wit. Sarcasm. I mean, she could have a little punchline in at the end of something. And she created that little (INAUDIBLE) kind of moment where it's like.

BALDWIN: It's no surprise, Jennifer was voted most talkative in her class.

CORNISH: She talked quite a bit. I remember one of her teachers was like, having to get her to be quiet. You put something in her mouth.

BALDWIN: Look an oboe.

CORNISH: Like an oboe.

BALDWIN: But none of that distracted this young woman from her goal. To be an actor.

SEXTON: One of the reasons she stood out is that she verbally expressed to me and anyone around her that this is what she was going to do for her career.

NEWSROOM: And Jennifer knew that meant leaving Kentucky for New York City.

LAWRENCE: When I was 14, my parents weren't going to let me do it. My brothers actually called and said, you know, you guys, you guys followed us through the World Series. You guys have been all over the country with us. And you did this for us if there it is sports. And that's her baseball diamond. You have to let her do it.

MOSS: Her mother said hopefully this will get out of her system. Try this once and then it's over.

BALDWIN: So in the spring of 2005, Jennifer and her mom flew to New York.

Coming up, Lawrence fights for the role that could put her on the map.

LAWRENCE: I had to chase them down. They said I didn't have the right look, and I just kind of flew there to tell them, that didn't matter.


BALDWIN: The busy streets of New York City. Far from the rolling hills of Louisville, Kentucky. It was spring break 2005. A 14-year- old Jennifer Lawrence was chasing her dream.

MOSS: In Union Square watching the street dancers. And this guy comes out with the camera which both in hindsight her mother and Jennifer said is kind of creepy. This guy come up to you in the park.

BALDWIN: Hello, who are you? And why do you want my picture?

MOSS: Right. Exactly. But he's with H & M, he take her photo. And really from then on different offers came in for different ads.

BALDWIN: She landed modeling jobs and acting gigs like this commercial for MTV show "My Super Sweet 16."

For Lawrence there was no turning back.

MOSS: She called one night and Jennifer said, dad, I saw a rat as big as Shadow. Then I asked her dad what is shadow? He said that our big black cat. But the cool thing about that was that they knew that she loved what she was doing and where she was living even though it was this crummy apartment in New York because she didn't complain about that at all.

BALDWIN: Her parents still weren't so sure but let Jennifer stay through the summer. Amanda Cornish was working with Jennifer's mother then.

CORNISH: She was just nervous about her daughter going off into another direction. She was very supportive, though.

BALDWIN: As the summer came to an end, her father flew to New York to bring Jennifer home for the beginning of the school year. But when he arrived, an agent called to bring Jennifer to Los Angeles instead.

CORNISH: I just remember when it was like she's not coming back. Like, this is, where this is going to go.

BALDWIN: Her career took off. Jennifer moved to Los Angeles.

LAWRENCE: I got scared.

BALDWIN: Bit parts in several series, like "Cold Case," and "Monk" and "Medium." And then in July of 2007, a starring role in a new TV series, "The Bill Engvall Show."

LAWRENCE: Using the word hip means you're not.




LAWRENCE: Please stop.

TATIANA SIEGEL, FILM REPORTER, HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: I think it prepared her. It creates a certain discipline in a lot of these actresses.

BALDWIN: Tatiana Siegel is a film reporter for the "Hollywood Reporter."

LAWRENCE: I'm still really mad at you. SIEGEL: I think she always wanted roles that would challenge her.

There aren't a lot of great TV roles for women in their teens and 20s.

BALDWIN: Lawrence's goal was the big screen. In 2007 she auditioned for the coveted role of Bella Swan in "Twilight." She lost out to Kristen Stewart. But it wouldn't be long before Lawrence got another chance. And that would come from this man.

GUILLERMO ARRIAGA, DIRECTOR, THE BURNING PLANE: She has the greatest talent I have seen in my life. Raw talent.

BALDWIN: In 2007, Guillermo Arriaga was casting a small independent film called "The Burning Plane" starring Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger. Arriaga saw Lawrence's audition tape on the very first day of casting and he knew she was the one.

LAWRENCE: My family was happy, too.

ARRIAGA: The producers were not sure of having her. I said, no, no, this is the girl I want.

BALDWIN: And he got her. Lawrence transformed from a fun-loving 17- year-old into a serious actor.

ARRIAGA: My sets are really relaxed. We have a lot of fun. But we're doing a very serious and intense film. And I said Jennifer this is a really difficult scene. You need concentration. No, we can start right how. Don't worry. I'm going to -- I'm going to do it perfectly.


ARRIAGA: We began rolling. And I turned to these big guys, the crew, big strong guys, crying. And I was like, wow. And she was, I told you.


BALDWIN: Once the film wrapped, Arriaga, who has worked with Hollywood's biggest starts, knew this was the just beginning for Jennifer Lawrence.

ARRIAGA: When we finished the film, I spoke to her and say, "You're going to win many Oscars. You're going to be extremely famous. And you're going to be the most important actress of your generation."

BALDWIN: And that prediction would come true almost immediately with her next film "Winter's Bone."

LAWRENCE: I got a real bad need to talk with someone.

BALDWIN: Lawrence played the daughter of a meth dealer in the rural Ozarks. It was a role she almost lost because film makers thought she was too pretty.

LAWRENCE: I had to chase them down. They said I didn't have the right look. And I was just kind of flew there to tell them that didn't matter.

BALDWIN: It was a part that took her far from her Louisville roots. But Lawrence was determined.

LAWRENCE: Ted's your only brother.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Think I forgot that.

MOSS: John Hocks plays her Uncle Teardrop. This really scary character. And there's a scene where he grabs her hair and pulls her down. And she kept telling him, bring in. Just bring it. And they would do take after take and he kept saying, am I hurting you? And she said, no, no, do it again.

BALDWIN: A performance that brought critical acclaim.

LAWRENCE: It's just so unexpected. It just kind of feels like you're like living in a dream.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jennifer Lawrence in "Winter's Bone."

BALDWIN: A dream that led to a Best Actress nod for Lawrence making her one of the youngest Oscar nominees ever.

MOSS: She probably never thought that she'd be talked about an Oscar with her name.

BALDWIN: And probably never thought that she'd be meeting some of Hollywood's biggest names.

MOSS: One meeting she had was at DreamWorks with Steven Spielberg. I was like, what did you do after you met with Steven Spielberg? And she said, I went to my car and cried. What else do you do after you meet Steven Spielberg?

BALDWIN: You look for your next role.

And this time, it was "The Hunger Games," a big picture, big budget adaptation of the hit book series.

SIEGEL: I have to say that is the single biggest young female role of probably the last decade.

BALDWIN: The big movie for an actress who had so far stuck to small films.

Coming up --

WHITFIELD: Dozens of celebrities were exposed this week.

BALDWIN: The bright spotlight brings scrutiny and scandal.


BALDWIN: March 12th, 2012. "Hunger Games" premiere. Excitement, even hysteria, for the film's star, Jennifer Lawrence. LAWRENCE: It's unbelievable and very humbling. It's amazing.

BALDWIN: Amazing for a 21-year-old actress who had been in the film business just four years.

LAWRENCE: I volunteer. I volunteer as tribute.

BALDWIN: "Hunger Games" was her biggest budget, highest profile movie to date.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the time to show them everything. Make sure they remember you.

SIEGEL: Every young actress wanted this role. Jennifer Lawrence just, you know, really fought harder for it.

SIEGEL: Time for the tour.

BALDWIN: Lawrence had done action before.

SIEGEL: Should we have to hide?

BALDWIN: Playing the mutant Mystique in the 2011 "X-Men" sequel. But "Hunger Games" was different. The physical demand were intense. Months of training turned her into a warrior.

SIEGEL: She is somebody who sort of had muscle tone and you looked at her and she is not like the 90-pound person with a, like, you know, cross bow, like she looks like she could actually --


SIEGEL: She looks like she can climb a tree.

BALDWIN: Something her former director and friend, Guillermo Arriaga, says was close to home for Jennifer.

ARRIAGA: In certain ways it resembles her life in Kentucky. She knows the woods. She knows how to fish. Her mom used to have a campground for kids in the woods.

BALDWIN: The film was a box office record breaker. And Jennifer Lawrence was now a household name.

ARRIAGA: I think that Jennifer's performance in "The Hunger Games" deserves an Oscar nomination.

BALDWIN: But that second nomination would have to wait until Lawrence's next film, "Silver Linings Playbook."

ARRIAGA: I am just the crazy slut with a dead husband.

BALDWIN: Lawrence played a promiscuous widow battling her demons. A role initially intended for an older actress.

SIEGEL: This is a role that Angelina Jolie was slated to play. And if you think of the age range between Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Lawrence, you know, you're talking, like, 15 years or so.

RUSSELL: We were concerned she was too young for the role.

BALDWIN: "Silver Linings Playbook" director David O. Russell.

RUSSELL: She almost has a timeless quality to her. I feel like sometimes she seems like she's 18. Sometimes she seems like she's 40. She is not afraid to jump in and do it any number of different ways.

ROBERT DE NIRO, ACTOR: That's right. You are --

LAWRENCE: I am the reason why today happened?

DE NIRO: I think so.

LAWRENCE: Let's talk about that.

DE NIRO: Be my guest.

BALDWIN: Not afraid to go head-to-head with screen legend Robert De Niro.

LAWRENCE: I did my research.

DE NIRO: I got to say I'm impressed.

LAWRENCE: Thank you.

I've learned from example. He's very calm and nice. And gets it done.

BALDWIN: It is a performance that won Lawrence nearly every award. Including her first Oscar.

LAWRENCE: It is actually incredible. Yes, I have been incredibly blessed.

BALDWIN: Blessed, not just by her talent but by a sense of humor. Like when she fell in front of millions when accepting her Academy Award in 2013.

LAWRENCE: So what went through my mind when I fell down?


LAWRENCE: A bad word that I can't say.

BALDWIN: It's those kinds of real moments that you see often with Lawrence.


BALDWIN: Like when Hollywood legend Jack Nicholson fawned all over her on "Good Morning America" after she won the Oscar.



LAWRENCE: It's my biggest nightmare.

BALDWIN: Or on late-night television.

LAWRENCE: I get really hyper and then I'm like, and I get really hyper. So then I go on interviews, and I'm like, I'm a Chihuahua, I'm shaking and peeing. And then afterwards I'm like, I just talked about peeing on the red carpet.

BALDWIN: Old friends like Amanda Cornish say it's not an act.

CORNISH: As soon as they ask a question she's got something to come back with or if something funny happens, it's just whatever she fills it in with.

BALDWIN: And no filter.

CORNISH: No filter.

BALDWIN: You saw that?


BALDWIN: Back in the day?

CORNISH: That was even in there in the (INAUDIBLE) grade.

BALDWIN: And unguarded, uncensored spirit that has all of Hollywood lining up to work with her.

ADAMS: She is so much fun to work with. And just so free. And just uninhibited.

BALDWIN: Amy Adams starred opposite Lawrence in "American Hustle."

LAWRENCE: A ring on my finger. We have a child together.

BALDWIN: Roles that landed them both Academy Award nominations.

LAWRENCE: You know sometimes in life all you have are (EXPLETIVE DELETED) poisonous choices.

ADAMS: I remember thinking, there is nothing this girl can't do.

BALDWIN: Yet she is unfazed by the fame and the celebrity that has been the downfall of so many young stars.

CORNISH: I don't see her going any other direction. I think she will stay pretty rooted to being -- I want to say a country girl. Knowing where she has come from and knowing how she was raised.

BALDWIN: She's got a little bit of Kentucky in her forever. CORNISH: Yes.

BALDWIN: Something she's needed over the past couple of months as people scrutinized her love life or as hackers stole her personal pictures and posted them.

SIEGEL: I think she handled it great. You know, she sort of -- and very rightly so, said like, I'm a victim here. And like anyone who looks at these is, you know, sort of like really creepy. Like you're feeding into something that's like a crime.

CORNISH: She's got thick skin. She's got a voice.

BALDWIN: A voice Lawrence has used to climb to the top. A voice in the same league as one of Hollywood's all-time greats.

SIEGEL: I think that she deserves to be in the same sentence as Meryl Streep. Even at her young age.

BALDWIN: And a voice certain to resonate for years to come.