By Steve Persall
Times Movie Critic
Jennifer Lawrence sounds relieved having only one voice in her ear for a few minutes.
She's calling from a quiet place in a South Florida shopping mall, another stop on a promotional tour for The Hunger Games giving Justin Bieber a run for his decibels. In a few minutes, thousands of fans will be shrieking their devotion to Lawrence, or at least her heroic character Katniss Everdeen.
The 21-year-old Oscar nominee is where only Kristen Stewart and Emma Watson have been before, in a spotlight blazing with anticipation, before a built-in audience of readers raring to be thrilled at the movies.
Lawrence isn't sure if her ears, or her career, can handle it.
"It's crazy. I had no idea what to expect," she says. "There's a lot of crying and just so much more screaming than I expected. Good screaming, I hope. I mean, they're not screaming at me but for me."
Before the din begins again, Lawrence frets about success, ponders the change it brings and reveals that Katniss is actually a budding couch potato, in these interview excerpts:
This is a terrific role in a guaranteed blockbuster. Why were you hesitant at first to take it?
I was just scared. There was never any doubt in my mind that these movies wouldn't be great. As an actress I was just afraid that I'd be so known for one role that nobody would ever be able to lose themselves in another character: 'Oh, look, it's Katniss playing in a period drama.'
Obviously that's scary. It's a different path than I had expected. I was going to keep doing indies and maybe a few studio movies once in a while. Just live a simpler life than joining a huge franchise. The day will never come when I say I've graduated from indie films, but this may make it harder.
What concerns you most about what's happening with your career?
All this anxiety I'm getting is not about whether I'm doing the right thing. I know these are all good things happening to me and my career. But I don't know what's going to happen to me, Jen. What happens when you can't go outside without signing autographs or someone's taking pictures? I don't know how that changes you as a person.
Are you ready for the responsibility of being a role model for fans?
It's a huge thing to be aware of, to know that whatever I do from now on, whatever I wear or say, it doesn't just affect me anymore. But I don't really have a problem with that. I remember being 12 or 13 and looking at magazines, wanting to find someone to look up to, like Charlize Theron, acting-wise. I'm happy there are the Taylor Swifts of the world . . . classy girls who stay true to themselves and their fans. It's one of those things I do take into account.
What is it about Katniss and The Hunger Games that connects with people?
She's this amazing character to follow, this young girl who's kind of made into a hero by default, becoming this warrior, this Joan of Arc. I think people connect with the story because we're a generation obsessed with reality television, viewing other peoples' tragedy for entertainment. On a deeper level it's kind of a disgusting reflection on humanity.
Has anything ever made you geek out like Hunger Games fans?
Oh yeah, Harry Potter. When I was in elementary school I started reading them and oh, my god, I was the craziest Harry Potter person. Now I'm an older, taller version of the crazy Harry Potter kid I was. That doesn't go away.
So, what will you be doing March 23 when the movie opens and there's no more promoting to do?
Hopefully I'll be on my couch. If everything goes well, that's where I'll be. Even when I'm at parties and having fun I'm still thinking: 'Man, my couch would be a lot better than this.' I mean, that's not where I spend my days; let's get the record straight.
Normally I'm reading, but I just learned how to work my TiVo, so I'm just getting to all these shows that you keep on watching, fast-forwarding through all the commercials. It's absolutely amazing. I never knew about this.
Steve Persall can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8365.