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"Hunger Games" Jennifer Lawrence: Katniss And I Are Soul Mates

Jennifer Lawrence The Hunger Games

Gorgeous Jennifer Lawrence is a bit of a tomboy.

"I'm from Kentucky and grew up in the woods, but Josh Hutcherson is also from Kentucky. I called Josh the real redneck. He's a bigger hick than me," says the star of The Hunger Games with a warm laugh. "Hunger Games" Josh Hutcherson On Sacrificing It All For Love

It's 9 a.m. at the Four Seasons Hotel and one of the biggest stars of the year arrives with no publicist and no entourage. J Law cleans up well – she wears a black Theory blazer, a Tory Birch striped shirt and the tightest blue jeans around. She hovers over a friend in the hallway who gets a warm hug. Another thing about Lawrence: she's the same old Jen she was before the Oscar nomination and the role of a lifetime. 

Lawrence, 21, left Kentucky, but there is still a lot of that girl in her. She even says her toughness on-screen is a throwback to her childhood. "I drew on it," she admits. "Even the other day, I said to a friend here in Los Angeles, 'You mean, you didn't grow up with any woods? Where did you fall out of trees and build a fort?'"

Those skills served her well as Katniss Everdeen, one of 23 tributes fighting for her life in the much-awaited film of the year, in theaters today.
What was your goal in turning The Hunger Games into a film?
I didn't want to screw up a great book. But everyone involved was a fan of the books. We vowed not to make a watered down version of a great story.

Were you competitive when it came to getting this role?
Hell, yes! I was competitive about it. I knew that Gary (director Gary Ross) was talking with other young women. For me, it has nothing to do with being a better actor. I'm not better than those other girls. This role was just me. It was a little bit like Katniss and I were soul mates.

Is Katniss you and vice versa?
It's a risky thing when you pick roles that remind you of you. I never play roles based just on me because I'm a boring person. I'd never want to see me in a movie. With Katniss, it was just a sense of understanding. I knew I could read the lines and say them without forcing anything. I could speak as this character. There are a lot of scripts where I simply can't find those words. There are no way those words can come out of my mouth and feel natural. Katniss is a girl I can understand.

What did you discover about Katniss?
Katniss is stronger than she knows. She starts out in the film thinking she's a bit cold, but she's actually a lot nicer and warmer than she thinks, too. She thinks of herself as a hunter and never focused on trying to get people to like her. Before having to go off to "The Hunger Games," she's just surviving. Her father is gone, her mother has a breakdown and Katniss is just trying to feed her family. Eventually, she's put in a position of saving her people and her family. She becomes a symbol of revolt and goes for it. She realizes she's a symbol and fights like a futuristic Joan of Arc.

Do you think Katniss is leading Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) on? Are her feelings for him real?
Her feelings for Peeta are confusing. She does love him and wants a person with her in the games. But I think she gets confused about what's real and what's for TV during this fight for survival. If you have a higher sense of surviving by being in love with someone, then you do it. "The Hunger Games:" Are You On Team Peeta or Team Gale?

Was it easy or tough to pretend to be in love with Hutcherson?
The problem was my chemistry with Josh. In real life, we have that annoying brother and sister thing going. We'll fight about who is on the face of a ten dollar bill – that's our crack down fight. We play with each other like cats, clawing at each other. That's not the chemistry you hope to find between two lovers! That was a problem for our director Gary.

Was it tough being so physical for the movie?
The truth is I grew up riding horses and racing through the trees. I was more prepared than someone who was from, let's say New Jersey. But, there was a lot of training, including running; I did a ton of climbing plus combat work, including archery. I even did yoga to prepare for the role.

Didn't you have unexpected fans on the set?
There were bears there and lots of them including mothers and baby bears. There were also wild turkeys that were funny. We had an assistant director who had to run around and scare the turkeys away. But after awhile, they weren't scared of him anymore.

You tackled stardom at an early age. What motivated you to leave Kentucky and start acting?
I remember when I first hit New York City – I loved it so much. I was 14 and wearing my brand new Forever 21 boots. There I was storming the sidewalks knowing where I was going. It just seemed like home. A-List Links: "Hunger Games" Is Like Kim Kardashian's Divorce?

How will you have a life after The Hunger Games opens? Will you be able to go anywhere and just hide out?
I haven't thought about how this will affect my life. When I drive by the posters, I still get goosebumps.

Tell us: Are you going to see The Hunger Games this weekend?

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