LOS ANGELES – Last year, during an interview to promote “The Hunger Games,” Jennifer Lawrence talked about how blessed she felt to ride the Batman roller coaster at Six Flags after the park had closed.
Though she had earned an Oscar nomination for “Winter’s Bone,” Lawrence was not yet a household name. That happened when “The Hunger Games” was released in March 2012.
Fast forward 18 months and Lawrence is one of the best known – and respected – actresses in Hollywood. She’s done that by winning over the action movie, teen book-reading crowd through her portrayal of Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games,” and through an Oscar-winning performance in “Silver Linings Playbook.”
On Thursday, “Catching Fire,” the sequel to “Hunger Games,” opened.
As far as the 23-year-old Kentucky native is concerned, the only thing that’s changed for her is the pixie haircut she now sports instead of long locks.
“I’m actually surprised at how surprised everyone is that nothing has changed or feels different,” Lawrence says. “I think everyone believes that when you win an Oscar, it’s like some sort of magical charm that changes everything in your life. It really hasn’t. I have had the most amazing year – careerwise – and I am so grateful and so honored, but it really hasn’t changed anything for my personal life.
“I still put on my acting pants one leg at a time.”
She has seen a lot more filmmakers interested in her. She’s finished, or is working on, eight different projects that will keep her busy for the next few years.
As she’s already shown, Lawrence likes to work on a range of projects. Current projects include the fact-based “American Hustle,” a reprisal of her role as Mystique in the “X-Men” sequel, the final two chapters in the “Hunger Games” and a new version of John Steinbeck’s “East of Eden.” She even has a role in the flat-out comedy “Dumb and Dumber To.”
The attention Lawrence is getting in the film industry has created what she calls “pinch me” moments.
“I am amazed at some of the people who even know about me now or that I hear want to work with me or want to send me over a script,” Lawrence says. “These are people I have idolized, and that has been very jaw-dropping and lovely.”
In “Catching Fire,” Katniss has changed.
“She’s in a completely different head space and so I had to think a lot more about the character,” Lawrence says. “I thought after you do a role once you just go back and do it again. It wasn’t until I started reading the script and started thinking about all the ways she has changed that made me wonder if the fans were going to be OK with seeing this difference in her.
“That ended up being really exciting for me. I had this idea, when I signed on for this series, that I would have a blast with the first movie but then be bored for the rest of them. But it really created an exciting challenge to create a new version of the same character.”
The physical and emotional demands also took their toll.
“I remember the volunteer scene in ‘Hunger Games’ because it’s real adrenaline. The situation is fake but the feelings are real. I remember being so energized by it that it was like a drug. I kept thinking I couldn’t do any other job because THIS IS AMAZING,” Lawrence says, accenting her words for affect. “Now, it exhausts me. My makeup artist tells me that it’s because I’m finally taking it seriously.”