Jennifer Lawrence: “I Didn’t Have a Life. I Thought I Should Go Get One” (2024)

Lawrence’s producing partner and best friend of 13 years, Justine Polsky, says: “The protocol of stardom began to kill her creative spirit, to f*ck with her compass. So, she vanished, which was probably the most responsible way to protect her gifts. And sanity.”

There’s a moment when Lawrence and I are talking about Don’t Look Up that strikes me deeply. I mention the fact that her name appears first in the opening credits, hanging on the screen a half second before being joined by Leonardo DiCaprio’s. She gets a pleased little smile on her face, before saying, “I was number one on the call sheet, so….” It is a satisfying laugh. Then my own dregs of social conditioning, this nauseating impulse as a female to tiptoe around matters of influence, prompt me to ask, “Are you okay with that?”

“With being number one on the call sheet? Yeah. And I thought [the credits] should reflect that. Leo was very gracious about it. I think we had something called a Laverne & Shirley, which is this billing they invented where it’s an equal billing. But I guess maybe somewhere down the line, I kicked the stone further, like, ‘What if it wasn’t equal?’ ”

There’s something inspiring about a professional woman owning her worth. She points to the example of Scarlett Johansson taking on Disney over money from Black Widow. “I thought that was extremely brave,” she says. “If two parties understand how a movie is going to be released, and then it turns out that one of the parties did not agree to that, that’s unfair. She was also crowning! She was giving birth.”

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Polsky tells me that Lawrence’s self-deprecation and humor is her friend’s “saving grace and superpower. In a social context—not to feed the ‘She’s just a regular gal’ trope—her self-deprecation makes others instantly comfortable. In a professional context, it yields an underestimation of her aptitude. Male executives don’t anticipate that an actress and walking GIF can probe every deal point on the table until they’re dripping in sweat. The bitch is deft.”

It’s only after our first interview that I learn that Lawrence was paid $25 million for the movie, compared to DiCaprio’s $30 million. In other words, she made 83 cents to his dollar. These figures are in startling line with Bureau of Labor Statistics data that showed annual earnings for women working full-time in 2020 were 82.3 percent of men’s. That gap is tragically wider for women of color in Hollywood and beyond.

When I talk to Lawrence next, I point out the bitter irony of her making less than the man below her on the call sheet. “Yeah, I saw that too,” she says, choosing her words carefully. “Look, Leo brings in more box office than I do. I’m extremely fortunate and happy with my deal. But in other situations, what I have seen—and I’m sure other women in the workforce have seen as well—is that it’s extremely uncomfortable to inquire about equal pay. And if you do question something that appears unequal, you’re told it’s not gender disparity but they can’t tell you what exactly it is.”

Sunglasses by Jacques Marie Mage. Throughout: makeup products and nail enamel by Dior.Photographs by Lachlan Bailey; Styled by George Cortina.

Some things that are bringing Lawrence joy lately: Autumn in New York. The city opening up again. “Being able to take Ubers again without feeling you’re going infect your family and die.” The pumpkin bread she made yesterday and took out of the oven in time so that the center stayed gooey. Sports and farm animal videos on TikTok. (Days after our interview, she’ll text me a video of a golden retriever puppy frolicking with his horse friend, writing, “I mean…”) Jennifer Coolidge’s performance in White Lotus: “Talk about somebody who knew the f*cking assignment.” Bravo’s Real Housewives. Of a Potomac star, she asks, “What do you think about Candiace’s husband being her manager? Ugh, that is not a healthy dynamic.” The door behind her rattles, making her laugh. “What if Cooke just came in here like, ‘I want to be your manager!’ ”

Lawrence could write a dissertation on the mesmerizing toxicity of Salt Lake City housewife Jen Shah. “She has the strongest case of personality disorder I’ve ever seen in my life,” she says. “You know those people who don’t take any accountability ever—to where you almost feel jealous? Total lack of accountability, lack of shame. I’m almost like, How dare you? I lie in bed worrying about accidentally hurting someone’s feelings, worrying about everything. That’s probably why it burns my biscuit so much.”

Lawrence had been so worried before this interview. She felt awkward about not wanting to talk more about her baby. And her husband. And the sweet future they hope to build together in private. “I did have this whole fantasy of just doing the whole interview off the record.” Early into our conversation, I told her she seemed like she had a gun to her head. “Oh, my God, I’m so sorry,” she said. “It’s not your fault.”

There’s a scene in Don’t Look Up where DiCaprio’s panicked scientist begs a glib reporter to take seriously the need for actual engagement with each other. “We don’t always have to be clever or charming or likable!” he says. “Sometimes we need to be able to say things to each other and have an honest conversation.”

So, here’s what I say to Lawrence: She has a right to her boundaries. May they serve her and her family well. By leaving her baby out of our conversation, she has already started mothering her child.

Lawrence has to go to the bathroom again. This time she remembers to mute the recording. She smiles, her mouth making words I can’t hear, and gives me a big thumbs-up on her way out of frame.

HAIR, SHAY ASHUAL; MAKEUP, FULVIA FAROLFI; MANICURE, ASHLIE JOHNSON; TAILOR, SUSIE KOURINIAN; SET DESIGN, SHELLEY BURGON. PRODUCED ON LOCATION BY GE PROJECTS. FOR DETAILS, GO TO VF.COM/CREDITS.

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Jennifer Lawrence: “I Didn’t Have a Life. I Thought I Should Go Get One” (2024)
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