Jennifer Lawrence: "I was alarming everyone"
Jennifer Lawrence is no stranger to promoting major movies and dealing with the stress of gruelling promotional tours. During the course of a week-long swing through Europe she wowed both admiring crowds and media types alike with her long blonde wavy tresses.
However, a strange thing happened on the way to Berlin this past week where she was promoting her new film, Passengers, the massive sci-fi blockbuster she headlines with Chris Pratt. En route to the German capital, their plane was shaken by massive turbulence that severely rattled Lawrence, who admits to suffering from "weird anxiety." Asked whether she feared for her life, the same way her character in Passengers also faces possible death, the 26-year-old actress recounted her harrowing flight scare:
"The other night when we flew into Berlin - that was the closest to accepting that I was going to die. One of the luggage doors on the underside of the plane had opened and there were these crazy sounds, the plane was [moving] from side to side and I was screaming at the flight attendant, "Is everything going to be OK?"
"Everyone was trying to be very calm and not freak out the other passengers, but not me. I was alarming everyone. I felt it was my duty to get other people to panic more. I felt people weren't panicking enough. Chris kept trying to calm me down reached over across the aisle and I was just like "Aaarrggh, get off me..." [makes a cat-like face]."
Fortunately, Lawrence and Pratt both survived their European press junket and were eager to talk about Passengers, one of the most eagerly awaited movies of the holiday season. Directed by Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game), the film centres around the voyage of the Starship Avalon which is making a 120-year journey across the galaxy and whose 5000 passengers are in suspended animation to prevent ageing until they arrive at their far-off destination planet.
Their journey comes asunder when a malfunction occurs causing space mechanic Jim (Pratt) to awaken 90 years ahead of time and who subsequently rouses fellow space traveller (and upper class intellectual) Aurora (Lawrence) out of her induced slumber so that he won't face the journey alone. They only have each other for company, and slowly they fall in love. But their romantic odyssey is overtaken by a second malfunction that obliges them to try to save the spacecraft. The film co-stars Michael Sheen, Andy Garcia, and Laurence Fishburne.
Jennifer Lawrence lives in Los Angeles and is currently rumoured to be dating director Darren Aronofsky. During their whirlwind press tour for Passengers, she and Pratt were in ebullient spirits and would occasionally high-five each other out of mutual admiration for their work in the film.
Passengers is a very big film which is coming out over the holiday season. Will you be worrying at all during Christmas time about the film's success?
[Over Christmas] I get to see my nephews in Kentucky so the last thing I will be thinking about is this movie [laughs] even though I love it and I'm proud of it. I will be excited to hear about the box-office results but Christmas is about drinking... and fighting with your mother!
How would you describe your character, Aurora?
I like Aurora's sense of independence. She's a writer and she's very ambitious. She wants to be the first person to travel to the new colony planet and then return to earth and write about it. One of her greatest strengths is her ambition and that's probably also one of her weaknesses. She's not able to be settled and satisfied. She has this insatiable need for success or recognition.
How did you approach playing her?
I always try to put myself in the head of my character and I try to imagine what I would be feeling under similar circumstances. But in this case it was complicated to try to imagine what it feels like to be so lonely and trapped for so long. I don't know anyone who has experienced something like that.
What drew you to this project?
What interested me about the script is that its about humankind and we're all in a kind of place where we're interested in space and we're interested in exploration. But the film also explores very human and personal themes and deep relationships and that is very important to the story.
The thing which really excited me is that it's a completely original story and it's hard for a studio to make a movie of this size that comes from an original story and is not based on something that's come before. It's hard to find that... I think everyone who sees the film will form different opinions about the story.
Did you know Chris Pratt before working together on Passengers and given the length of time you would spend on set with each other, were you worried about the chemistry between you?
No. We met for this first time when we did a table reading with Morten (Tyldum, the director). I had always wanted to work with him and maybe I should have been worried [about chemistry] but I didn't. But Chris seemed to be so nice and funny that I was looking forward to making the film with him and I was really wonderful to be around him once we started working together....
We had really tough hours on the movie and didn't see a lot of daylight. Chris made it a much more pleasurable experience and much easier to be on set. He's the most delightful guy and I know I'll be in a good mood when I see him and we'll be laughing.
Would he help boost your spirits at the end of an exhausting day on the set?
We would be working five days a week sometimes 18 hours a day. But because of Pratt it was the best day every day of my life. It was so fun. He's a great actor and everything happened really effortlessly with us together. As soon as the director calls action he's someone else. I don't even recognise him when I'm looking into his eyes so it was easy acting-wise, he helped me a lot.
Normally I worry [on a set], but he's so funny and he makes me laugh... We were terrific together, I think, and then off the set when I was feeling exhausted I had my buddy cracking me up. It could have been an absolute disaster [without that].
What about the idea of space travel? Now that they're apparently trying to build spaceships that could carry passengers to Mars, would you ever consider making such a journey?
I love exploring space but the idea of taking a trip to Mars isn't something I think about. I've heard that the weather there is terrible, and that it's very windy and very hot. No, I don't think that's going to happen. [Laughs]
Was it daunting in any way to be part of a massive set and do all the weightless scenes?
It was hard doing the harness work where you're supposed to look weightless and that's tough because of your own body weight also wearing a 75 lb space suit. Those are things which I've never done before. Even though I've been part of Hunger Games and did a lot of physical work, this was on another level.
I've never been on a such huge set like what we had [for Passengers] in my life before. We used two massive sound stages and they do incredible visual effects work. Stunning.
What was the most interesting or frightening scene that you had to do in Passengers?
It was the swimming pool scene [where Lawrence's character Aurora is swimming in a futuristic pool] when something goes wrong with the [spacecraft's] gravity. It was literally breathtaking for me. It was exciting and daunting although I didn't know how they were going to shoot it and it's definitely the coolest scene I've ever shot in my life.
The swimming pool scene is the coolest thing I've ever seen when I later got to watch it with all the CGI work. It took a week or two weeks to shoot where I would be spending the whole day in either a swimming pool or a giant water tank. It's an incredible sequence and the coolest scene I've ever filmed. I've never seen or done anything like it before.
How do you handle emotionally difficult scenes? Do you have a special way of preparing yourself?
I've never taken acting classes - although I might be better off if I had [smiles] - but I do try to think of whatever my character would be thinking and then your thoughts will change your expression and your voice. In the case of extreme emotions, I don't do method or anything like that it's all about having empathy for your character and opening yourself up to doing it.
If you ever went on a long space voyage, what would you take with you?
I would take my baby, my dog Pippy, even though she would hate it!
Passengers is in cinemas January 1. Watch the trailer here.
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