Her heroine Katniss is at the heart of The Hunger Games, the first of four films to be based on author Suzanne Collins’ trilogy. The protagonist proves to be a strong role model for young girls: Both hunter and survivor, she takes care of her family and prevails through the trials and tribulations of the futuristic games. The movie is already the 13th highest-grossing domestic film and has accumulated more than $686 million at the worldwide box office. The books have surpassed the Harry Potter series as Amazon’s bestselling ever. The story, which deals with the age-old disparity between society’s haves and have-nots in a futuristic dystopia, also appealed to Lawrence because of its hopeful message about today’s young generation.
“Suzanne Collins was sending a powerful message: ‘Look what one person can do,’” Lawrence says. “It speaks to what young people can do to overcome oppressive regimes, the power they have with social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook. Yes, it’s scary. But throughout human history, all it takes is someone, often a younger person, to make such a huge difference. It’s not about doing what everyone else is conforming to; it’s about stepping up and doing what’s right. I loved the way this story reaches out to our generation.”
Lawrence may be attracted to these stories because it is what she knows. She was raised working at her parents’ Kentucky summer camp in rural Louisville with her two older brothers, where the importance of helping those who need assistance was a family mantra. She modestly explains, “I’m happy I grew up with a family that taught me that as soon as you have, you give to others less fortunate.”
Lawrence says she understands the blessing her career is and the luxuries it has given her. She sees it as surreal but admits it offers an opportunity to help more. “I visited Namibia for a month last summer and saw life on the other side. You’re thinking, this is how much it would cost to put a kid through school there, and I’m spending that on packs of gum. There’s such an imbalance in the world, and it’s so important to remember that just because it’s not in front of us, we can still do something.” Her charitable nature probably bares itself the most in an organization that is close to her heart: Bellewood Home for Children (www.bellewood.org), a Kentucky orphanage that Lawrence and her close-knit family are passionate about and have worked with through the years. “It’s such a wonderful place, a school with surrounding gardens. It’s inspiring to see these young children so happy, engaged, and smart. They have so much potential.” She says every time one of her movies comes out, the family holds a private screening for the orphanage. “It’s just heartwarming to see, and I try to help where I can.”
Talk to Lawrence for any short length of time and you become very aware of how her family life helped shape the confident, and yet fun and playful, young woman she is. She’s the girl next door. She’s the glamorous leading lady. She’s the consummate professional of an art form that she wholeheartedly embraces yet understands to be surreal. And she’s confident in each of those roles because of where she comes from: a rambunctious, close-knit family that both keeps her grounded and remains the foundation from which she soars. You almost gather that she longs to be back in Kentucky, where things are slower and more authentic. And she hopes to be for the holidays.