“Silver Linings Playbook” writer-director David O. Russell didn’t write the film’s lead female role Tiffany specifically with Jennifer Lawrence in mind – but given their similarities he might as well have. But it took the Oscar-nominated actress a while to realize it.
“She would always say, 'Wow. I've never seen a character like this: someone who's so fierce and bullheaded, yet vulnerable and independent, yet uncaring what people think about her,' “ recalls Russell. “I'm going 'What are you talking about? What about you?'”
Lawrence – who’s become as admired away from the big screen for her wry, call-it-as-she-sees-it persona as she is for her acting abilities – chuckles as she admits she didn’t immediately notice the parallels. “I don’t ever really feel like I have anything in common with characters,” she says. “It takes other people to point it out. David always calls me stubborn and tells me I have that in common with Tiffany. I don’t really know because I never really felt like, personally, I had a lot in common with any of my characters. When David wrote Tiffany, he had no idea who I was.”
Still, the 22-year-old actress – now a two-time Best Actress nominee after receiving a nod for 2010’s “Winter’s Bone” – concedes there may be a subconscious attraction at work. “There's a reason that I feel passionately about certain characters, and sometimes that's because you see a little bit of yourself in them, or then sometimes it's because you see zero part of yourself in them and you're just kind of fascinated by them as people,” Lawrence admits.
“She’s just an enigma,” the actress says of Tiffany. “She’s very stubborn and bull-headed, but at the same time, she’s full of insecurities. For every flaw, she has a reason for why it’s okay…She taught Bradley Cooper’s character ‘You’re not always going to be able to fix yourself, but just like yourself.’ She teaches him to just accept certain things about yourself, and I loved that. I loved her strength and her weaknesses, but her strength is accepting her weaknesses. I think it’s probably the same reason that audiences have fallen in love with her.”
Russell, who’s nominated as Best Director, developed the film over five years seeking to create an experience that would speak to his son, who is bipolar and has OCD, and illustrate the importance of relationships for those traveling a rough emotional road.
“The risk was in characterizing these people accurately, in terms of their struggle,” says the director, “whether you're someone who's got a mood disorder, or any moment in your life that has put you in danger of losing your human dignity. We tend to fear these people, maybe because they make us afraid of what's inside ourselves or what could happen to us when the opposite needs to happen."
"I can say that my son made me that much more likely to want to walk up to any such individual anywhere and knowingly say to them, 'Hey, how's it going?' That's why we made the film. For Jennifer to have given her heart to it, that's very, very special to me. She makes all these people very approachable, and she does it with such a lack of pretense because she's so approachable. She is the extraordinary next to the ordinary, and that's what is so riveting about her.”
Lawrence says working on the film with Russell “was probably the best experience of my life, because of his passion and spontaneity. It’s really rare that somebody who’s a genius can actually communicate, and he can. A lot of people have these amazing ideas and amazing stories, but they don’t have a way to communicate. He can communicate technically and emotionally, and I’ve seen him tailor himself to whatever an actor needs. Most of my favorite performances from my favorite actors are in his movies.”
Russell says that Lawrence’s appeal on screen and off is a study in contrasts. “A huge part of her charm is that there's something very pure and childlike about her, but at the same time, she's a very old soul, and why does she have two nominations at the age of 22?” he says. “It’s just as our editor said: ‘She was kissed by the angels.’ That's a very charismatic, special quality that people feel, but I would say that it's half the story.”
“The other half of the story is her extraordinary level of determination and focus that she brings as an actress renders these performances to selflessly and gives herself to them completely, very precisely,” he adds. “She's very exacting about what she does from take to take. It's like watching a very focused athlete and I learned form watching her – and I pray to work with her again, frankly! So that's why she's been nominated twice at this young age: it's a very special combination of the natural and the effort that she puts into it.”