Jennifer Lawrence rose to major prominence at just 20 years old when she was cast as the lead character, Katniss Everdeen, in the movie adaptation of Suzanne Collins’s 2008 book, The Hunger Games.
The first movie opened in 2012 to huge success, and Jen reprised the role in three subsequent films released in 2013, 2014, and 2015.
Now, more than a decade after she starred in the first movie, Jennifer is reflecting on the challenges that came with fronting such a beloved franchise.
Sitting down with Viola Davis for Variety’s Actors on Actors series, the now 32-year-old reflected on the pressures that came with scoring the coveted role.
“The Hunger Games was an awesome responsibility,” she began. “I mean, those books were huge, and I knew that the audience was children. And there were so many different opinions on what is this action figure for children going to look like.”
With such a focus on how Katniss would look onscreen, Jennifer recalled discussions about her body and whether it would be necessary for her to lose weight in order to play a character who had grown up fighting starvation.
“The biggest conversation, of course — this was pre-MeToo, and I’m a woman — so it was weight. And you know, ‘How much weight are you gonna lose?’ and ‘Well, it’s called The Hunger Games, you wouldn’t be...you know,’” she said, implying that her character needed to be smaller.
But despite facing pressure from executives to lose weight, Jennifer emphasized that dieting simply wasn’t something she was willing to do — if not for her sake, then for the benefit of her young fanbase.
“Along with me being young and growing and not able to be on a diet, because, you know, who wants to be on a diet? I was also like, I don't know if I want all of the girls who are going to dress up as Katniss to feel like they can't because they're not a certain weight,” she said. “And I can't let that seep into my brain either.”
Interestingly, this isn’t the first time Jen has spoken candidly about body image in Hollywood.
In late 2013, while promoting the second Hunger Games movie, Catching Fire, the actor explained why it was so important for her to push back against the societal glorification of thinness.
“We have the ability to control this image that young girls are going to be seeing [in The Hunger Games],” she told the BBC at the time. “Girls see enough of this body that they will never be able to obtain, these unrealistic expectations. It’s an amazing opportunity to rid ourselves of that in this industry.”
And sadly, as her career has progressed it seems that Jennifer, like many of her peers across a number of industries, has continued to be met with toxic body image standards.
During a 2017 appearance on the Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast, Jennifer revealed that while working on a movie she chose not to name, a woman executive suggested that she lose a significant amount of weight within the space of two weeks, telling her it was necessary that she be “skinny-skinny” for the project.
The executive even suggested that they employ someone to live in her apartment and monitor her eating habits, with Jen describing the entire experience as “bullshit.”
Of course, she declined to go ahead with the unhealthy scheme and seemingly reported the suggestions, saying in the interview: “I took care of everything personally on my own — and trust me, they were handled.”