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Jennifer Lawrence all thawed out

Our friend Craig Kennedy at Living in Cinema tips us to this steamy photo shoot at Esquire — Jennifer Lawrence, glowingly unfrozen from her Sundance sensation Winter’s Bone. I’d like to say this pin-up post has Memorial Day weekend relevance. (“One of the freedoms our men are fighting for!” or, um, “Hey kids! the swimming pool’s open!”). Maybe we can pretend that we clicked to see the article and not the centerfold.

Lawrence has been working steadily since she was discovered while visiting New York from Louisville with her mom five years ago. “A guy asked to take my picture,” she says, with just a hint of her native Kentucky accent. “We probably should have realized how creepy that was.” It led to her landing an agent, though, and she was eventually forced to choose between being, as she recalls, “a supermodel or a starving actress.” She moved out to L. A. with her parents, who figured she’d soon give up in frustration. “They never would have let me try this if they’d known I’d be successful,” she says. She landed a role on the sitcom The Bill Engvall Show and a starring role (alongside Charlize Theron) in Guillermo Arriaga’s The Burning Plain.

No one out on the patio here recognizes Jennifer Lawrence from that stuff. In a couple of months, after her next two movies come out, that will change. For now it’s enough to get recognized by the right people: Steven Spielberg stopped her in the hallway at DreamWorks the other week to ask if she was, in fact, the Jennifer Lawrence who starred in Winter’s Bone.

The film is a bleak family mystery set in the Ozark Mountains. She plays Ree Dolly, a survival-minded teenager who has to find her meth-head dad in order to save her family home. It’s her movie, no question ‚Äî she’s in every single frame ‚Äî but she almost wasn’t in it at all. The producers initially rejected her because she was too attractive. Director Debra Granik (Down to the Bone) was savvy enough to cover up her pretty lead with a wool cap pressed low on her head for much of the movie. But Lawrence’s role demanded a lot more than some uglying-up. She handles her character with a balance of rural resignation and girlish fear, and she never loses her grip. It’s the kind of place-specific performance Daniel Day-Lewis would spend a year cooking meth in the mountains to get just right.

Ok, enough reading. Here’s your holiday reward:

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