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Why Jennifer Lawrence had to learn to mop for her new movie, Joy

In Joy, Lawrence, right, plays entrepreneur Joy Mangano, who invented the Miracle Mop. Photo: Merie Weismiller As Katniss Everdeen, Lawrence built her own mega-franchise in The Hunger Games. Photo: Supplied

Lawrence, with Bradley Cooper, who plays a home-shopping TV network executive. Photo: Merie Weismiller

The film Winter’s Bone made Lawrence second youngest best actress Oscar nominee in history. Photo: Sebastian Mlynarski

Jennifer Lawrence groans when she’s asked about singing the classic Nancy and Frank Sinatra duet Something Stupid with co-star Edgar Ramirez in her new film Joy.

“David [O. Russell, the movie’s director] texted me last night to ask if he could put it on the soundtrack and this is what I texted him back,” the actress says as she digs around for her mobile phone and reads out her response verbatim. “‘David, no!!!’ and it is three exclamation marks. They put all the Hunger Games songs on an album and it’s going to look like I think I can sing! Oh, goddammit, I mean yes, I can’t say no to you, but ugh! Gross, I can’t listen to it; I have to go to bed.’ And I said yes, but it’s a groaning, reluctant yes.”

It’s the kind of unfiltered moment you come to expect when interviewing Lawrence, who may now be one of the most famous actresses on the planet but still blurts out whatever she’s thinking with such self-deprecating charm it’s impossible not to be, well, charmed.

Lawrence, 25, looks genuinely surprised when complimented about how unchanged she seems from our earlier interviews before the fame and Oscars. “But there would be no reason to change,” she says with a shrug. “I just have a job and I love my job. People react in funny ways to my job, but at the end of the day, that’s all it is.”

Joy is based on the true story of inventor and entrepreneur Joy Mangano, a single mother from Long Island supporting two children, an ex-husband (Ramirez), mother (Virginia Madsen), father (Robert De Niro) and sister (Elisabeth Rohm), when she finds the courage to borrow money from her father’s wealthy new girlfriend (Isabella Rossellini) to build and pitch her “miracle mop” invention to an executive (Bradley Cooper) of a home-shopping TV network.

David O. Russell is equally enamoured of the woman many consider to be his muse, after their two previous films together – Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle – were his most successful (and earned Lawrence two Oscar nominations and one win).

“I’ve always thought Jennifer has an old soul,” the quirky director says. “When we met on Silver Linings, I thought, ‘Is she 20 or 40?’ As an artist, I’ve seen that she’s someone who can express numerous worlds and, for me, she was always the only one who could play Joy.”

Lawrence spent time with the real Joy Mangano, now 59, to prepare for the role. “Joy’s mind is endlessly fascinating,” Lawrence says, “and she still has hundreds of ideas for inventions!”

She also watched many hours of Mangano pitching her products on US television. “I was so impressed with her inventions that I actually tried to buy one until my friend reminded me I’d recorded the shows and it doesn’t work if it’s not live!”

Her next confession is that her co-star, former “sexiest man alive” Bradley Cooper, had to teach her how to mop. “You have to understand my mom was OCD so I had to clean my room and do laundry and clean my dishes, but I don’t think my mom would ever let a morsel of food get on the floor without bleaching the whole thing,” Lawrence says.

“Bradley’s mom bought everything from [US television network] QVC, and he had a miracle mop in his dorm room in college so he watched me mop in one scene and was like, ‘Dude, no!” and showed me a better way.”

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Lawrence performed in the local theatre as a youngster and at 14 convinced her mother to accompany her to New York City to become a professional actress. She landed minor roles on TV shows such as Monk, Cold Case and Medium before her 2010 indie film Winter’s Bone led to her becoming the second youngest best actress Oscar nominee in history. That resulted in not only a string of critically acclaimed films, an Academy Award and another Oscar nomination, but also her very own mega-franchise as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games.

Lawrence’s endearing habit of speaking her mind resulted in a controversial essay she penned on Lena Dunham’s website about her discovery during the Sony hacks that she was being paid less “than the lucky people with dicks” on her recent films, including American Hustle.

“I completely understand when people say actors shouldn’t talk about politics and things they don’t know about, but this was my gender at stake and it was being threatened with unfairness and I thought, ‘What is the point of having this voice if it’s not to speak out for myself and for everyone else who can’t?’,” she says unapologetically.

“I realise that I am going to piss a lot of people off and that’s not going to be very good for my night sweats, but that’s OK.”

Lawrence hangs out with a posse of celebrity girlfriends, including Amy Schumer and singer Adele, but the reason is simple. “The friendship gets expedited a lot when you meet someone you know beyond a shadow of a doubt has no agenda,” she says.

But clearly she doesn’t come with a cliquey Hollywood attitude. This is, after all, the self-confessed reality-show junkie who confessed in a recent Vogue interview that on the night of her 25th birthday party, friends surprised her with a visit from reality queen Kris Jenner, who presented her with a cake inscribed, ‘Happy Birthday, you piece of shit!’

The only time she seems tongue-tied is when asked about her relationship status, after a four-year stint with X-Men: First Class co-star Nicholas Hoult and a year with Coldplay singer Chris Martin before their breakup earlier this year.

“Next!” Lawrence says in a no-nonsense voice, pausing as she decides if she’ll continue that thought. Of course, she can’t help herself. “When I talk about boys, the world implodes. If I even casually say something to a reporter, that quote haunts me for the rest of my life,” she says, “so I am never, ever, ever talking about boys again!”

And that’s OK because, for a change, who she’s dating is the least interesting thing about Jennifer Lawrence.

Joy is in cinemas on December 26.Jennifer Lawrence’s movie family

Joy marks the third time Jennifer Lawrence has worked with the Hollywood “dream team”, including director David O. Russell and co-stars Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro.

In 2012, she was nominated for an Oscar after starring with Cooper and De Niro in Silver Linings Playbook and in 2013, she played Cooper’s insecure wife in American Hustle, earning her first Academy Award in the film, which also featured De Niro.

“There’s a very strong connection between all of us,” Lawrence admits. “I feel incredibly close to David and I know Bradley and Bob would say the same, but we also all have close personal relationships with each other too, and I don’t think that’s nearing an end.”

Russell says a bonus has been watching Lawrence grow up on his sets.

“Over the past five years, I’ve watched her become a woman,” he says. “I met her when she was 20 and she was asking Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper, ‘What’s it like to have people recognise you?’ and then she came through the other side of it with them as her equals and is so wise beyond her years, she’s like the boss on our sets!”

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