Jennifer Lawrence: David O. Russell respects me so much he calls me a man

Jennifer Lawrence is busy doing press for her latest collaboration with director David O. Russell, “Joy.”

The pair previously successfully teamed on both “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle.” That latter caused a bit of a stir when the unfortunate Sony Pictures leak revealed that Lawrence was paid less than her male counterparts in the ensemble piece.

Earlier this year, the actress wrote about the incident in Lena Dunham”s newsletter Lenny Letters. At the time, she spoke about the need to advocate for herself and become a better negotiator, particularly as a female in entertainment.

“Joy” is loosely based on the inventor of the Miracle Mop, Joy Mangano, and tells the story of a woman who — in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds – builds a successful mini empire. 

So when I sat down with Lawrence at the press day for “Joy,” I asked if that was the sort of relentless self-advocacy she was referring to.

“Yes,” she enthused. “But not even for women especially. Everybody has dreams. And no one is going to initially believe in your dreams when you say, ‘I want to be an actor” or ‘I have an invention!” Everybody is going to be like, ‘Yeah, so does everybody else.” It takes a certain vigilance and belief in yourself when nobody else does. And also seeing your own value, which I think women in negotiating need to understand. It”s okay to recognize your value. It doesn”t mean you”re a brat. It doesn”t mean that you”re any of these words that we have for women that we don”t have for men. To just recognize your value.”

After she wrote the Lenny Letters piece, Alicia Malone, Miri Jedeikin, and I made Jennifer Lawrence our Woman Crush in our show Girls on Film for being relentlessly and fearlessly herself, but also for talking about things that are complex and taking responsibility for her own life. It”s an incredible combination of qualities. And admirable.

One thing that did strike many of us in thinking about how Jennifer Lawrence would negotiate for herself vs. women in other fields is that Lawrence has a team of agents, managers, and lawyers doing the negotiating for her. So, we were curious about how that altered the process for her. Could she have done more? 

“You know agents and lawyers and everybody, they work for me,” Lawrence elaborated when I asked what she might have done in that circumstance. “So if I tell them, ‘just settle the deal,” they”ll settle the deal. If I”m not getting enough money it doesn”t have anything to do with them, because they”re doing what I”m asking of them. My experience was more of a personal one. And I would do ‘American Hustle” and get paid the same exact thing all over again, because we were doing an ensemble movie and everybody is going to have to take a cut. What I realized when the Sony hack happened, which was unfortunate because we never should have seen those emails. But what I remembered was how I felt. It wasn”t really what happened. It wasn”t what anyone was doing, but how I felt during the negotiation. I wanted to settle, you know. And I calmed all of my people down. I was like, ‘Okay, okay, let”s just settle, I don”t want to seem like this, and I don”t want to seem like that.” And then after seeing what the men were being paid I was like, ‘Well, why don”t men feel that way? Why don”t men pressure?” And maybe they do. But my only perspective is of a woman, so I said something.”

One of the lovely aspects of “Joy” is that while it is a celebration of the entrepreneur”s endurance and talent, it also illustrates that we all do need support. And Joy has some wonderful support from the men in her life.

When I asked Lawrence if her relationship with Russell was similar to that of her dynamic with Bradley Cooper”s character in the film, she said something very interesting. 

Oh, David respects me so much that he will literally forget what sex I am,” she laughed. “He sometimes refers to me as a he without realizing it. But Edgar [Ramirez, who plays Lawrence”s ex-husband in the film] spoke about this so beautifully, because he is so secure in his masculinity that he”s not afraid to support a woman. He”s not afraid to support his wife, which is beautiful and amazing and will hopefully be inspiring.”

I couldn”t agree more in terms of that relationship in the film as an inspiring one. I will confess that I found Lawrence”s first remark about David O. Russell referring to her as a he to be fascinating. It”s not a bad thing, necessarily, but it is thought-provoking. Does his respect for her mean that in his mind she transforms into a masculine figure? Or is gender simply irrelevant/interchangeable in their particular dynamic? 

It”s interesting to think about. 

What do you make of it?

Take a look at our interview in the player above or below.