When Jennifer Lawrence's friends and family gathered at her Santa Monica home to watch the Academy Award nominations early Tuesday morning, breakfast was waiting for them.
“My mom passed out blueberry bran muffins that she claimed to have made — after she pulled them out of the plastic,” the 20-year-old Louisville native said with an easy laugh during a phone interview Tuesday.
The pre-announcement mood was just as light and low-key, she said — until cheers, screams and lots of jumping around ensued when her name was called as one of five nominees for best actress.
The “Winter's Bone” star faces the same field of A-list actresses who were also nominated for the Golden Globe: Natalie Portman (the winner for “Black Swan”), Annette Bening (“The Kids Are All Right”), Nicole Kidman (“Rabbit Hole”) and Michelle Williams (“Blue Valentine”).
Jennifer Lawrence said she slept well the night before and didn't feel any pre-announcement jitters, dreading only the early wake-up call. The Oscars nominations are announced at 5:30 a.m. Pacific time.
“There's not really anything to be nervous about,” she said. “If I did get nominated it would be really exciting. And if I didn't — I had the possibility of getting nominated for an Oscar at 20. Like, either way, I'm good.
“Once I finally got up, it was sort of exciting just having all my friends there. It was just kind of fun.”
The Oscars nomination caps a wild year for Lawrence, who also earned best actress nominations from the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild and the Film Independent Spirit Awards.
It was also a big day for “Winter's Bone,” in which Lawrence plays an impoverished teenager, Ree Dolly, searching for her missing father among a murderous clan of meth-makers in the Ozark Mountains. The film was nominated for best picture and best adapted screenplay, and co-star John Hawkes earned a nomination for best supporting actor.
‘She was hungry'
Debra Granik, the film's director and co-screenwriter, said Tuesday that Lawrence's passion for the film was a major factor in its surprising success. The movie unexpectedly won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2010 Sundance festival.
“She was hungry. She wanted to wrestle this down,” Granik said. “I was very sure her commitment was there. She was aware of the arduous nature of the shoot. We could look each other in the eye and she could say, ‘I understand that Ree's in every scene and I understand what it will take — I really will be there.' ”
Lawrence's acting career began at 14, after she caught the eyes of a talent scout in New York City, where she'd gone to audition for modeling agencies.
Her parents, Karen and Gary Lawrence, have said they reluctantly pulled her from school — she last attended Kammerer Middle School — and took turns staying with her in New York while she auditioned for roles.
It paid off when she landed the role of the daughter on the TBS sitcom “The Bill Engvall Show.” It was cancelled in fall 2009, but Lawrence's film career subsequently took off — though the actress said she never imagined a year like this.
“It's just been incredible because I can honestly say that each thing that's happened has been unexpected,” Lawrence said.
“We worked on this tiny little movie that we all loved. It was just a passion film. Each step that's happened has been a huge surprise and so exciting — just getting into Sundance this time last year, I cried when I found out we got into Sundance. Exactly a year later the movie is nominated for an Oscar. I don't know if I really can put into words what that feels like. Everything has gone right.”
Can everything go so right that Lawrence ends up on stage on Feb. 27 when the golden statuettes are awarded?
Lawrence said she's honored just to have her name mentioned in the same sentence as stars like Kidman, Bening and the odds-on favorite, Portman.
S.T. VanAirsdale, an editor of Movieline.com and an awards season expert, said that Lawrence is a long shot.
“Portman is going to win,” VanAirsdale said. “There is always the chance, however, that Portman and Bening split the Academy vote, leaving someone like Lawrence or Michelle Williams to sneak through the middle and win. This is widely suspected to be the way (“La Vie En Rose” star) Marion Cotillard won in 2007 — but she wasn't going up against Natalie Portman.”
But long shot or not, Louisvillians who knew Lawrence before she was a rising star were celebrating Tuesday. It's the first time a Louisvillian has been nominated for Best Actress since Irene Dunne's five nominations, the last of which came in 1948 for “I Remember Mama.” Dunne never won.
Patricia Neal, who was born in Whitley County, Ky., won for 1963's “Hud.” Ned Beatty, a Louisville native, was nominated for best supporting actor for 1976's “Network.” Tom Cruise, who briefly attended St. Xavier High School, has three acting nominations, as does Johnny Depp, who was born in Owensboro.
At Kammerer Middle School, math teacher Kevin DeCoste detected an air of excitement among the faculty and students.
“It's very exciting for them to see that a former student is doing so well, said DeCoste, who taught Lawrence eighth-grade math. “And it's pretty cool to see her on television and on the movie screen. We're all very excited for her. She's clearly a very talented woman.”
Old friends also filled her voice mail and inbox.
“I've got a lot of text messages and e-mails to reply to,” she said, lamenting how often her phone has rung since the announcements.
“I considered throwing it out the window for a second, but I figured, ‘No, I should probably keep all my friends and reply to these e-mails.' ”
All of them? “Ugh. Yeah.”
One decision she's already made is her Academy Awards date. She'll be accompanied by her parents, as she was at the Golden Globes.
“They're having a blast,” said Lawrence, even though her father couldn't sit with her at the Globes. “I took both parents but my dad couldn't sit at my table, unfortunately,” she said. “So hopefully for the Oscars I can get both.”
Reporter Joseph Lord can be reached at (502) 582-4501.