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In just one year's time, 20-year-old actress Jennifer Lawrence has gone from virtual unknown to one of the most respected young stars in Hollywood. For her Golden Globe-nominated role in "Winter's Bone," she transformed herself into a tough-talking, wood-chopping, squirrel-skinning Ozark teen searching for her missing father. But that's nothing compared to the change she underwent to become Mystique, the blue-skinned shape-shifting mutant in this summer's "X-Men: First Class."
20th Century Fox just released the first photo of the cast of the "X-Men" prequel, and it shows Lawrence and costars as the younger versions of the Marvel Comics superheroes from the original movie trilogy. Lawrence plays Raven Darkholme -- better known as Mystique -- the character played by Rebecca Romijn in the earlier films. And in a conversation with Lawrence, the actress told me that becoming the scaly, blue mutant was an arduous and time-consuming process.
Lawrence said that it took eight hours to apply the full-body makeup to turn her into Mystique. For days when she was wearing her X-Men costume as shown in the photo, it took half as long to cover her face, neck and chest. Then, after a full day of filming, Lawrence said it took another three and a half hours to remove the makeup.
I asked her what she did to pass the time during the eight hours while her makeup was being applied. She said, "We watch movies and talk... It's kind of like a bizarre sleepover." She said over the course of six months of shooting, she became very close with the seven makeup artists and hair stylists who created her look. It was a difficult process for everyone involved, but Lawrence said, "if [someone] were just sitting outside the trailer they'd hear the 'Sex and the City' theme song and giggling and laughing."
Lawrence said that she hadn't seen the first three "X-Men" movies when she first auditioned for the role, and her unfamiliarity with the role of Mystique nearly cost her the part. She told me she auditioned a few times before finally sitting down to watch the original trilogy. Once she did, she said, "I realized I was doing it completely wrong, and I was like, 'Why have they been calling me back?'" Seeing the first three films, she saw that Rebecca Romijn played the role "kind of cold and cool and snakelike... I was doing my Raven kind of sweet and teenybopper, because I didn't know what else to do."
"X-Men: First Class" takes place in the 1960s, when Professor X (played here by James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) were still friends and not yet bitter adversaries. Lawrence described the movie as an origin story more than a prequel, and that Mystique is not the villainess that she is in the previous movies. The photo shows that even the costumes are a bit of a throwback; they retain the yellow and blue color scheme of the X-Men uniforms from the original comic books.
One character who still hasn't been revealed is the film's main bad guy, Sebastian Shaw, played by Kevin Bacon. Lawrence told me she has filmed a few scenes with Bacon, "and that is my favorite thing about coming to work."
Lawrence has several films coming out this year. Besides "X-Men," she also appears in "The Beaver" opposite Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster. But in the meantime she's still being honored for her work in "Winter's Bone." This past weekend, she attended both the Critics Choice and the Golden Globe Awards, and experts are predicting she's a lock for an Oscar nomination. While it might seem odd to go from an acclaimed independent movie to a blockbuster based on a comic book, it's really not. Two of this year's Golden Globe nominees for Best Actress in drama and comedy will both soon be seen in Marvel Comics movies: Natalie Portman in "Thor," and Emma Stone in the new "Spider-Man." And another former X-Woman, Halle Berry, was nominated as well.
Lawrence told me that between her movie work and the multiple award shows she has had to attend, her schedule is packed to the gills. She said, "I don't think I've ever been this busy in my life, but it's nothing you can complain about. I'm really grateful for everything, but at the same time it's exhausting."
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