Shooting the Sass easily as an arrow

If a Hollywood publicist were to make a list of conversational taboos for a young star, it might include the following: personal shortcomings, money, group sex and death. All of these were subjects that the actress Jennifer Lawrence breezed right into over breakfast recently.

Lawrence, 22, has also been thinking about her own demise. Her lawyers are having her draft a will because, she explained, "I'm rich now." Not that you'd know it; in the next breath she called herself a redneck and described going to Wal-Mart to shop for Rob Schneider movies.

Her on-screen characters are often marked by their flinty resolution, not their volubility, but in person Lawrence is just the opposite, an unfiltered sass who happens to look like a 1970s California prom queen and talk like a SoCal skater boy. In just two years she has made an unusual leap, from indie character actress to action heroine, nimbly repeating the cycle while retaining her real-girl charm.

Minted as an Oscar nominee for playing a stoic Ozarks teenager in Winter's Bone and as a box office star with The Hunger Games this year, she will next appear in her mouthiest role yet, in David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook.

The film stars Bradley Cooper as a high school teacher who suffers a breakdown after discovering his wife's affair. Lawrence is the unstable, sex-crazed widow he meets after he leaves the mental institution. Add Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver and Chris Tucker as his impatient friend and the whole affair has the makings of a zany comedy. Russell, riding high after his success with the Oscar-winning boxing movie The Fighter, had his pick of leading ladies, though they had to pass muster with Harvey Weinstein, a producer of the film. Initially worried that Lawrence was too young to play the romantic interest—Cooper is 37—Russell said he was won over by her audition, conducted partly via Skype. "There's an expressiveness in her eyes and in her face, that many stars have to work for, that's ageless," he said.

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