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Woman with Shelby ties earns Oscar nomination

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Jennifer Lawrence, a best actress finalist, spent her summers at her family's camp in Shelby County

By Lisa King

Jennifer Lawrence has come a long way from the little girl who was raised in Louisville and enjoyed summers at a camp facility her family owns in Shelby County.

At the tender age of 20, Lawrence was nominated Tuesday for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in Winter’s Bone, which also was named a finalist for Best Picture.

Lawrence’s competition? Nicole Kidman, Natalie Portman, Annette Bening and Michelle Williams.

The Academy Award ceremony will be broadcast live Feb. 27.

With the rest of her family by her side at her residence in Santa Monica, Calif., her brother, Ben, is keeping his fingers crossed for her back home in Louisville.

“It’s [her success] something we never thought of growing up, but it’s been a really wild ride so far,” he said. “Words can’t really explain how it’s affected our family, but in a good way.”

Jennifer Lawrence spent a whirlwind year in 2009, starring alongside Mel Gibson and Jody Foster in Beaver, a film scheduled for release in March about a toy company CEO (Gibson) who uses a beaver hand puppet to help him recover from a case of severe depression.

She also had roles as Mystique in X-Men: First Class, scheduled to be released in June.

“We spent about a week with her in Georgia when she was filming X-Men, and we were together for Christmas,” Ben Lawrence said. “But it’s been difficult, because she hasn’t just been in California – she’s been all over the place.”

With all this attention, access to Lawrence has come under strict control.

Her mother, Karen, said her daughter’s publicist had not approved an interview for her, but she said that it was OK for Ben Lawrence to be interviewed, all right, because he had not had the chance to share in his sister’s limelight as much, and she wanted to give him the opportunity to do that.

Ben Lawrence, in a 30-minute telephone interview, recalled the days when he and Jennifer and their other brother, Blaine, were kids at Camp Hi Ho, which their family has operated on Aiken Road in Todds Point for the past 10 years.

Her life has become pretty heady stuff for a girl who just five years ago was a student of Kammerer Middle School and whose acting portfolio consisted of church plays and a semester at Walden Theatre in Louisville.

So how did she come to be rubbing elbows with other Oscar hopefuls such as Nicole Kidman, Natalie Portman, Annette Bening and Michelle Williams?

Ben Lawrence said it really all started when his kid sister was in eighth grade.

“She took a trip to New York on spring break to do a modeling interview, and when she was there, she read for some commercials, and that’s when it hit her that she didn’t want to starve herself and be a model – she wanted to act,” he said.

So which of his sister’s roles is his favorite?

 “Definitely Winter’s Bone,” he said without hesitating. “She was also pretty good in the Burning Flame, but Winter’s Bone is her best role yet.”

He said that even though the entire family is very proud of her incredible rise to success, what impresses him the most is the way she has maintained her integrity, while living among all the glamour and glitz of Hollywood.

“She is so gracious – so down to earth,” he said. “People ask me all the time if she’s changed, and of course she has – she’s grown up. But she treats her makeup artists and the people behind the scenes with the same courtesy as she treats her fellow actors and directors.

“That’s what I’m most proud of her for – I’m just really proud of the fact that she hasn’t lost sight of who she is or where she comes from.”

Does he think she has a shot at the Oscar?

“Well, I’m not biased or anything,” he said, with a chuckle, “but I think she has a really good chance.”