Director Francis Lawrence delves into the world of covert operatives in his latest film, Red Sparrow– his fourth collaboration with Jennifer Lawrence.
Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence) is a prima ballerina at the top of her game. After suffering a career-ending injury that leaves her struggling to keep both her own and her mother’s heads above water, she is approached to become a recruit of the Sparrow School – an elite secret intelligence service training young adults to use their bodies and minds as weapons. Thrust into the world of espionage, Dominika no longer knows who to trust, and must use all her training to survive in this dangerous new profession.
Red Sparrow is based on a novel by ex-CIA agent Jason Matthews, and in adapting the book to the screen, director Francis Lawrence (no relation to Jennifer, in case you were wondering) remained in close communication with the author.
“I did a lot of research getting into this,” he says. “There was a lot of material in the book and obviously the novelist, Jason Matthews, is ex-CIA, so he was a great resource and could really help us with authenticity.
“I also did a fair amount of research on my own and would read about polygraphs [lie detectors] – how they work and what the polygraphers were like. It’s a real specialty and I learned what the procedures are like when you actually polygraph somebody who’s going to become a new recruit.
“I also did a ton of research just in terms of the look of the world and things like that, which was part of the fun.”
Lawrence also studied the memoirs of other operatives, for further insight into their craft.
“What was really interesting when reading other people’s memoirs was finding how many true events were plucked out and kind of tweaked to go into Jason’s book. He obviously knows all the stories so he can pull from the real world and have different things happen in the book that mirror what’s happened in the real world.”
Red Sparrow marks Lawrence’s fourth collaboration with Jennifer Lawrence, following three of the four Hunger Gamesfilms (in which she played heroine Katniss Everdeen). The director reveals the pair hit it off right from the start.
“I think there was a comfort level and she liked the way I work, and I definitely liked the way she works.
“She’s a phenomenal actress and it’s always really exciting to watch her because she’s just so instinctual. She doesn’t do a lot of rehearsal and she doesn’t practice things a lot. She doesn’t honestly think about it too much, but she’s so unbelievably alive in the moment. It’s always really fun to watch. As a person it’s fantastic to work with her because she’s so smart and she’s so funny and she doesn’t stay in character, so in between there’s a lot of fun to be had.”