2009 Louisville International Film Festival event attended by Andy Strunk, 23, left, and Jennifer Lawrence.
Andy Strunk has been deliberating for weeks about what special outfit he will wear when tuning in to the Academy Awards Sunday night, hoping to see his friend, Jennifer Lawrence, win Best Actress.
“He’s going to wear his tux. He wants to dress up ... because Jennifer is going to be dressed up and he wants to celebrate,” said Andy’s mother, Pollyanna Strunk. “He’ll have his shirt on and his tie and all that … just like he was there.”
Strunk, who is 23 and has Down syndrome, says he is the “Silver Linings Playbook” star’s No. 1 fan, and his bedroom decor attests to that. It’s packed with movie posters, magazine pictures and personal photos of his former Kammerer Middle School classmate and Indian Hills neighbor. His favorite is of a pre-fame Lawrence and himself sitting by the pool in the back yard of the east Louisville home where she grew up.
“We are like best friends,” he said. “She’s kind... I think she has spirit.”
Strunk also regularly goes to the bookstore to buy celebrity magazines featuring Lawrence so he can add them to his collection of memorabilia, which includes hundreds of photos. “The last time he went, he spent $87 on things he found with Jennifer on them,” Strunk’s mother said.
Lawrence is up for an Oscar for her role in “Silver Linings Playbook.” This marks the second time that the Louisville native is going to the Academy Awards as a nominee for Best Actress. But unlike her last trip in 2011 for “Winter’s Bone,” this year she goes into the ceremony heavily favored to win.
In an interview this week, Strunk said he’s sure he’ll hear Lawrence’s name called as winner — making her only the third Kentuckian to win an Academy Award for Best Actor or Actress, joining George Clooney and Patricia Neal in that exclusive club, according to Michael Mangeot, director of the Kentucky Film Office.
“I will say ‘Yay! Yay! Yay!’” Strunk said, and will “be very excited and “will have to be calmed down.”
He said he knows Lawrence will be “very busy” that night, so he’ll send a text to her mother and Oscar date, Karen Lawrence, that says “congratulations” and “see you later.”
Lawrence apparently is a pretty big fan of Strunk, too. When they were in middle school, Pollyanna Strunk said, the actress nominated her son for the title of “Mr. Kammerer.” He won the honors, and according to the school yearbook, Lawrence also received an accolade: “Most Talkative.”
The two keep in contact. “They still communicate regularly,” Pollyanna Strunk said. “When she comes home, she makes contact with him. Andy got to see her at Christmas.”
But Strunk isn’t the only Louisvillian whose eyes will be glued to the Academy Awards Sunday night as they cheer on their hometown actress.
Lawrence’s aunt, Cindy Miller, is throwing an Oscars viewing party with family at her eastern Louisville home — and has a special game planned for the evening’s festivities.
“I’ve got my blown-up picture of Jen on the wall, and I’ve printed off my Oscars and we’re going to play ‘Pin the Oscar on Jen.’ So if she doesn’t win, I’ll just text her a picture of her holding an Oscar,” Miller said laughing.
Lawrence’s former band teacher at Kammerer, Amanda Cornish, says she’ll never forget the blonde teen who “sat in the very front row, right in the middle” and played the oboe.
“Jennifer was always vivacious, full of energy, full of laughter. She had an awesome humor about her even as a young kid.”
Charlie Sexton, artistic director at Walden Theatre, worked with Lawrence when she was an eighth-grader. During the group’s April 2005 spring showcase performance, “In Celebration of Shakespeare,” she played Desdemona from “Othello.”
“The thing I remember about her was how determined she was to pursue this as a career,” he said. “She had this career confidence. Most eighth-graders aren’t thinking about their career, but she definitely was.”
Chris Kaufman, an agent, photographer and runway director for Heyman Talent Agency, first met Lawrence when she was 12, not long before she left for New York to start her showbiz career.
“For about four years, I was her only photographer. I eventually was the one that made her go to New York, because her mother thought that was out of the question.”
Kaufman, who also has worked with former Pussycat Dolls frontwoman Nicole Scherzinger, said he isn’t surprised that Lawrence has two Oscar nominations under her belt.
“I’ve worked with so many people, and you don’t have a lot of great expectations when someone first steps in front of the camera at that age,” he said. “But when she (Lawrence) started moving, she moved unlike anyone I’d ever seen in front of the camera at that age. It took me so off guard. I literally just dropped my camera down.”