Action-packed and touching on themes that have the whole of Hollywood talking, Red Sparrow is shaping up to be a must-watch movie. Based on the 2013 novel by Jason Matthews, the story follows Dominika Egorova, a prima ballerina, played by Jennifer Lawrence. After suffering a career-ending injury, she is forced to join Sparrow School, a Russian intelligence agency. Targeting the CIA for her first mission, the tale takes unexpected turns, as the security of both nations comes under threat. It’s the last movie Lawrence made before departing on a one-year sabbatical, and she underwent months of training for the role. We speak to the actor about how she prepared both physically and mentally.
Did playing Dominika require a lot of preparation?
It took a lot of training. I did three hours of ballet every day for about four months, which really was mostly learning how to move my body differently because obviously, I wasn’t going to become a great ballerina! I worked on the accent a lot with Tim Monich, who’s an absolute genius with dialect.
How did you mentally prepare?
The torment and the humiliation these Sparrows had to go through… for the young people who were forced into this program, it’s harrowing and daunting, and for me to do those scenes was the same. It took a certain amount of mental strength and preparation to get myself to a place to really feel empowered enough to do it. But overall, at the end of the program, even though she’s been trained to use her body, she really uses her mind to survive.
Do you feel that Dominika is mentally very strong?
This is a woman who has been a survivor from the time she was a child. From the time she was born, her body belonged to the state, even when she was dancing. So, she has always used tact, mental tact, to get to where she is in the world. And to survive, when her circumstances in the movie change, she goes to Sparrow School to be trained in the art of manipulation and artful cunning. But she’s already a very smart survivor. She looks at life kind of like a chess game and she’s always four moves ahead of everybody.
Would it be fair to say that the ballerina training in a way prepares her for her spy training?
Yes, the ballerina training is what makes her a perfect spy. That’s why the training, grueling as it was for me, was really important. To really study how these dancers push their bodies past the brink of being comfortable and have to keep going – that is exactly what happens to Dominika when she starts becoming a trained spy. There is no stopping point. There is no ‘I’m uncomfortable, let’s stop now’ and there isn’t in dancing, either.
Red Sparrow is currently on screen across the Middle East