OSCAR-WINNING actress Jennifer Lawrence starred in her own real-life fairytale to make a dream come true for her best friend.
Years before the 22-year-old Hunger Games star found fame in Hollywood, she nominated neighbour Andy Strunk – who has Down’s Syndrome – in a contest to find the most popular boy in school.
At first, Andy’s parents were worried the other kids at Kammerer Middle School in Louisville, Kentucky, might make fun of him. And his mother, Pollyanna, even took Jennifer aside to tell her about their concern.
But Jennifer, then 14, convinced them they had nothing to worry about. As the most popular girl in school, she planned to lead the campaign for Andy herself.
In a happy ending worthy of a Hollywood script, the special needs youngster – whose educational level remains that of a seven-year-old – won the contest hands down and was voted Mr Kammerer.
Jennifer’s support – she won the title of Most Chatty – cemented the close friendship between the movie beauty and the pal who describes himself as her No1 fan.
Even after she rocketed to fame – first in 2010’s Winter’s Bone, for which she received a Best Actress Academy Awards nomination, and then the box-office hits The Hunger Games and Silver Linings Playbook – Jennifer has stayed in touch with Andy.
In turn, he collects every photo and article he can find about the star and has turned his bedroom into a shrine to her whirlwind career.
In her Oscar-worthy performance opposite Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook, Jennifer plays a widow battling mental health problems.
Her character, Tiffany, turns to sex to deal with her demons but finds love against the odds with a neurotic former psychiatric hospital patient.
But Jennifer has never had to worry about Andy’s happiness.
“He has the kindest heart of anyone I’ve ever met and is one of the funniest people I’ve ever been around,” she said before last Sunday’s triumphant awards ceremony in Los Angeles.
Andy’s mum Pollyanna, a 58-year-old nurse, said: “Jennifer is a very kind spirit. There aren’t many people who are movie stars who would spend time with a special needs kid.
“She last saw him on Christmas Day. She came over to give him his Christmas hug and he was over the moon all day. When she’s in town, she just walks down the street and knocks on the door to come and see Andy.”
The proud mum said Jennifer’s campaign to get her classmates to vote for Andy in the school popularity poll was a big turning point in his life.
“She made the nomination for Andy to be Mr Kammerer,” added Pollyanna. “It was the most popular position for a child to be in at that age.
“I was concerned about it because I was worried people would make fun of him but I talked to Jennifer and agreed to let her do it.
“She did place the nomination – and he won. That was really what started the friendship between them and they are still in touch. He loved being showered with all that attention.
“They’ve spent time together over the years. Jennifer’s parents have a pool and Andy was invited to go over and use it whenever he wanted. Jennifer would swim with him and enjoyed his company.
“She has always been very respectful of him and always treated him in a very kind way.”
However, Pollyanna said another top American female singer and actress was not so caring – and it left Jennifer furious.
She said: “There is another actress Andy was a big fan of. She was in a show he loved on the Disney Channel and she was doing a concert near us. I got a ticket for Andy and he was really looking forward to going.”
She said Jennifer asked the performer to do something special for her friend.
Pollyanna added: “But they did nothing. Jennifer was upset because she couldn’t understand why another person couldn’t see Andy was special like she does.
“He didn’t expect anything but some people have a kind heart and some don’t.”
Jennifer left the tree-lined Indian Hills neighbourhood in Louisville when she was 14 to try her luck as a child actress in New York. But Andy, now 23, has always remained a precious touchstone to her happy childhood.