“The Hunger Games” (based on the novel of the same name by Suzanne Collins) is a rare blockbuster movie that not only was a hit with audiences but also with critics. According to Rentrak, “The Hunger Games” was the No. 9 highest-grossing movie worldwide of 2012: The film grossed nearly $687 million worldwide, with most of that revenue ($408 million) coming from the United States, where "The Hunger Games" was the No. 3 movie box-office hit of 2012. Although “The Hunger Games” did not get any Oscar nominations, it has been getting other prizes, such as several 2013 People’s Choice Awards and 2012 MTV Movie Awards. (“The Hunger Games” won the top movie honor at both awards shows.) The 2013 Critics’ Choice Movie Awards also showed “The Hunger Games” some love, by honoring “The Hunger Games” star Jennifer Lawrence with the prize for Best Actress in an Action Movie.
Lawrence stars as Katniss Everdeen, the heroic teen who is part of the Hunger Games, an annual brutal competition in which other young people ages 12 to 18 literally fight to death as televised entertainment for the masses. The lone survivor gets a championship title and never has to compete in the Hunger Games again. Katniss and her close friend Peeta Mellark (played by Josh Hutcherson) have the added pressure of battling each other in the Hunger Games. Meanwhile, a love triangle is brewing between Katniss, Peeta and Gale Hawthorne (played by Liam Hemsworth), who has also been a longtime friend to Katniss. Here is what the stars of “The Hunger Games” said in interviews while they were making the movie.
Interview with Jennifer Lawrence
What did you think of “The Hunger Games” books when you first read them?
I went through all of them in a matter of days. I thought they were incredible. It was a futuristic Joan of Arc. And I also loved how … It’s hard to say “true” about something that happens in the future, but when you look at what’s on reality television and what’s kind of history repeating itself, I actually thought it was incredibly relevant. I thought it was a very important story to be told.
How would you describe your Katniss Everdeen character?
When we first meet Katniss, she lives in District 12, which is a poor district, but she hunts. She loves the forest, she loves her little sister [Primrose]. She’s got a great life. Under the circumstances, she’s happy. She likes to hunt, and then her little sister, who’s 12, gets chosen for the Hunger Games.
Why is Katniss such a threat to the Capitol?
Her strength. I’m always drawn to a character where I want to be like that. This is a girl who has the world placed on her shoulders. She’s one of the first people to stand up to the Capitol. And I think people see that strength.
It’s a messed-up world. It’s about time somebody did it. She’s a young girl, and she didn’t play their games. She didn’t make anybody her enemy really. She started a revolution — and that’s scary.
Let’s talk about your “Hunger Games” co-stars. What can you say about Josh Hutcherson?
Josh Hutcherson plays Peeta, and it could not be a better match. He is Peeta. He can charm the world with three sentences. He’s also one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. It was like being 12 years old every day at work with him.
He’s great. He’s Peeta. He’s charming. There’s nothing you can’t like about him. He can always find the positive situation in everything.
Gale is played by Liam Hemsworth. And he’s just this huge giant and so sweet and nice. He’s a gentle giant and also hilarious.
Cinna is played by Lenny Kravitz, one of my very dear friends. He’s awesome, and he’s so perfect for this part because Lenny has this gentle persona, which just makes everybody comfortable, which is hard to do when you’re a huge rock star and everybody knows who you. He just has this ability to make everybody feel really comfortable. Cinna has that ability to make everybody feel comfortable.
I have one scene with Donald Sutherland, and I will remember it for the rest of my life. He is remarkable. He sent cold chills down my spine. He’s very funny and nice and a great guy, but as soon as that man speaks, his presence and his acting, it was chilling.
What is it like working with “The Hunger Games” director Gary Ross?
He couldn’t have been a better pick. He’s incredible to work with, he’s brilliant, but he’s also nice and easygoing and funny and all of these great things, but he really understands the depth of the movie and the theme of the movie and the feel of it. He knows exactly what he wants. And fortunately, what he wants is exactly what’s right for the movie. He’s great with communicating with cameras and lights, but he’s also great with communicating with actors. So he can be very, very technical, but he can also be emotional at the same time.
What did you think when you first saw the Mockingjay Pin?
I was star-struck by the Mockinjay Pin. That was the most shocked and excited I’ve been about seeing something in a movie. Honestly, it’s like being star-struck. It’s famous. It’s the start of the revolution. It’s everything of the games.
And then you see it, and you’re like, “Of course that’s what it looks like.” It’s gold and rather small with the mockingjay, which is exactly what you would imagine the mockingjay looking like. And it had an arrow going through it. It was an honor to wear that. It was really cool.
Can you describe the training you did for your role as Katniss Everdeen?
I got a running coach. And I did stunt training so I could wall climb and do vaults and jumps. I had archery for many weeks. It was rough but it was fun.
What was it like for you to meet “The Hunger Games” author Suzanne Collins?
I talked to Suzanne, after I got the part, on the phone when I was still in England. It was so incredible. I’m her biggest fan because I loved the books so much. I’m obsessed with them. Because of course what people said, I had in my head too, about being too old and being blonde, even though I was going to dye my hair, and all of these things — they get to me too, because that’s how I imagined the character. But hearing it from the woman who created Katniss herself, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders, and “I know you can do it,” and all of these things. It gave me the boost that I needed.
Can you describe what “The Hunger Games” sets looked like?
The sets of the movie are remarkable. I mean, the Capitol sets, I’ve never seen anything like it, which is very helpful for the character because I do feel like I’m in a wonderland all the time. They’re truly remarkable. Even in the woods and even in my house at District 12 are truly perfect — better than you can have imagined in the book. I was so excited when we would get to Charlotte [in North Carolina], and we would have a scene in the Capitol or in the apartment or in the bedroom or in the train, because you can’t even imagine what it’s going to look like.
What can fans of “The Hunger Games” book expect from the first movie in this series?
I’m a huge fan of the books, along with everybody else. So I think what I’m most looking forward to and what everybody else should look forward to is these characters and the story we’ve fallen so in love with, it’s come to life, but it’s come to life in a better way than we could’ve possibly imagined it. I don’t think there’s one part of it that disappoints me or that we should’ve touched on more or maybe left out. It’s the book. It’s bigger and better than what we could’ve pictured in our heads when we were reading it.
Interview with Josh Hutcherson
Why did you want to be a part of “The Hunger Games”?
For me, Peeta was an amazing character. I fell in love with him right away. And what’s crazy to me is that I’ve never seen a character that is so much of who I am as a person. I feel like his self-deprecating humor, his outlook on life, and how he doesn’t want things to change him is really kind of who I am as a person.
Being in this business from a young age, from when I was 9 yeas old, there’s a lot of things you can let change you, and let people have a big effect on you, but making sure that you stay true to who you are and what your value system is was really important to me since a young age. And I think that’s something that really attracted me about Peeta, because I think that’s who I am as a person as well.
How did you get the role of Peeta Mellark?
It was very nerve-wracking. It got to the point where I was so obsessed with getting the part that any time I said a word that began with “h,” I would say, “Hunger Games.” Like, “I’m so Hunger Games to be here. Happy. Sorry, it’s in my head.” But yeah, it was a long process. A lot of talks with agents and stuff like that. And going in and meeting with Gary [Ross, the director of “The Hunger Games”].
And I actually got to meet with Suzanne Collins for the very first time, which was exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. But I had a great read-through with them. Then I came back to do a test screening a few weeks later. And that went great.
I kind of hit it off with Jen [Lawrence], and I really got to see the chemistry between the two of us. A couple of weeks went by when we couldn’t say a single word about it or even talk about it or just think about it. And then we got the call. And it still didn’t hit me until we were walking on set for the first day of how big it is.
Can you describe your Peeta Mellark character in the “Hunger Games” movie?
He is very much like myself. He’s outgoing. He’s very much like me. He has a way of talking to anybody that he meets.
What was it like doing the bread scene?
It was great for me to shoot the scene where Peeta throws the bread to Katniss, which we shot at the very beginning of the movie, because that is something that is a very big driving force in the whole movie and in the book especially: Katniss keeps thinking about how Peeta helped her that one time and feels this need to repay him in some way and there’s this feeling that she can trust him.
Peeta, I think that he’s a very compassionate kind of guy. He knows he’s not supposed to go outside of his world, because he has very overbearing parents. But he sees this girl in need, and he tosses her this bread — and it happens to be the girl he’s in love with
How would you describe the Katniss Everdeen character?
Katniss is the love of Peeta’s life. She’s from District 12 as well. She’s a hunter. She’s a survivor. Her father got killed in the mines, and her mom kind of “lost it.” So she’s been kind of raising her family. So she’s very much a fighter. My character Peeta has been in love with her since the day he first saw her.
What do you think about the Reaping?
The Reaping is the process in which they choose all the different tributes from the different districts. Peeta was just drawn at random. Poor him. He has to do that. And then Katniss’ little sister was drawn, which is like on in hundreds of chances that her name was drawn. And because it’s Katniss’ little sister, you have the ability to volunteer if you want to, so Katniss steps up and volunteers to save her little sister’s life.
Can you describe Peeta’s strategy to stay alive?
Peeta’s goal was to do everything he can to make sure Katniss survives, because she’s the love of his life. So, for him, is ability to talk with people and manipulate them, but not in a conniving way, but really to protect Katniss. That’s really his strength.
Let’s talk about some of your “Hunger Games” co-stars. What do you think about Jennifer Lawrence?
She’s incredible. To me, Katniss is about being a young, powerful woman who can take care of herself and others around her. Jennifer encapsulates that perfectly. She has this sense of total hardness and independence about her, but then she has this vulnerability that’s really beautiful and really genuine.
Woody Harrelson is the coolest guy in the world. He’s so perfect for this role because Woody has this great way of having a carefree attitude of various things, which is sort of Hamish’s attitude a lot of times toward the games and everything about it. I think he just knocked it out of the park. He’s just perfect for it.
What was it like working with “The Hunger Games” director Gary Ross?
Gary Ross is our director, our fearless leader. He’s absolutely incredible. He has such an amazingly strong vision for this movie that I don’t think I’ve ever worked for a director who has such a “I know what I’m doing. I know what I want.” He knocks it out of the park every single time.
“The Hunger Games” was filmed primarily in North Carolina. Can you describe the experience of filming there?
We shot all the arena stuff over in Asheville, North Carolina, which is an amazing city, by the way, one of my favorites. Probably one of the hardest things about shooting there was dealing with all the heat and the costumes, because we had to wear these jackets that are supposed to be futuristic that when it’s cold, they stay warm, and when it’s hot, they let the heat out. But of course we don’t have that technology now, so when it’s hot, you’re in a jacket. So that was tough.
The bugs are pretty brutal out there. We had bears all sorts of other crazy creatures we had to deal with and stuff like that. But overall, it was beautiful. It was a great location.
What did you think when you first read “The Hunger Games” book?
I first read “The Hunger Games” when I found out it was being made into a movie. I was actually working on “Red Dawn” a couple of years ago, and [“Red Dawn” co-star] Connor Cruise told me about it. He said, “They’re making this awesome book series into a movie.” So my mom read it and said, “It’s amazing. You’ve got to read it.” So I read it, and I just couldn’t put it down. I just kept reading and reading and reading. I wanted to find out what happens next. So, for me, it was very captivating.
What is the scope of “The Hunger Games” movie?
We had basically, I think, roughly 150 people working on set every day, not to mention the hundreds of other people who work in the wardrobe department, construction, before we even got [on the movie set]. So that’s huge, let alone the fact that our shooting schedule is crazy. We’re shooting three to four pages a day, which sounds like nothing but when you come down to how many shots you’ve got to have for one of those things, it’s an incredible amount of stuff. Everybody really has to be the best of the best to get this kind of thing done. We’ve got the best of the best, and it’s really great.
What should fans of “The Hunger Games” books expect from the first movie in the series?
For me, what’s great about this movie is that it came from an amazing book that has really well-written characters. And, for me, whenever you have such really good characters in a story, you really care about them and you want to see what happens.
Interview with Liam Hemsworth
What do you think of your “Hunger Games” character Gale Hawthorne?
He’s boy from District 12, and he becomes best friends with Katniss. Both of their fathers died in the same mining accident. They meet hunting in the woods. They both basically come from the same background and basically have to do the same thing in life: They’re both providing for their families that can’t provide for themselves.
Gale’s a good, strong-minded person who hates nothing more than he hates the Capitol. He hates everything that they stand for. He hates what they do to people. He doesn’t want to side with them. He doesn’t want to give in to what they stand for. I think he gets really frustrated at times because of the whole Hunger Games thing. He thinks it’s very wrong, and he’s constantly trying to think of ways he can get away from it or stop it.
How would you describe some of the districts in “The Hunger Games”?
The Hunger Games takes place in Panem, a country which is part of America. It’s post-apocalyptic. There’s been a global war. The Panem country is what remains of this hugely destructive war. And it’s basically made up of 12 districts or 12 towns. It used to be 13, and [District] 13 is thought to have been destroyed by the uprising, which is 75 years before this [“Hunger Games”] story takes place. Basically, these districts are extremely poor towns that are forced to provide resources for the Capitol, which is a ridiculous extravagant place.
What do you think about Gale and Katniss’ relationship?
I think she trusts Gale more than anyone in the world. She’s constantly changing her mind about who she can trust and who she thinks she trusts and who people are really. For her, she’s always been completely honest, and she knows that he’s not trying to get anything from her. There’s no other motive, other than that he’s her friend. And I think that’s what she always leans back on.
They’re kind of the one person in their lives that they trust. Gale definitely feels like he can say what he wants to say and getting anything off his chest and talk bad about the Capitol and what they can do to get away from it. I think she feels the same.
I think he’s a comfort for her, and he’s been the only person for her to lean on. Her mom wasn’t there. When her dad died, [Katniss’ mom] kind of lost it. And her sister’s too young. I think they’re each other’s only escape from the horrible world they live in.
You have most of your scenes with Jennifer Lawrence (who plays Katniss Everdeen) and Willow Shields (who plays Primrose Everdeen, Katniss’ younger sister). How would you describe them as actresses?
Jennifer Lawrence plays Katniss, and I think she can do anything she wants. She’s an amazing actress. I saw “Winter’s Bone” a while ago. She’s phenomenal in that. I think it’s a similar character to that story: She has to provide for her family and do what she needs to do. I think if anyone is going to do it, she’s going to do it.
Willow Shields plays Prim, Katniss’ younger sister. Little kids really get me. I’ve worked with little kid actors before, and when they start crying or anything like that, it makes my job so easy, because you react. A little kid crying, there’s not much else to do. It’s such a sad thing to watch a kid cry, and she does it on cue. She’s an incredible little actress. She’s cut and smart and funny, just like the Prim.
What was it like working with “The Hunger Games” director Gary Ross?
He’s great because he has a clear vision of what he wants. And even if what he thought he wants maybe doesn’t work, then he’s so flexible. He’s so easy to work with because he just allows you to do what you want and try it a billion different ways. And he’s great. A good set, a comfortable set is because the director is relaxed and is happy to be there. And he certainly is every day.
What did you think of “The Hunger Games” book when you first read it?
I think it’s cool to see an ordinary girl have such an impact on so many people and bring strength and hope to people. And it’s not because she tries to or she doesn’t even know she’s doing it, but out of a good heart, and doing what she believes in, she allows people hope for the first time in a long time.
Why do you think “The Hunger Games” books have been so successful?
Because of the character Katniss. She’s an ordinary girl who grew up in a bad world. She does things simply. She does what she needs to do. She doesn’t do it for any other reason than because she has to. Without even meaning to, she gives people hope and strength to fight back.
What are you most looking forward to about “The Hunger Games” movie when it’s released?
There’s only so much you can imagine in your head. You make it all up in your head? You read, and you have ideas of what you think it could look like, and what it might look like. And for fans, they get to see it all brought to life. You get to see it for real. For me, I’m excited to see it. From reading the book and having all these images in my head of how it’s going to look, I can’t wait to see it all.
The movie also, I think, it’s cool because in the book, it’s all played very much from [Katiniss’ perspective], and so is the script, but also you get to see a little more of what happens around her and other people, which you don’t really get to see in the book, so I think that will be cool.
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