'The Hunger Games' cast on reality TV, Occupy Wall Street, group think

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss
Image courtesy of Lionsgate

Last week, cast members of The Hunger Games made their way to the Twin Cities as part of a media blitz greeting fans and answering questions about their roles in one of the most anticipated films of the year. Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss), Josh Hutcherson (Peeta), Alexander Ludwig (Cato), Amandla Stenberg (Rue), Isabelle Fuhrman (Clove), and Jacqueline Emerson (Foxface) sat down for an interview with City Pages before stopping to see hundreds of fans at Mall of America.

City Pages: There is already so much excitement surrounding The Hunger Games film release. What is that like for you?

Jennifer Lawrence: I'm really relieved, because the film is great. I can't imagine how I'd feel if all these people were buying tickets and lining up [for the mall tours] if I was like, "It's not that good!" It's a great feeling to know that fans won't be disappointed. I'm proud and I can't wait for people to see it.

CP: Did you feel like there was a lot pressure put on you to live up to the books?

Jennifer Lawrence: Of course you're well aware that there are millions of people who have read this book and they have an idea in their head of what this person looks like and talks like, and you could embody that or you might not. It's the first thing you have to think about, and it's the first thing that you have to forget.

Alexander Ludwig: At the end of the day, we're just as big of fans [of the book] ourselves. Everyone is asking about the pressure, but we put that pressure on ourselves. It's a phenomenal book, and it's an exceptional thing to be a part of the film.

From left to right Clove (Isabelle Fuhrman), Cato (Alexander Ludwig), Marvel (Jack Quaid), and Glimmer (Leven Rambin)
From left to right Clove (Isabelle Fuhrman), Cato (Alexander Ludwig), Marvel (Jack Quaid), and Glimmer (Leven Rambin)
Image courtesy of Lionsgate

City Pages: Jennifer, what was the most challenging part about playing Katniss?

Jennifer Lawrence: Making her likable without making anybody like her. That's something I love about her in the books -- she has no idea how to make people like her. She goes into the press tour and she doesn't care. She's a hunter and not once in her life has she tried to make anybody like her. That's something that I love, but it's hard to watch someone for two hours [onscreen] that you don't like. That's something that I wanted to keep really true to her. I didn't want to manipulate the audience and force them to like her.

CP: Can you relate to your character?

Josh Hutcherson: Peeta has a belief that no matter what circumstances you're in or what adversity you're facing, you have to remain true to your constitution -- what you believe in as a person -- and not just become a piece in someone else's game. Growing up as a young actor, you have a lot of chances to change and become something different. For me, it was so important to stay true to myself. That resonated with me in the books.

Jacqueline Emerson: Foxface is the smartest of all of the tributes. She analyzes each situation instead of jumping into the fray and killing people. I think that if I were ever in the games, I would "pull a Foxface" in the sense that I would not be killing people, but instead would be running and hiding and trying to figure out the game from a strategic standpoint.

City Pages: What kind of physical training did you do for the film?

Alexander Ludwig: I did lots of free-running because we had to run through the woods a lot. I trained with Navy SEALs because I needed to bulk up, and I put on 30 to 40 pounds. That was something I decided I wanted to do because I wanted Cato to have as much of a physical presence as a mental one like he did in the books. I wanted him to be intimidating.

City Pages: Jennifer, was it difficult to learn archery for your role?

Jennifer Lawrence: It was amazing. I had a love/hate relationship in the beginning. It's all about technique, and when you get the technique wrong you get whipped with a guitar string going at over 100 miles per hour on the inside of your arm. I threw my bow a couple times. Once you get it you can say, "I want to hit that" and when you do it's a really great feeling. It's very cool. I'm happy I learned it.

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson)
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson)
Image courtesy of Lionsgate

City Pages: What was it like filming in North Carolina?

Josh Hutcherson: It was great. I'm from Kentucky, which has a very similar terrain. I grew up playing in the woods and in the forest, so for me it was going back to my roots. It's so beautiful in the mountains, and I got to do some camping and hiking, which was great. It was hot, and there were a lot of thunderstorms which created a lot of mud, but being there in the real environment and not being in a studio added a gritty element to the film.

CP: Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games, says that she hopes that readers question how elements of the book might be relevant in their own lives. How is the book relevant to your life?

Jacqueline Emerson: I think it's cool to look at the films and to reflect on reality television and how that's affecting our lives. Obviously there is a long way to go between Toddlers and Tiaras to people killing each other, but we're still watching people's lives get ruined every day. We watch live war footage on television and there's a screen separating us so there's a desensitization that goes on. I think this book takes that and goes to the extreme.

Jennifer Lawrence: We act like we've come so far from the Roman gladiators, and in a lot of ways we have. But it used to be Roman gladiators and war and now it's war plus these reality shows where we watch people's lives fall apart while we eat popcorn. We use tragedy for entertainment. There's some gene in us where we're more entertained by someone's tragedy than we are when good things happen. The story that people want to hear is a scandalous one. I'm not exempting myself from that; I'm every bit a part of it. It's just in our nature, and I feel like it's a terrible reflection of society, humanity, and what happens when you lose touch with empathy.

Also, we're sheep. We find some leader and a few people follow, and then a few more, and nobody ever stops to question. We've seen this happen in history, where all of a sudden there's this government and it controls its people by keeping them separated and hungry and
weak so that they're not strong enough to fight back. It happens from people just following without second guessing or standing up and saying, "This is wrong."

Josh Hutcherson: If you look at movements today like Occupy Wall Street and Occupy LA and all of the different Occupies, it's about people finally saying enough is enough with the mistreatment and misunderstanding of nations. I feel like in today's world, you have the 99 percent and the one percent, and there's such a disconnect between the two. That's kind of what happens in The Hunger Games. You have these people who fight to put food on the table and then you have the Capitol that's completely oblivious to that world.

Jennifer Lawrence: And even if you're too young to understand the politics, there's this girl who's a normal girl. She's no hero, she's no James Bond or Laura Croft, and she doesn't know if she's going to win or if she's going to live. She's just a girl who stands up for what's right, even when it's scary and no one else is doing it. The people who love the books are following a character who simply stands up for what she believes and for what's right.

'The Hunger Games' cast on reality TV, Occupy Wall Street, group think
Image courtesy of Lionsgate

CP: Why should people see the film?

Isabelle Fuhrman: I think people will be able to relate to the characters. There are no supernatural elements. There's not a werewolf or a vampire or a wizard. It's about actual human beings in extreme circumstances.

Josh Hutcherson: Reading the book was so moving. Watching the film from frame one to the credits, I was emotionally invested in the story and I cared about the characters. To me, if you care about the characters then you're hooked. I think that the characters in the book and the characters that Gary [Ross, director] and Suzanne adapted for the screenplay are fantastic and very intriguing.

The Hunger Games opens nationwide this Friday.

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