Round-Table Interview: “The Hunger Games“ actors

“The Hunger Games” hits theaters tomorrow. A&E spat game with six of its actors.

Sarah Harper


Just as the sacrificial lambs from the districts of Panem came together to fight to the death in Suzanne Collins’ dystopian trilogy, six members of “The Hunger Games” cast visited Minnesota to promote the cinematic franchise.

“The fact that people will sleep outside in the cold to meet us is just incredible,” said Amandla Stenberg, the 13-year-old playing Rue.

Five of Stenberg’s co-stars, including Jennifer Lawrence, aka heroine Katniss Everdeen, joined her in greeting swarms of starry-eyed fans at the Mall of America. Fans made “The Hunger Games” salute, pressing three fingers to their lips and then raising them up — a reference to the signal of support from the novels.

Before they hit the mall, the six actors talked with members of the press. Over the course of the round table, a lot of meaningless things were said by all, A&E included. Just about everyone in attendance spit out a little, “I love the cast! I love acting! ‘The Hunger Games’ is amazing. Everyone and everything is amazing.”

But people said some things of substance too. These Qs were asked by A&E and a few other bloggers and journalists.

Q: What was training like?

Jennifer Lawrence: It was intense, but it was fun. Because I wasn’t in a gym — if I’m in a gym, I die. It was lots and lots of running. And parkour, agility;we still don’t know what to call it. Archery, combat climbing, things like that. There really wasn’t a lot of dieting because we were exercising so much, even during filming. I gained 30 pounds.

Q: Best thing that happened on set? Funny memories?

Amandla Stenberg: This is going to be embarrassing. So there was this one time we were on set, and we were shooting a scene where we were up in a tree. We kept sliding down the tree trunk, so it was kind of uncomfortable. I found a spot in the trunk where I could sit, and I wouldn’t slide down. So we were about to shoot the scene, and I start sliding down, and I started to panic. … They go, “Ready, set, and” – I yell out, so everyone can hear, “Wait! I can’t find my butt hole!”

Lawrence: It was this kind of stunned silence on set. Did she…? She said it. We couldn’t shoot for a while.

Q: How did you deal with the grittiness of the books?

Lawrence: The grittiness and the cutthroat and the brutality is the root of the entire movie. The violence starts this entire uprising. She [Katniss] is wonderful. If you’re too young to look at the futuristic Joan of Arc or this warrior as a symbol of revolt and freedom and hope — she’s just a girl who stands up for what she believes in, even when it’s scary, even when it’s not the popular thing. She speaks up when something is wrong.

Q: Daniel Radcliffe is still Harry Potter. Were you concerned with being identified with “The Hunger Games” forever?

Stenberg: I didn’t think about it. The only thing that was running across my mind was, “I’m Rue! I’m Rue! I’m Rue!” I didn’t think about anything besides the fact that I had gotten the role because I was such a huge, dedicated fan before I knew the movie was going to be made.

Alexander Ludwig (Cato): One thing that’s really special about this phenomenon and this trilogy is that it’s not like there’s anything special about these — well these characters, of course, are complex and interesting. and the special part of them is that everybody can relate to them in some way — I don’t think that’s ever been done before. With “Harry Potter,” you had the whole fantasy stuff, and with “Twilight” — there’s always some super power.

[Note: Nobody in “The Hunger Games” is magical.]

Q: What’s up with director Gary Ross, whose credits include writing “Lassie,” and directing “Pleasantville”?

Stenberg: Any other director could have just made this into another blockbuster. But I think Gary really cared about not just making it a book-turned-movie but about making it an artful, beautifully crafted movie that people who haven’t even read the book will love.

Lawrence: He would set up shots based on his favorite paintings. He’s so smart. It’s just annoying to be around

Q: What was the casting process like for you?

Jacqueline Emerson (Foxface): My casting process was actually very unorthodox. I read the books over the summer, because they were the all-school read for my school. I quickly became hooked. I read the first one, the second one, waited up until midnight to get the third one. Loved them, read the series a billion times.

And I actually know Gary Ross’s daughter, Claudia. And so her dad was interviewing kids who had read the books, just, I think, to get a sense of what the fans thought of it. So I came in and did an interview for him.

And then two weeks later, he asked me if I would come in and audition for Foxface.

Q: We spend a lot of time talking about your burdens. What have been the joys?

Emerson: It was great on set because we’re all in similar age range, so we all would hang out after rehearsal. We’d be like, “OK, so what are we doing tonight?” We’d go out to dinner, we’d go see movies, we’d do potlucks, we’d climb trees. We’d have sing-a-longs and jam sessions. It was a very light atmosphere.