Throughout the ratio of young adult novels that successfully transitioned from page to screen is slim, and for every Harry Potter, there’s three The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. They have to present more than just a pretty young face and give us enough substance and depth for general audiences to latch onto. Suzanne Collins created an inspiring book series with The Hunger Games that contained enough drama and action for everybody to love, but that’s not the only aspect of these films that’s worked so well. There’s a number of younger actors sprinkled within the cast, but there’s no way you can mention The Hunger Games: Catching Fire without bringing up the film’s diverse cast.
Last week we spoke with Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Jeffrey Wright and Jena Malone about the upcoming sequel. They talked about how much they enjoyed putting together this film and the great idea of a single voice changing the course of history as each of these characters evolve through this troubling time in their lives.
To [Josh] Hutcherson and [Liam] Hemsworth, could you two talk about your character’s evolution through the second film considering the new obstacles each one of them are facing in their own lives and with Katniss?
Josh Hutcherson: Yeah, I think there’s a lot in the source material. We have a whole book then you have to widdle it down into a movie. For me I think Peeta, he’s more angry in this movie. In the first movie he was just the baker that painted, and now in this one he’s the baker that paints but he also has a bit of an edge to him. I feel like he’s angry about having to go back into the games, he’s angry about how Katniss has been with him and how he’s felt like he’s been lead on. Up until that moment when they’re in the train together and they have that coming together friends kind of thing, I think he feels really disappointed with the whole situation, as one would in The Hunger Games. I think this movie just expands a lot on the different relationships. I think you see a lot more of the dynamic between Katniss and Peeta and how they’re affected by the games and how they’re affected by the whole world they live in. And then the same goes with the relationship between those two.
Liam Hemsworth: When Katniss comes back from the games, Gale is obviously seeing this post traumatic stress she’s dealing with and he’s obviously watched her fall in love with someone else and he cares deeply about her. I think as angry and frustrated as Gale is watching her go back into these games. I think he understands at the end of the day that Peeta is trying to protect her as well. I think he’s one of her best chances of survival and I think he does appreciate that in a way, as hard as it is for him to watch all this emotion unfold between them.
Mr. Wright, now that you’re a part of this franchise, could you elaborate on your role and what initially attracted you to this project.
Jeffrey Wright: One of the things, aside from the thematics of the story telling, that attracted me to is was that there had already been this extraordinary work done by many of the folks who are assembled here. So I had an opportunity then to piggy back on their efforts. When I was called in, in my case by Francis [Lawrence], to be a part of this one, I realized that there was something really interesting happening, particularly as Jennifer said, for younger audiences. This is an epic movie-making of the scale that we’ve seen. We’ve seen a lot of now. But at the same time there are all these poignant, relevant ideas that are being presented to you of young developing minds that are really essential. They’re not specific but they are just presented in an intelligent way that allows the reader or each audience member to place themselves within the world or make these considerations that are relevant to their lives outside of the theater. For me, that’s what seems to make sense. You entertain, but at the same time you provide in some ways escapism but a kind of relevant escapism that doesn’t discount the complexities of who we are and what our world is undergoing now.
What kind of moral lessons do you feel young boys and girls can learn from your characters?
Jennifer Lawrence: We’ve been completely desensitized with the shock factor. Our media continues to feed you what you want, and this is an example of what happens when you keep allowing that to happen, when you keep feeling entitled to things that you’re just simply not. And I think that at the end of the first movie with them and the berries, no, no they don’t care. We don’t need to play in this game. It’s a wonderful example for young adults that you don’t have to follow, even though you can seem like the only one, even just one voice speaking up on something that’s wrong can keep us from going towards a totalitarian government.
Josh Hutcherson: Today with our generation, and my younger brother’s generation coming up too, they’re surrounded by so much in your face truth from around the world about issues that are happening. They’re also told all the time how they’re supposed to be by the media and what the kind of people they need to be, how they need to look or dress. I think this movie just sort of shows that you can go against the flow of things. I think for me that’s the most important thing because that’s what I did when I was a kid in Kentucky. I went against the flow of things and went for what I wanted to do in life and I’m here talking to you guys. It’s pretty cool.
Jeffrey Wright: What I found in interacting with fans and talking about why they’re so passionate about these movies, is that it’s this universal spectrum that allows anyone to insert themselves into the world and really express their own perspectives and their own politics within it. Really with any good piece it raises more questions than it answers. At the same time the politics for the young people are the movie are very simple. Their politics are around home, family, security, love and all these very simple, universal themes that we all relate to and that we can all understand. Yes, young people should be politically engaged but I think they should be so from a very considered principle and grounded place. Not from a place that has to do with a fad or a knee jerk reactive response to something, but something very grounded in principles that are very meaningful and effective.
What aspect of Johanna did you love about her the most?
Jena Malone: I think I love every single thing about Johanna. When I read the novels in 48 hours because I had my wisdom teeth out. I just stayed in bed and had ice cream and poured through them and was just sobbing at the end. I was just so emotionally invested. The amazing cast, this incredible director and the fact that this kind of book was so well received within a young audience shows that they were hungry for it. Its sort of a symbiotic relationship. You can’t create a good idea without someone wanting to receive that good idea. I think it’s a very incredible thing to know that a new generation is hungry for a different type of sense of identity. They’re looking for something else in stories that are being told to them. They don’t want to be sugar coated anymore and what I thought was so amazing about Johanna was that she represented a lot of that sense that she doesn’t sugar coat. She’s hardcore and truthful and violent and angry and all of those things are just about they’re not just cool aspects of her. I don’t really think there’s sort of a badass thing, I think it’s sort of a survival technique and I think that’s sort of an interesting thing to talk about to young women, to understand that they can take on tools and personality traits that may not being their own, but they can use them in forms of survival to elevate themselves in the world, which is good.
What do you hope you can accomplish with that platform that you’re developing right now?
Jennifer Lawrence: It kind of changes sometimes. There are so many wonderful things that come from this, when you have a voice and saying the right things. A simple one is that it’s so easy to raise money for charity. It takes me ten minutes to sign a hundred posters that can raise thousands of dollars for charity and that’s so simple. When you’re an actor you don’t ever think like my job is very important. I just love doing it.
I remember being on the first movie and there was a girl who was an extra and she was covered in scars, she was burned. I remember her coming up to me and saying that she was too self-conscious to go to school when she was younger, and when she read The Hunger Games: Catching Fire she felt proud of her scars and her friends called her The Girl on Fire. I remember just crying and calling my mom and saying I actually get it. I remember reading the third book when she goes to the hospital because sometimes it can seem so pointless because you’re so filled with hair and makeup and clothes and sometimes the lives that you can touch without even meaning to. I don’t really have any plans, sometimes it comes out and bites me in the ass and it’s great. I like doing it that way.
Liam Hemsworth: I think we’re given a unique opportunity to have a voice and to spread awareness to a particular issue that might be important. Regardless of whether or not people want to listen to us or not, we’re given a platform to talk on. I think who we are, if we use that platform to do a small bit of good, to do the little bit that we can do and then spread awareness to something important I think is a unique opportunity to have.
Next month we’re seeing you in American Hustle. Can you talk about that along with any sort of changes you feel have come with recently receiving the Oscar?
Jennifer Lawrence: I saw everybody the next day and was like hey. It actually made me a target to somebody, Woody [Harrelson]. Every time I messed up a line he would say “Oh they better give that Oscar back.” I actually wished that everybody in this cast didn’t know about it. It would have made my life a lot easier. Getting back together with David [O. Russell] is a no brainer. This character was amazing and was unlike anything I’ve ever done. I did it instead of resting again.
The reason that I signed on to The Hunger Games is because we’ve already had Harry Potter and we’ve already had Twilight so we were obviously surprised by the success. How can we not be? We did know what to expect to a certain extent. If I was going to be identified for a character for the rest of my life, that’s a hard thing to think about but I love this character and I’m proud of her. I would be proud to be associated with this movie and this character for the rest of my life.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire opens in theaters everywhere November 22.