“I was just shaking like a chihuahua every time they called action.”
The Hunger Games is the equally-awaited movie adaptation of Suzanne Collins’s book of the same name. Directed by Gary ( Pleasantville ) Ross, it’s out in the UK on 23 March.
Every year in the ruins of what was once North America, the evil Capitol of the nation of Panem forces each of its 12 districts to send a teenage boy and girl to compete in the Hunger Games. A twisted punishment for a past uprising and an ongoing government intimidation tactic, The Hunger Games are a nationally televised event in which the Tributes must fight with one another until one survivor remains.
Pitted against highly-trained Tributes who have prepared for these Games their entire lives, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence, X-Men: First Class ) is forced to rely upon her sharp instincts as well as the mentorship of drunken former victor Haymitch Abernathy. If she’s ever to return home to District 12, Katniss must make impossible choices in the arena that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
Is it an action-heavy role?
“No. I actually see it more as a drama, with action in it. It’s a very sad story about this girl who’s forced into doing this in this world where the rich watch children die as entertainment. It’s gripping and it’s urgent. It’s a terrible world. It’s actually not far off from reality. We live in a world where humanity is becoming so desensitised to violence and to tragedy that peoples’ tragedy is our entertainment. We’re obsessed with reality television and we get so numb to violence, tragedy, that it takes more to shock us, and more and more. It’s not that science-fiction, if you think about it. ”
What were some of the most intense scenes in that respect?
“Well, Katniss doesn’t really walk anywhere [laughs]. She’s running everywhere. There’s a very intense fight scene with a girl... she’s 14, but she had been training… well, all of us had been training in stunts and hand-on-hand combat, but I guess she had been training longer than I had been. And she unleashed ! I was like, ‘It’s a scene !’ She beat the hell out of me! We had to do take after take. I was just shaking like a chihuahua every time they called action! ‘Please, no!’”
Was it exciting to film?
“It was a blast!”
“There’s one where I’m wading in a river, and it was so hot that day. That felt good.” [laughs]
How do you go about selecting films to appear in?
“Honestly, I don’t really go by genre. A lot of times it’ll end up surprising me, what I end up liking. I really just go by if it’s good, obviously; if it’s a character you’d want to do. And the people who are making it. When X-Men came along... it was an exciting thought because I was totally fine being an indie actress for the rest of my life, that was actually my plan, just doing indies. But it’s always wise to do a studio once in a while so you can still do the indies that you want. Then I read the script of X-Men and I really liked it – it was cool, it was ’60s, it was interesting, and it was really fun to see the total opposite way of making film. I had gone from ‘shot in a day and we’ve got three scenes and a hundred dollars and go go go!’ to just seeing so much money going into making a film. It was really interesting to watch. I didn’t do it because it was sci-fi. Or The Hunger Games . I just did it because it was interesting to me.”
Has anyone given you a great piece of advice about the business?
“Jodie Foster told me... I didn’t grow up in an artistic family, I grew up in a football family with brothers and it was all, ‘Acting’s stupid.’ So I would always be really embarrassed about acting. Like I would see people in audition rooms saying their lines out loud and I’d be like, ‘What are you doing?’ I’d be really quiet if I felt like they could hear me outside the door in an audition. And Jodie Foster forced me to get out of it. I had to do this scene where after she called action I had to start yelling, ‘What do you know?’ at this guy. And she told me to yell it ten times before she called action. It was so mortifying. I was like, ‘No, no I can’t.’ And she was like, ‘You’re going to have to get over it. You’re an actor. You have to act in front of people.’ Every time I yelled it I got redder and redder and by the time she called action I was, ‘WHAT DO YOU KNOW?’ It humiliated me so much that it broke through the embarrassment.”
You don’t have to do that every take now...
“No, not every take.” [laughs]
Do you find it easy to switch into character when the camera rolls?
“Yeah, but I don’t know if that’s just because of sheer embarrassment or just the way I act!”
What would you have been if you weren’t an actress?
“I’ve always loved medical stuff. Everybody thought I was going to be a doctor and then I threw them a huge curveball! The only books my mom ever read me were How My Body Works and human body stuff, when I was little. I had a stethoscope I carried around and listened to everybody’s heart! But I mostly I was like, ‘I’m gonna grow up and get married and have babies,’ and wasn’t like, ‘What kind of career do I want?’”
You could’ve been a vet, given how good you are at squirrel-skinning in the film...
“Yeah, I’d have been a great vet. ‘I’ll skin all your animals!’”
You”ve just finished filking The Silver Linings Playbook , playing a former sex addict. That’s directed by David O Russell. Is he really as mental as his reputation suggests?
“No, absolutely not. It actually worries me how many people say that, because he reminds me so much of myself!”
Just because of his films – maybe not The Fighter , but certainly I Heart Huckabees .
“That’s one of my favourite films. That’s one of my favourite movies in the world. He is the sweetest man. He’s so sweet and he’s hilarious! There’s nothing he won’t do to make somebody laugh. He’s that friend that’s only in movies. He’s the friend you’ll bring to dinner and then if your other friend says something that’s a little bit shady, David will just call you out on it. [laughs] In front of everyone! He’s normal. He’s just basically completely himself, totally unedited, exactly himself. Whenever people call him crazy I’m like... ‘Then we all should be crazy!’ You’d never meet him and think, ‘Oh my god, that guy’s on drugs.’ My parents are as strait-laced as they get, and they love him.
“In Hollywood it’s quite weird for someone to be so open and themselves, because there’s so much superficiality and ‘let’s pretend’. Oh god yes, that’s what’s so funny about our world and about our industry is that when somebody isn’t fake, when somebody is totally real, that’s crazy! When I met him I was scared because of all the... every time you bring up David O Russell they mention his reputation and then I met him and was like, ‘If anyone ever says anything bad about this man I will punch them in the face.’ He is exactly what we all should be.
So does fame feel natural to you?
“I think that there’s a way that you can handle it that’s kind of like... ‘Yeah, it’s weird, but it’s just work.’ Because if you make it anything bigger than that, it just gets overwhelming.”
Do you have perfect aim with archery?
“Not perfect, but I can do it!”
Did you get any say in the costumes for The Hunger Games ?
“I didn’t have any say. I mean, Judianna Makovsky was the wardrobe designer. The only part I had a lot of say in was the games part, because they had to get the boots just right. I was going to be doing everything in them. But everything else was totally in her hands and it was amazing.”
Interview by Olivia Mordsley
Read all of our Hunger Games interviews
Read our The Hunger Games review .