“I wanted to look hungry.”
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.
Younger brother of Thor himself Liam Hemsworth is playing Gale Hawthorne, Katniss’s best friend and later her hunting partner as they participate in the games. Starting off in Aussie soap Neighbours , Hemsworth has since appeared in The Last Song and Knowing alongside Nicolas Cage.
Could you tell me how you first got into The Hunger Games ?
“I heard about the book about a year before the films went ahead. A lot of people had told me about them. I didn’t read them until I heard the film was going ahead, then I read the books and loved them. Like everyone else, I couldn’t put them down and was very taken by them. I got called to come and read with Gary Ross and got along with him really well and really enjoyed everything he had to say about the project. So I read with him and we got along great. Then a week later I came in and read with Jennifer – she was great too; I really got along with her, she’s an amazing actress. Really, really easy to work with. And then we started filming.”
Do you think Gale would beat Peeta in a fight?
[laughs] “I don’t know. We’ll have to play that out one day. Wait and see. Who knows?”
So how was it filming with the cast? Everyone’s had good things to say.
“Everyone was great. I didn’t get to shoot much with Josh but I knew him before the film and he’s awesome. He’s a really, really good guy and a great actor. Most of my stuff was with Jennifer. She’s great, a really fun person; easygoing, down to earth. She’s very professional but at the same time she keeps things fun. It was great, a really good time.”
It sounds like it was very action-packed on the set?
“I think the others experienced a little more than I did. When I was there, for the most part, it was ridiculously hot. We were shooting in a beautiful place, out in the woods in Ashville, these great mountains. But when I was there it was just really hot.”
Did you have to go to the stunt camp that was set up to train for this role?
“It wasn’t a lot of stunts for me on this one. The physicality for me was losing weight. I trained for a few weeks before we started shooting to lose a bunch of weight and was eating a lot less than I would usually eat. I wanted to look hungry.”
How do you feel about playing a heartthrob?
“You want to be perceived well, you want people to like your work and you want your movies to do well. It’s a bonus if your work does do well. I really enjoy acting and I always try to stick to things I’m passionate about. I was really happy with everything that happened in this movie, so if it does well and people love it, that’s great, it’s a bonus.”
Who are you acting inspirations. Is there anyone you drew on for the role or in your career in general?
“I’ve had a lot of people I’ve looked up to. Leonardo diCaprio, when I was kid I looked up to him a lot. When I was a kid I thought he was a great actor and extremely interesting to watch. Paul Newman, I used to love his movies; still do love his movies, used to watch them a lot. James Franco is another big influence. I could go on forever. I look up to so many actors and draw from them when I can.”
There’s obviously a lot of big-name stars, like Donald Sutherland and Woody Harrelson in the film. Were you at all star struck?
“My character didn’t have any scenes with them but to be in a film with actors like them is great, very exciting. I’m honoured to be in the same movie with any of those actors.”
Read our interview with Josh Hutcherson (Peeta)
You’re an ambassador for the Australian Childhood Foundation. Part of the Foundation‘s aims to encourage good role models. Do you think Gale is a good role model?
“Absolutely. For Gale, staying true to himself and standing up for what he believes in is important. A big part of being in The Foundation is standing up for what I believe in. I want kids to grow up in a safe environment like I did, have good parents like I’ve had, live out their dreams and do what they want to do, and feel happy and safe to do that.”
For future plans, what sort of direction do you want to go in? It is sci-fi fantasy like this or is it whatever takes your inspiration?
“There are a lot of things I want to do, whatever the genre is. I always want there to be good characters that you care about and a good story that you want to hear. Those are the two biggest things for me.”
Have you seen anyone in a particular performance and thought, “I wish I’d done that”?
“The movie The Departed is probably my favourite movie and every character in that I would play. I love that movie and gritty crime films like that – they’re my favourite films and I’d love to do stuff like that.”
Do you ever get nervous? Do you get stage fright?
“Not on set; more excited nerves on set. I love being there, I love working. I’m happiest when I’m working and I’m pretty comfortable doing it. When you first come into this world it can be kind of daunting but you get experience where you can and I’m always learning. I’m still learning, at this point it’s very enjoyable. I love doing it.”
Interview by Olivia Mordsley
Read all of our Hunger Games interviews
Read our The Hunger Games review .