“I think it’s as good, if not better, than the book”
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.
Peeta Mellark, played by Josh Hutcherson, is picked as the male tribute from District 12, along with Katniss Everdeen, to participate in the 74th annual Hunger Games. Hutcherson has also starred in fantasy adventures, Journey To The Centre Of The Earth , its 2012 sequel Journey 2 and Bridge To Terabithia .
How confident did you feel during the audition process that you’d get the part?
“The audition process was tough because I wanted the part so badly. I’ve never really read another script or a book where I’ve connected more to the character than I do with Peeta, so from the get-go the stakes were pretty high.
“The audition process was different to most. It took place at Gary Ross’s house, our director. It’s usually in a casting office of some sort. The first audition process I went to I was surprised to see Suzanne Collins sitting there – that was a bit of a nerve-wrenching situation, playing the character right in front of her right away.
“It went really great, then a couple of weeks went by and we had a screen test, where I read with Jennifer. I got to meet her for the first time. We wanted to see how Katniss and Peeta worked together. I felt great about it; Jennifer and I hit it off right away but we didn’t know anything for another two weeks after that. Those two weeks were torture. But here I am now!”
What was it about Peeta that you liked so much? Why him and not Gale (Katniss’s best friend and hunting partner)?
“Peeta has this certain belief that you can’t let the circumstances you’re in change what you believe in or who you are as a person, and that’s my number one moral. Growing up in this business, there’s a lot of times where you can have different situations and people try to change who you are. Knowing who you are is what keeps you sane and so for me it’s one of my core beliefs.”
If it came down to a fight between you and Gale, who would win?
“That’s a tough question. He’s a little bigger than I am but I like to think I have a good chance as I’m scrappy and I’ve got some strength behind me.”
The Hunger Games is very much like a fantasy world but also very real.
“Exactly, it’s a futuristic world but the characters are relatable to today’s day and time.”
This is a sci-fi fantasy, and you’ve previously appeared in Bridge To Terabithia and Journey To The Center of The Earth . Did you aim to become a fantasy specialist?
“Not necessarily I’m about doing all genres. It just so happens that some of the ones I’ve done so far, the best scripts have been the fantasy style genre. I think one of the best things about being an actor is playing a character in all kinds of scenarios and all kinds of movies. My biggest factor with choosing a project is if it’s good character and a good script and the right people are involved. It could be a comedy or an action film, it just depends on how the script is.”
Do you like being a bit of a heartthrob?
[Laughs] “It’s still a term I’m trying to get used to. It’s a little weird for me. It’s cool to be admired by people and have people that see your work and appreciate it and like what you do.”
Who would you say has inspired you? Is there anyone whose performance you’ve seen and just thought, “I would love to do that”?
“I think that Brad Pitt is one of my favourite actors. He has an ability to take on almost any role and you believe him. I feel like he can do anything. For me, being diverse as an actor is my big goal.”
A lot of people are saying this is the new Twilight but that’s surely a far too simplistic explanation?
“There are obvious similarities, about it being a beloved book that teenagers and people of all ages really enjoy. But honestly, it has a lot of different messages and is an entirely different world. So I get why people try to compare it but it really is nothing like Twilight .”
It’s very action-packed.
“There was a lot of running and jumping, and sprinting through the woods. Lots of yelling. It was pretty intense.”
Do you think you’ve managed to translate what is so compelling about the book onto the screen?
“I definitely think so. Gary Ross is an amazingly talented director and writer, and him combined with Suzanne Collins, who is an amazing author, that creative combination has made an amazing movie that I think is as good, if not better, than the book. I definitely think that the heart of the characters and the message of the book that people love so much definitely are conveyed in the movie as well.”
Are you prepared for the potential huge fame that may come with this?
“I don’t think there’s any way you can prepare for that sort of thing. I’m doing the best I can. I’m slightly terrified and excited about it. We’ll see how it goes but I’m not sure how much I can do to prepare for that.”
Interview by Olivia Mordsley
Read all of our Hunger Games interviews
Read our The Hunger Games review .