The Hunger Games, out March 23, based on the first book of a trilogy by Suzanne Collins, has been highly anticipated by a loyal, but sometimes skeptical, fanbase. North by Northwestern sat down for a roundtable with Josh Hutcherson (Peeta), Jacqueline Emerson (Foxface) and Isabelle Fuhrman (Clove) to discuss the books, the movie and the fans.
What were your guys’ first impressions of the story when you guys sat down to read it and everything?
Isabelle Fuhrman: It is a great story line and a really great premise. The characters in it are so relatable. There’s nothing supernatural about them. They’re real people in completely crazy circumstances. I think that’s what really hooked me on them.
Josh Hutcherson: When I first read [the books], I connected instantaneously with Peeta.... So much so that when I went into the audition, I literally said to them, “I am about to say something I don’t want to say because I am so gross, but I am so much Peeta in so many ways.” [Collins] was in the meeting for our first time, which I didn’t know was going to happen, so I was kind of freaking out. I was like, “I don’t know how you were able to write a character like that, that was based on who I am as a person. Anyways, here’s my audition.” That’s kind of how I led into it.
How did she react to that?
JH: She was like, “great! Let’s see if you’re full of shit or not.” I guess it worked out.
With a series with such a loyal fanbase, has it been difficult playing these characters, knowing that a lot of people really connect with them and with the story?
IF: Before I got on set and realized how amazing everything was, just coming to life in front of me, there was a lot of pressure for me because there’s not much given in the book about my character. Finding a way to write a back story for her that would bring her to life in my mind as well as keeping the fans in mind because they have such a great say in the book and I think a great say in the movie. Every single time we would do a scene or a shot or some tiny, even miniscule, idea, it was always considered what are the fans going to think about it because it has such a great following and it’s such a beautiful story and I think it was brought to life in the best light possible.
Jacqueline Emerson: That was one of the things that I thought Gary [Ross, the director] did really well. When he cast the characters, I know there was a lot of stuff like, “so-and-so doesn’t look like what I imagined.”
JH: “Josh didn’t have blonde hair.” We changed that, didn’t we?.... Hair color can change.
JE: The thing that I thought was really striking about the way that Gary cast the characters is that he cast for the essence. Everyone may not have been exactly how I imagined them, but they were the character.
In terms of making the movie, what was your favorite scene to shoot and why?
JH: I love the cave scene. It’s something that I looked forward to from reading the book…. I was really excited to see how we were going to play it and how it was going to work out on set. That was one of those moments where in the story I thought that Peeta could come across a little bit softer. We wanted to kind of give him a little bit more of backbone. By doing that, I think it made him more dynamic cinematically. I think it’s more interesting, when he’s admitting his love to Katniss, he does it in a way that’s, I don’t want to say masculine, but not as sappy.
JE: My interview scene with Stanley Tucci, I’d have to say. I’ve looked up to him for so many years so to be in a scene with him. I came to set literally every single day that he was filming. I never told him that I was a huge fan. I think he may have guessed it. But I was so honored to be in a scene with him. I think I’m going to die when I see that scene in the movie. To have that forever marked in film, that my first movie ever I had a scene with Stanley Tucci. That will always stick with me.
If you guys were tributes and you were picked, what do you think your approach would be to the games? Are you guys like Career-mentality, survival, or would you be down in the bloodbath, gone completely?
JH: I think it goes back for me to what I was saying earlier. I am almost exactly like Peeta. I’d be in love with someone and she’d be picked to go in the games of course, naturally, and I would become weirdly okay with the fact that I was probably not going to make it out but I was going to do everything humanly possible to make her live. That’s how I would do it.
IF: Aww, you can hear the teenage hearts break from outside.
JE: I’d probably pull a Foxface on it, I have to say. I love the the woods, I love nature. I’d do a combination of Foxface and Rue. I’d hide, I would not be able to kill anybody. Probably wouldn’t be able to kill any animals either, I don’t eat meat.
JH: So you’d fail the Hunger Games.
JE: With the exception of nightlock I could live off of fruit and berries and hide and be super sneaky. I would die.
IF: Not a bright future. I’d run. I’d just keep running.… Probably get shocked at the edge of the arena.
What do you guys hope that people take away from this film?
JH: I think that movies are a great way to escape and a great way to jump into another world, so I want people to enjoy the movie, first off. Taking away from it, I think there are so many things. I think there’s a bit of a warning just about keeping the separation of the rich and the poor and the disconnect that the 1% has with the 99%.... I think that it shows a lot about power. If anything, people should take away that even in situations that seem hopeless you can find hope in some form or another, be it yourself or a mockingjay.
JE: I think it’s a really interesting reflection on society and reality TV and how that’s become such a prominent part of our culture but how fake it is and how we’re all so separated by a TV screen. I mean, it’s like the Roman gladiator times but more sophisticated…. We’re watching people destroy their own lives…. How is that different from the gladiators, besides the blood? Besides death? I feel that is kind of what this movie and this book really shows, how it isn’t that different and we’re headed down that path and we need to reflect on that and put ourselves into check.