After what seems like forever, the release of The Hunger Games is fast approaching. At HeyUGuys we’re big fans of the books, and we loved the film. Recently I did my very best Cesar Flickerman impression (sadly sans blue hair and shiny suit, and spoke to Peeta Mellark himself, Josh Hutcherson about his love of the books, his connection to Peeta, and the pressure he felt not to let the fans down.
HeyUGuys: Were you aware of the Hunger Games before becoming involved?
Josh Hutcherson: Ah ha, the fabled question. I was not actually. I came across the material when I found out they were going to be making the movies, and I found out they were extremely popular amongst all ages. And I was like, ‘what are these books? I need to read them’, and I read the whole series in about a week. I was kind of addicted to it, and I fell in love with them right away.
It has that effect, doesn’t it?
It does, yeah. It’s like crack. The way they end, each book, you’re like ‘next one’. You can’t just stop at one book, it’s crazy.
What was the thing that grabbed you? Was it the story or the characters?
It was both actually. For me, Peeta, I’ve never read a character I’ve connected with more, or felt I am more like. It was almost creepy how much I felt like I was like Peeta in his belief that you have to be who you are no matter what situation you’re in, and that you have to be able to look in the mirror and like that person you see. As an actor growing up in the business you have a lot of opportunities to change who you are and sacrifice what you believe in for other things, and for me I never wanted to do that, and that’s huge with Peeta. Also the story is so intriguing, the social commentary on reality TV, combined with the separation of the rich and the poor, and that sort of idea of a group of people banding together and fighting for a cause is becoming more and more relevant today with what you see in society, so those two elements together made for what was so intriguing to me.
How hard was it for you to get the part?
It was very hard to get the part. I had to audition a bunch. I wanted it so bad, I’ve never wanted a part more in my entire life, so because of that the fighting was definitely worth it, but it was tough.
You allude to the fact that Peeta is ‘like you’, but do you think that’s down to the fact that he’s an everyman, nice character. He is a bit archetypical.
I think a little bit, but I don’t know. I’ve read a lot of scripts, I’ve read a lot of characters, and I haven’t felt a pull towards one like I did with him. He is a little archetypical, but I do think there are things about him that I really felt were in me.
Are you happy for this film to take over your life now?
I hope it doesn’t take over my life. I’m super-proud of it, I love the story so much, I love the character, like I was saying and to be a part of it is very exciting. To be a part of something that has such a big following before it comes out is slightly intimidating, but also very exciting.
Did you feel there was a lot of pressure taking on a role that audiences have connected with so much already?
Yes and no. I feel like there’s a certain kind of pressure to live up to live up to the expectation, but at the same time it gave me a bit of confidence that people were already into the story and character. It made me go, ‘you’ve got to make a good movie now’.
You’ve been acting half your life now, so are you prepared for what might happen when the film is released?
I have some friends who have been successful and had to deal with some crazy paparazzi and fans… It’s insane, and I don’t think you can really prepare. I’m ready for it, but I’m not prepared. I’m as ready as I’m ever going to get, I think.
You’ve mentioned you read and enjoyed the books. Were there any changes made where you thought, ‘I really like that bit. Put it back’.
Not at all. For me a few things. One, Suzanne Collins was involved in the creative decisions, changing things and adjusting things, which gave me peace of mind, being a fan of the books – as well as the fact that there are certain things that just don’t work in a movie medium, like Katniss’ internal monologue. That’s something you can’t have in a movie, and you have to find a way to get those same emotions across without it just being expository dialogue, which Gary Ross was extremely talented at doing. For me there’s really nothing where I was like, ‘don’t do that please’. Everything felt like a natural choice, and it really didn’t feel forced. I feel like the whole essence of the story is conveyed.
You, Jennifer and Liam are experienced actors, but you were working with Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci and Donald Sutherland. How was that?
It was great. I loved it. Over the years I’ve gotten the chance to work with some amazing actors, and some guys who were extremely inventive, which to me it was like an acting class. Being around guys like Stanley Tucci that completely transform themselves for every role they do –in this movie he has a prosthetic nose, prosthetic teeth, a wig, the whole nine yards, and he also taped up his forehead like he’d had plastic surgery done. It was incredible to see that kind of commitment for a role. Then someone like Woody, he made so many small tweaks and choices throughout. When you’re watching it you have no idea, but when you’re on set it’s absolutely incredible.
Hunger Games is a sci-fi book. Are you a fan of the genre, and have you seen Battle Royale or Running Man?
I haven’t seen Battle Royale, but I have seen Running Man. It’s a great film, and I’m happy to be compared to that kind of movie.
I think it’s an interesting genre. Any time you can kind of make a futuristic world and base it on where we are today, with reality TV and the separation of the rich and the poor, I think that’s really interesting.
Who would be your dream co-star?
I want to do a two-hander so bad with Ryan Gosling. I think he’s incredible. I think he’s a very subtle actor, which is what I like to consider my style being, so to work with him would be amazing.
Which was your favourite of The Hunger Games books?
It’s tough. Each one has so many things about it I like. Probably the first one, because that was the one that grabbed me and it was shocking, and [I thought] ‘oh my God I love this so much’. And then the third one, as an actor, I think will be really fun, because Peeta gets to go to all of these crazy places and flip around and hate Katniss, pretty much, so I think it will be great fun to play it.
Your next big release is Red Dawn. Were you a fan of the original?
Yeah. My parents kind of grew up with that sort of movie. It came out when they were in high school, so it’s kind of more relevant to them than it was to me, but I watched it before I knew they were making a remake. I liked it. It’s one of those movies where, when it came out it was obviously much better than it is looking back on it, just because the standards for movies are much higher when it comes to characters and all that. Sometimes 80s movies just confuse me. Watching them all of a sudden, someone will just break down and start crying, and I’m like, ‘woah! Did I miss something?’, and sometimes the 80s speak is just hard for me to follow in movies. But yeah, it was just a fun movie to make.