The Hunger Games (2012) began a series of movies that launched Jennifer Lawrence to stardom and pushed the boundaries of science fiction, adaptation, and young adult films. Its sequels, Catching Fire (2013) and Mockingjay, Part 1 (2014) both set box office records, and the upcoming Mockingjay, Part 2 (2015) is one of the most hotly anticipated movies of the year – probably only second to the new Star Wars film in hype. These four films, based on the three best-selling books by Suzanne Collins, have created a powerhouse franchise – even before the fourth instalment’s release, The Hunger Games is the 20th highest grossing film franchise of all time.
However, even the most die hard fans of The Hunger Games might be surprised at the many strange and surprising stories that go on behind-the-scenes, both in the world of Panem where the movies take place and from the set of the films. While you wait for Mockingjay, Part 2, take a look at 12 Things You Didn’t Know About The Hunger Games:
Suzanne Collins had Many Inspirations
Suzanne Collins, who wrote The Hunger Games trilogy, pulled from a variety of influences when she created the story and the characters. Famously, Collins has been quoted as saying that switching channels on her television between reality television and news reports on the war in Iraq helped her come up with the idea for the story. Collins, however, also pulled from Greek mythology – citing Theseus and the Minotaur – and from her father’s experiences growing up during the Great Depression and fighting in Vietnam.
Rome and its gladiators were clearly another strong influence. The world of The Hunger Games is called Panem, the Latin word for “bread”. This is famously associated with the phrase “panem et circenses”, or “bread and circuses,” which is a phrase used to describe the appeasement of the common people. If there is food (bread) and there is entertainment (circuses), then the government can control the people however they like. Similarly, President Snow of Panem uses the Hunger Games as a way to both frighten and entertain his citizens.
Katniss Resembles Ree Dolly from Winter’s Bone
Jennifer Lawrence beat out some fierce competition for the role of Katniss, including Emma Roberts, Saoirse Ronan, and Hailee Steinfeld. Many cite her Oscar-nominated portrayal of Ree Dolly in Winter’s Bone (2010) as being one of the reasons that she was given the role.
There are striking similarities between Ree and Katniss – they both struggle to support their families and younger siblings, taking on the role of a parent because their father is gone and their mother is mentally overwhelmed. They both live in impoverished mining communities, Katniss in District 12 and Ree in the Ozarks. Additionally, they both use their survival skills and tough exterior to endure hardship and violence.
Jennifer Lawrence Wasn’t Paid Much for The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games helped Jennifer Lawrence’s swift rise to fame, but she only earned $500,000 for the first movie, a measly amount compared to her current salary. By the time the sequel was in production, she earned twenty times that amount, earning $10 million for Catching Fire and $15 million for both Mockingjay films.
Lawrence recently made headlines after learning about the gender pay gap in Hollywood. After the recent Sony email leaks, Lawrence discovered that she did not make as much as her male co-stars in American Hustle. In addition to making less than Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper, she also made less than Jeremy Renner, who had a smaller part and less name recognition than her. Lawrence has said that playing Katniss was in part what inspired her to write her real-life reflective essay, “Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co-Stars?”
The Books Drew Veteran Actors to the Films
The books attracted veteran actors to play many of the supporting roles. Donald Sutherland wrote a detailed letter to director Gary Ross about his thoughts on President Snow; he highlighted how he would go about the role, and what he believed was important to Snow’s presentation and psyche. Julianne Moore petitioned for the role of President Alma Coin after her daughter recommended the books to her. Elizabeth Banks campaigned to play Effie Trinket after reading the first book and seeing herself in the role.
Both Sunderland and Moore have repeatedly cited the film’s political importance to today’s world, despite it being set in a dystopian universe. They believe that the book is a call to action for young people, and illustrates the power that an individual can play within the larger political world.
Racist Fans Were Wrong About Rue
Amandla Stenberg was cast as Rue, a central character and tribute from District 11 in The Hunger Games, who becomes an ally of Katniss. Some purported fans of the series were upset that an African-American actress was cast as Rue. However, their complaints were completely unjustified, and their surprise was unwarranted. Not only were the comments made surrounding Stenberg’s casting racist and insensitive, but they were blatantly incorrect. As author Suzanne Collins confirmed, Rue is black in The Hunger Games novel – anyone surprised by Stenberg’s casting couldn’t have been reading the books very closely. Amandla Stenberg is now, in addition to being an accomplished actress and a singer, an activist with an active social media presence and following.
Some fans, however – who apparently had read the books – were also displeased that the tall and lily-white Jennifer Lawrence was cast as Katniss, who is described as being small and “olive-skinned”. Collins has stated that she is thrilled by the casting decision, and that Jennifer Lawrence embodied all of the elements of Katniss that an actor would need to undertake the role.
There Was a Swear Jar on Set
During the first Hunger Games film, director Gary Ross kept a swear jar on set, because much of the filming involved younger actors. Ross has said on multiple occasions that more than half of the money contributed to the jar came from actress Jennifer Lawrence, who was known for her foul mouth.
Conan O’Brien challenged Lawrence to name as many swears as she could in thirty seconds while on his late night show promoting Mockingjay, Part 2 – he committed to giving $200 for each swear to the charity of Lawrence’s choice. Lawrence had quite the imagination, so Conan eventually stopped counting, and simply committed $10,000 to Lawrence’s charity.
Katniss is Motivated Solely by Love
Jennifer Lawrence has said that at Katniss’s core, she is motivated by love. First, she volunteers for the Hunger Games out of love for her sister, Prim. Then, all of her subsequent actions are motivated by her love for her family, friends, and Peeta. Despite her hard exterior, survivalist instinct, and violent actions, Lawrence sees love as being central and inseparable from Katniss.
It is how Katniss approaches the choices that she has to make in her life, but is also what sets her apart as a hero. In a world where many people – from President Snow to competitors in the arena – are self-serving, Katniss is willing to sacrifice herself for the people that she cares about.
The Movies Are Shot from Katniss’s Perspective
The Hunger Games books were all written in the first-person perspective, with Katniss narrating the events. Because of how central Katniss’s narration is to the books, before the first film came out, there was speculation over whether or not Katniss’s thoughts would be vocalized as a voice-over.
Instead, Gary Ross, who directed The Hunger Games, opted instead to use the first-person perspective as a way to approach the cinematography of the film, which Francis Lawrence, who directed Catching Fire and both Mockingjay films, continued. The movies are told visually from Katniss’s perspective. Ross has discussed how this led him to use handheld cameras and close-ups, altering how the movie was shot. Similarly, Francis Lawrence has said that he has always imagined Katniss as the “anchor” of the film and as the “anchor” of his cinematography.
Katniss Suffers from PTSD
There has been some speculation – including from actress Jennifer Lawrence – that her character, Katniss, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to her difficult and traumatic experiences in the Hunger Games and the loss of her home, District 12.
Psychiatrists Vasilis K. Pozios and Praveen R. Kambam analyzed Katniss as a character and believe that she displays enough the real-life indicators of PTSD that if she were alive, she could be diagnosed with the disorder. This includes night terrors, flashbacks, avoidance, emotional numbness, and unexpected emotional outbursts – all of which she experiences in Catching Fire and Mockingjay after competing in the Hunger Games.
There were a Number of On-Set Injuries
Both Josh Hutcherson, who plays Peeta, and Jennifer Lawrence were injured on set while filming. Lawrence went deaf in one of her ears for almost two weeks while filming Catching Fire after a water jet punctured her eardrum. Strangely enough, Katniss went deaf in one ear in The Hunger Games book, after being too close to an explosion – however, this plot point was left out of the movies, and luckily, Lawrence, unlike her fictional counterpart, recovered her hearing.
Hutcherson’s injury was not from filming. Instead, he and Lawrence were joking around between takes on set and she accidentally kicked him in the head, giving him a concussion. Afterwards, Hutcherson comforted Lawrence as she cried, because she was so upset over what she had done.
Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Death Changed Mockingjay, Part 2
Philip Seymour Hoffman who played Plutarch Heavensbee, was attracted to the world of Panem after seeing the first Hunger Games movie, but tragically, Hoffman died in 2014 of a drug overdose during the filming of the upcoming Mockingjay, Part 2.
There was much speculation over whether Hoffman had finished filming, and what filmmakers would do if he had not. Some reported that filmmakers intended to have Hoffman’s performance finished by a CGI representation of the late actor. However, while it was revealed that there were unfinished scenes that had not been filmed, Hoffman’s likeness would not be recreated through digital imaging. Instead, the filmmakers changed the script in order to accommodate Plutarch Heavensbee’s missing appearance.
Plutarch is a central character in the book Mockingjay, and so it is unsurprising that he will play an important role in the final film installment. According to director Francis Lawrence, there is at least one major scene that has been reimagined in the new film.
There are Real-Life Theme Parks in the Works
Hunger Games theme parks are being developed around the world. Currently, three locations have been announced: Dubai (UAE), Atlanta (USA), and Hengqin (China).
The Dubai theme park is set to open as early as 2016 as part of the Motiongate Dubai park, and the Atlanta theme park – in the same city where much of the filming took place – will open in 2019 as part of the Avatron Park in Atlanta. The park will recreate famous places from District 12 (including the Hob marketplace and Peeta’s bakery), as well as a Capitol-themed roller coaster. Visitors to the theme park will not be required to fight to the death.
There are plenty of more fun facts from the world of Panem – what are some that we missed? Let us know in the comments!