'Catching Fire' Interview: Elizabeth Banks Talks 'Hunger Games' Franchise & New Director

Elizabeth Banks Effie Catching Fire Interview

"May the odds be ever in your favor!" This line, spoken in the uniquely telling accent of the most visually distinguishable character of The Hunger Games was very representative of Effie Trinket's (Elizabeth Banks) ideals, as an enthusiastic element to organizing District 12's participation in the Hunger Games events- "was" being the key word.

In the sequel Catching Fire, moviegoers will see Effie at the height of her success and then to her softer side of as she begins to change her views based on the situations she finds herself in.

Don Kaye had the opportunity to sit down with Elizabeth Banks on behalf of Screen Rant to talk about Effie, her unique characteristics, the new director taking over for Catching Fire, and The Hunger Games series as a whole.


Coming back for this and reuniting with Jennifer and Josh and Woody and everyone, was there a comfort factor among you this time around?

Elizabeth Banks: Oh yeah, of course. I've worked with – I've made a career of working with the same people over and over again because I think once you have a level of trust, you know, it's not even comfort, it's literally knowing that people are going to come to set every day and deliver the goods. And that's what you want, you know, I think actors understand this to be a collaborative process. We need each other to do our best work. And there's just an unspoken level of trust that everyone on this film has, you know, from Jen, who is the leader, of course, and who's amazing and perfectly cast as Katniss, and then Josh and right on down the line. I think it's a very well cast movie and we appreciate what everyone brings to the set every day.

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How did Francis Lawrence fit into that dynamic?

He slipped right in very easily. He's a very easygoing guy and he's very respectful of the first film and of everybody's process. There's no need to make any big deal about it. We work with different directors on nearly every movie. So it wasn't like some chaos or anything. It was a very easy transition. As actors, we just want a good leader with a strong vision and that was for sure something that Francis brought to the table.

So you think that it's overstated a bit sometimes when a franchise changes directors?

I absolutely think it is. Especially when we keep the continuity of the production design team for the most part in place and the actors are all the same. It really is -- unless someone brings a radically new vision that nobody's on board for, but that was not the case here. Nina Jacobson -- the producers are the heralds of the whole franchise. And Nina is all about preserving Suzanne Collins's series and about Katniss and having the continuity of Katniss. As she said so eloquently, "As long as we stay firmly in Katniss's POV, it's very hard to go wrong." It's like Harry Potter, just stay with Harry Potter.

How much of Effie have you gleaned from the books that the casual viewer doesn't see on the screen but that helps you just more fully inhabit her?

Well, so much. I think one thing to understand in Catching Fire is that at the start of this movie Effie is at the height of professional success. I don't think she's ever had a victor before. I think she's used to sending kids into the Hunger Games that never come back. So the fact that she has not one but two victors is just, you know, it's amazing and it reflects so well on her. She's a very selfish person. She's in love with the idea of everything that's happening around her. That being said, Effie -- and you see hints of it in the first movie when she complains after Katniss shoots the bow and arrow that Big Brother's always watching, that there are consequences to actions. You know, Effie doesn't demand manners and diligence for shits and giggles. She's doing it because she knows that when you don't do things by the book in the capital, there is a price to pay. And Effie is not interested in paying any prices. She's very interested in the status quo. She fears change. And, you know, ultimately she will be proven to be on the wrong side of history in this case.

Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) in Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Her façade breaks a little bit in this movie. We see a little more emotional side of her. Was it fun to commit to get into that and see the character evolve that way?

Absolutely. Yes. You know, I think Effie's maternal instinct has been turned on in this film. Again, because she's never had a victor, she's never had the opportunity to get to know her victors in this way and I think she really is proud of them and she expects, like everyone does, that they will go on to lead a life of fame and security. And so when the quarter quell is announced, it's the first time that Effie realizes not only how unfair the games are but how cruel the capital is and to what lengths they will go to maintain their power.

How did you come up with Effie's voice?

Effie, you know, she's a very theatrical person. So I looked at some of my favorite overly theatrical performances. I really love Auntie Mame; I love Rosalind Russell and specifically Auntie Mame, and Madeline Kahn I love as well. So I tried to just blend some of those voices. I think Christine Baranski is a fabulously theatrical person and so she's a mixture of that. She's a mix of those women, and specifically I was just going for that sensibility of theatricality.

How liberating is it to get into those costumes and really lose Elizabeth Banks? And is there a flipside to that because they're physically very confining?

I love it. I use everything. So the fact that the clothes are uncomfortable and constricting is just a reminder that Effie lives in a society that is uncomfortable and constricting. It's all done sort of on purpose. You know, Effie is the physical manifestation of the capital. We don't meet a lot of Capital citizens in either of these movies. So Effie carries the responsibility of constantly reminding the audience of the excess of the Capital and what the districts are up against.

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What do these films say to you politically?

So much.

In 30 seconds or less.

Look, I'm so proud to be part of something that I feel is hopefully helping young people to be more interested citizens of the world around them. I think Suzanne's vision of this world is very astute. I think she created a scenario that speaks to the anxiety that surrounds us all right now. And obviously the disparity between the rich and entitled and the working class around the globe is something that is going to be, going forward, of grave importance to figure out.

What's in store for Effie in Mockingjay that you can say in a way that doesn't spoil it for people who have not read the books?

I don't think I can say much about Mockingjay. I'll say this, Effie's eyes are truly being opened to her situation. I think she's becoming much more sympathetic to the rebels and the districts.


Read our interview with Donald Sutherland about President Snow for more and check this fun video about joining a District.

Catching Fire is directed by Francis Lawrence and stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Willow Shields, Stanley Tucci, Lenny Kravitz and of course, Elizabeth Banks.

What are your thoughts on Effie and Banks' portrayal of her? Have the movies done a good job in crafting her extravagant attire and makeup? Let us know in the comments!

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire opens in theaters on November 22, 2013.

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