Who in the world could ever have thought that the filming of the Hunger Games movies could be, well, so very Hunger Games? The beloved YA movie franchise, based on the bestselling books by Suzanne Collins, depict a dystopian future where a ruling elite tyrannically governs a series of poor provinces. To make matters worse, those provinces are compelled to give up one of its children every year to compete in a match. It’s a dark, ugly world in this storyline. But as it turns out, some really dark, ugly stuff was happening on the set of the four feature films.
Violence, danger, and desperation actually took place among the cast and crew in the process of realizing Collins’ epic vision. It’s all fine and dandy to say that art imitates life, but for Jennifer Lawrence and her castmates, things got pretty ridiculous sometimes! But, hey, like they say in acting classes about real-life pain: use it in your performance - maybe that's why The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay Parts 1 and 2 are so good.
Ready to hear the strange but true tales of behind-the-scenes incidents gony horrible wrong? Or sometimes hilariously wrong?
Here are 18 Secrets Behind the Hunger Games Movies.
18. Jennifer Lawrence Gave Josh Hutcherson a Concussion
In the world of The Hunger Games, the contestants have to fight each other, all in the name of a sick ritual meant to serve as a means of cultural control. On the set of The Hunger Games, the actors aren’t supposed to really attack each other. Except, of course, that’s exactly what ended up happening.
To be precise, Jennifer Lawrence, who plays Katniss in the film, actually kicked Josh Hutcherson in the head. What’s that you say? It was an accident while filming an action scene between Katniss and Peeta? Nope. The two were just goofing around, shadow boxing between scenes. It seemed like no big deal at first, but it turns out Josh actually got a concussion from the contact.
17. There Was a Swear Jar on Set – and J-Law Filled Half of It
Our favorite YA sci-fi heroes aren’t supposed to say any words from the banned word list, right? As it turns out, in real life at least, Katniss has a serious potty mouth!
It seems that in between takes, Jennifer Lawrence loves dropping some serious F-bombs. It got so bad at one point, that J-Law self-imposed a swear jar on set. As if that would ever even deter our unstoppable heroine.
At the end of shooting, Lawrence the the jar about have of her paycheck for the grueling production. It's pretty ironic that she created her own punishment and then had to pay up - which proves once again, even the most formidable of fighters can fall before that most unconquerable of foes: self-restraint.
16. Foxface Gave Herself a Black Eye
Of all of Katniss’ many adversaries during the trials and tribulations of the Hunger Games, few are as memorable as Foxface. A fierce survivor, her ultimate fate was hard for many fans to take, regardless for how much we all may have been rooting for our District 12 favorite.
In real life, however, Foxface actress Jacqueline Emerson was a little less agile than her fictional counterpart. Quickly exiting a Starbucks on an off day, the clumsy thespian gave herself a black eye with the door on her way out. Ouch! But she wasn’t allowed to tell anyone the truth of her injury due to the extreme secrecy of the film production.
What were they worried about? Giving away spoilers? Tarnishing the image of a warrior? The truth eventually came out, perhaps giving a “black eye” to many of our expectations!
15. Extras Were Forced to Deal with Extreme Heat
Anyone who has ever experienced the mythology of The Hunger Games knows few things are as dreaded as Reaping Day. That’s the event in each district where one very unlucky contestant is selected from their District to basically be subjected to a Battle Royale-style struggle to the death. But if you think the characters were suffering during The Reaping, consider for a moment what the extras went through.
The scene requires all of the residents to be out to see who loses in this lottery. When they were shooting the sequence, it was extremely hot, and anyone who wasn’t a regular cast or crew member had no air-conditioned trailer to retreat to. That left dozens of extras sweating out in the blistering heat for hours on end. Jennifer Lawrence felt so bad, she gave anybody who asked free autographs. What a hero!
14. J-Law Earned a Gross Nickname for Gross Reasons
One thing we rarely think about when watching great science-fiction franchises are things like: how does Iron Man go to the bathroom? How do crews in Star Trek bathe themselves? What does Wonder Woman smell like in those trench warfare scenes? It’s normal, everyday stuff, but hey! Why ruin the escapist entertainment?
In real life, Jennifer Lawrence was answering many of those questions about herself. Her hygiene choices behind the scenes of Hunger Games were so yucky, she earned an unflattering nickname from her colleagues: Why? Because she often showed up on set tired from the day before and failing to shower – even though she was covered with dirt and blood from the previous day’s shoot. On top of that, she was well-known for going and peeing in the forest rather than use a nice toilet in her fancy trailer.
13. Jena Malone’s Elevator Scene was Real
Of the many warriors Katniss faces in the Hunger Games cycle, none are perhaps as cunning and deceitful as the deadly Johanna Mason. The expert survivor of District 7 is a master at disarming her foes by messing with their minds. When Mason first confronts Katniss, she removes her outfit during an elevator ride in order to unnerve Katniss.
During the shooting of this scene in real life, actress Jena Malone actually stripped in an active hotel elevator. Unfortunately for her, a crew member hit the wrong button on the elevator for one take. The door opened unexpectedly on a floor they weren’t meant to arrive at and at least one hotel guest got a hell of an view when he looked inside! Good thing that guy wasn’t fighting in the games - she'd defeat him for sure!
12. Jennifer Lawrence and Sam Caflin dreaded having to eat raw fish
If you absolutely hate eating fish, then you better stop reading right now. There are plenty of folks in this world who can’t handle anything from sushi to tuna sandwiches, and as it happens, two of those people are Jennifer Lawrence and Sam Caflin. Ironically, Sam plays Finnick Odair of District 4 – you know, the district that’s famous for its fishing industry.
In one scene in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Katniss and Finnick enjoy a seafood meal together. For the two actors, it was like being forced to eat garbage. Scarfing down the meal they both found so repulsive may have been the single most heroic act which occurred on the set of the movie.
If there’s ever another sequel to the series, they may have to set the whole thing at a huge dinner table full of disgusting victuals.
11. Jennifer Lawrence Went Deaf for 6 Days
There are all sorts of accidents that can happen on the set of an action movie. Harrison Ford famously broke his ankle during the filming of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In the worst cases, actors have even been killed, as happened to Brandon Lee when he was accidentally shot while making The Crow. While working on the Catching Fire entry of the series, Jennifer Lawrence went partially deaf – and it lasted almost a week.
During the filming of the cornucopia scene in Catching Fire, Lawrence dove into the water and a jet blasted into her ear. It was severe enough to puncture her eardrum, which later led to an infection. After she delayed a trip to the doctor, her hearing in one ear didn’t return for a full six days and was impaired for months after that.
The actress laughs off the aqua-incident now, but had she not regained her aural functions, she may have spent the rest of her life in regret.
10. Sam Clafin Was Extremely Clumsy
You would think that a totally buff expert hunter and fisherman would be super agile and coordinated. In the case of Finnick Odair, not so much. In several interviews with cast members, it was revealed that actor Sam Clafin was totally clumsy day after day while shooting the Hunger Games movies.
Among other things, he unwittingly poked J-Law with his trident during the mud pit scene, broke his own finger on set, and has admitted in interviews that in real life, he’s more “clumsy than smooth.” The real moral to this story has to be that Clafin must be a pretty good actor if he was able to convince audiences that he was a great warrior. If you’re going to be that inept in real life, it’s a hell of an acting job to convince millions of fans otherwise!
9. J-Law Desecrated a Scared Hawaiian Site While Filming
Is nothing sacred? In an atmosphere which the horrors of Panem have to offer, one may be less than surprised that such blasé attitudes towards the holy and revered may seep onto set as well. To be fair, it’s not like Jennifer Lawrence was looking to desecrate a holy site in Hawaii while shooting Catching Fire with her butt, that’s just how things turned out.
Wearing her wetsuit on a balmy island day, she developed a nasty itch on her backside. Rather than relieve it with a customary hand-scratch, she rubbed her hindquarters up against a rock. This was not just any rock, it was a sacred stone on hallowed ground. By doing that, she dislodged the boulder, sending it tumbling down a ravine,w which offended the locals, and rightly so. That’s one way celebrities should simply not shake their money-makers!
8. Liam and Jennifer Ate Garlic and Tuna Fish Before Filming Kissing Scenes
There are three kinds of people in this world. On one side are the folks who are smitten with the hunky Liam Hemsworth, his rock-hard body, and suave persona. On the other are the Jennifer Lawrence fans who are drawn to her natural beauty, her attractive aura, and her alluring personality. And there are those who appreciate both stars!
Either camp can watch those kissing scenes between the two superstars in Mockingjay not only with great longing, but with great envy. So let’s ruin it for everybody! As a goof, both actors made sure their breaths would be as smelly as possible when shooting those smooching sequences, chewing on garlic and tuna in an effort to out-gross each other.
Still want to make kissy-faces with these two? Now that we all know the stinky truth, we can never un-smell the formerly steamy make out sessions.
7. J-Law vs the Hanging Tree Song
We have to hand it to Jennifer Lawrence. She’s not only a great actress, but a powerful presence on any screen she graces. Whether she’s swaggering her way through American Hustle or screaming her way through Mother!, J-Law is a consummate professional; the proverbial triple-threat. Or maybe make that a double threat.
By her own admission, Lawrence just cannot sing and hates doing it. So of course, she had to do in Mockingjay. Audiences will recall the "Hanging Tree" scene, where Katniss has to belt out a tune her dad taught her. By one producer’s account, this was J-Law’s least favorite scene to shoot and she almost cried when she was compelled to perform it.
In the end, the consummate professional delivered, even if she didn’t earn a Grammy for her efforts.
6. Liam Hemsworth Fractured His Ankle During Filming
There should be little surprise at this point that such an action-packed span of four violent science-fiction films would end up with so many injuries. Audiences can easily be fooled that the super-people we root for on screen are actually just normal folk who get injured, as we have already seen. Now it’s time to add Liam Hemsworth to the Hunger Games injured list.
During the filming of Mockingjay, without even knowing it at first, Hemsworth actually acquired a stress fracture on his ankle. It happened while shooting in Berlin, although it’s not clear if it happened on or off set. What we do know is that he powered through, not missing a day of shooting or causing production delays.
5. The Costly Cut Scene
There are times that productions really go all-out on a massive scale to capture a great scene in a movie. For example, the makers of The Dark Knight actually blew up a whole building for the scene where The Joker set off explosions in a hospital. Then there’s James Cameron, who famously built a replica for Titanic, complete with a giant tank of water for it to sink in.
Hunger Games director Francis Lawrence did something similarly epic: he had a whole gigantic greenhouse built and attending garden grown from scratch for a scene in Mockingjay. No, you didn’t miss it – the scene was cut from the movie because the film was running too long. Anyone wanting to see it will need to check out the deleted scenes.
4. J-Law Almost Choked Due to a Smoke Machine
Remember that exciting scene in Mockingjay when Katniss lead a mass rebellion through a long tunnel? And then the tunnel suddenly filled with smoke? It’s a pivotal moment in the series.
Well, as it turns out, things got a little too exciting on set. The fog machine the production was using to create the smoke effect broke during filming. The malfunction sent way more mist spewing out than anyone expected. It got so bad that Jennifer Lawrence inhaled a couple of lungs-full of the stuff. This sent her into a coughing and choking fit so severe, she was convinced she was going to die.
Obviously, she didn’t lose her life that day, and there was a lot more Mockingjay to come. But for a terrifying few minutes, it really looked like J-Law was toast.
3. The Sewer Scene in Mockingjay Was Shot in a Real Sewer
We’ve all heard about making on-set conditions for filmmaking as real as possible, but this is ridiculous. In Mockingjay: Part 2, the cast and crew shot what turned out to be the most challenging sequence – the sewer scene. By all accounts it was harrowing, and actually took a full three weeks to wrap up.
What is even worse is that a portion of the shoot took place in an actual sewer, which, as one can imagine not only smells terrible, but is highly unsanitary in a whole slew of ways. The only question left is that since there was also a massive sewer set built – why did they have to descend into the real thing? Was the director just cruel?
The truth behind this decision has been flushed down cinematic history, perhaps never to be seen again.
2. Phillip Seymour Hoffman's lines were given to other cast members
Nothing was as disruptive and tragic to the world of the Hunger Games movies than the untimely loss of the great actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Already leaving a gaping hole in the wider world of the performing arts as he was taken from us too soon, the Mockingjay filming had not completed all of Hoffman’s scenes.
Rather than recast the late, great thespian’s part, the producers made another decision. All the leftover lines which Hoffman would not be able to deliver would be rerouted to other parts as read by other actors. It’s a weird kind of workaround, but one which boldly retains the powerful dialogue of the film, while maintaining a deep reverence for the deceased actor.
Most audience members didn’t even notice, so we can safely give a slow clap to the filmmakers for navigating a tough situation with a lot of dignity.
1. The Hunger Games inspired real-life rebels
This doesn’t count as a dark secret in the making of The Hunger Games, but there can be no doubt – the epic series was directly responsible for a very powerful moment in real-life politics. Back in 2014, the nation of Thailand experienced a coup. Soldiers took to the streets to suppress resistance and round up dissenters. It all had some eerie similarities to the themes which the fictional tale of Panem explore.
Protesters were not held back, and when they did challenge the authorities in the streets, many adopted the three-finger salute from The Hunger Games to symbolize their resistance to the coup leaders. It was an amazing example of the impact which the arts can have in our real lives, in our real struggles. The protestors were detained as a result.
If this does count as a “dark secret,” let us also recognize that it simultaneously symbolizes a bright ray of hope for those who fight against injustice in the real world.
Do you have any other Hunger Games dark secrets to share? Leave them in the comments!