In the world of Suzanne Collins’ book series-turned-blockbuster franchise, The Hunger Games, 24 contestants under the age of 18 are thrown into a fight to the death that is broadcast to all 12 districts in Panem. As a part of the process, the contestants chosen each year are thrust into the spotlight, while the winners of each Hunger Games become well-known figures in Panem - the world’s own brand of celebrities. In the upcoming third film of the series, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) use their celebrity - albeit not always with their consent - to fuel or thwart a rebellion.
This weekend at the New York press junket for Mockingjay - Part 1, Screen Rant sat down to talk with the cast of the latest Hunger Games installment about everything from gender irrelevance in movies to the series’ influence on youth culture to drawing inspiration from a Hollywood icon as well as how the success of the YA franchise has impacted the stars’ lives.
In Mockingjay - Part 1, President Coin (Julianne Moore), the leader of the rebellion for which Katniss becomes a symbol, says: “There is no progress without compromise." In talking about how the statement related to their lives as actors, Hutcherson and Lawrence said the fame that comes along with a franchise like The Hunger Games is a compromise or sacrifice they had to make:
Hutcherson: I think it's not just progress - there's no life without compromise. I think that in everything you do there's some sort of compromise. I think that for us, personally, there's a fairly large sacrifice or compromise that happens with public attention or a loss of anonymity when you go somewhere.
Lawrence: I don't know about compromises... I've made sacrifices. And I've had really amazing blessings and wonderful movies but I don't really feel like I've traded something and gotten another. No.
Although the actors agreed that joining The Hunger Games led to a sacrifice of a certain level of anonymity with the fame seen by the blockbuster franchise, Hutcherson and Lawrence dealt with the success differently. To Hutcherson, the sacrifice was more of an afterthought, whereas for Lawrence, it was an integral part of her decision process before signing on to play Katniss.
Hutcherson: The idea of having success or being in a movie like this was never part of my plan, so to speak. My plan was always just to make interesting movies and work with interesting people and tell stories, and this fell into that category. So I kind of happened into this role just through my own way of finding projects. But it's been a big, big, change. Jen says that she...had a few days to think about it because she knew how much of a change it would be; I didn't really think about it at all. I just knew that I Ioved the script, loved the story, loved all the people involved. So for me it was like, ‘Yes!’ and then later it was like, ‘Oh my god, this is a big, big, life change!’ But it's like one of those things where until you lose it, you don't know how important it is and you can't put a value on it: and by ‘it’ I mean anonymity. Once you lose that...people recognize you and you know that they know so many things about your life - true and not true - and you feel very exposed everywhere you go. And it's a hard thing to wrap your head around and was never really a plan that I had in place for my life.
Lawrence: It certainly is a blessed life; but there are also sacrifices. But I get to do what I love, and there's a downside to every job.
When asked if the fame and lack of anonymity ever seem too much to handle, Lawrence responded with a simple, “Of course!” Hutcherson expounded on that by saying that he, Lawrence, and Liam Hemsworth (who plays Gale Hawthorne in The Hunger Games) have formed a support structure in which they can relate to each other’s struggles since they’ve experienced the success of the franchise together.
While the actors behind Katniss and Peeta haven’t necessarily experienced the same kind of celebrity as their characters (what with all the propaganda and violence involved), there are at least some similarities that may have helped them give informed performances in Mockingjay - Part 1. However, whether or not those performances will lead to another successful installment of the franchise remains to be seen - though early reviews are relatively positive.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 opens in theaters on November 21st, 2014.