The Hunger Games' Josh Hutcherson On Peeta's Secret Strength
One of the most interesting aspects of The Hunger Games is the simple fact that the lead character is not only female, but an exceptionally strong one. She can hold her own in a fight and is an exceptional archer, sheís passionate about the people in her life that she cares for, and doesnít let anybody use her. As a result, however, the lead male characters in the story, particularly Peeta, seems weaker by comparison. But if you ask Josh Hutcherson, Peeta has his own kind of strength.
Prior to the filmís release I had the chance to sit down one-on-one with Hutcherson, and in addition to discussing the alpha female vs. beta male aspect of the film, he discussed looking to the other books in the series to inform his character, handling the phenomenon and stepping into Suzanne Collinsí science-fiction universe.
Itís kind of a big question to start, but I have to ask: are you ready for this?
I donít think thereís any way to get ready for it. Iím just taking it day by day and itís exciting, you know? To be part of something so highly anticipated, and itís the first time for me and Iím very passionate about the story and the movie. I just saw the movie last weekend and that just reassured me of this whole thing and I loved it. Iím very proud to be a part of it.
How have the mall tours been going?
It was crazy. There were 2,000 people there Ė I think there were 1,000 there four hours before we were going to get there. So it was incredible for me to see that kind of support. And as an actor your goal is to be successful and with success comes notoriety in this business. And itís kind of weird because in my mind I never really put two and two together somehow. I just wanted to become successful, I didnít realize that that came with it at the same time. So itís a whole different side of it. Itís fun and itís exciting and itís very, very, very different.
Is it strange that youíre still three weeks out from release are youíre already seeing this incredible surge?
It is weird. When we first started shooting there was 8 million copies of the book and now thereís 20 something million copies of the book, so itís grown so much since we first started. But yeah, the saga has been building for so long and now weíre ready for it to come out.
To talk a bit about Peeta, 20 years ago if you there had been a movie like this made it would have featured a male lead and female supporting characters. But here itís the alpha female, beta male. I was hoping you could talk a bit about that perspective.
I think Peetaís strong in his own way. Thatís something that myself and Gary Ross and Suzanne Collins talked about often was making sure Peeta works cinematically and by that I mean I think he has a little bit more backbone. In the book heís a great character, but obviously can come across as a little soft sometimes and I think that cinematically heís much more interesting because he has a bit more backbone. So I think that a few scenes in the cave scene with Jennifer we really wanted to add in a little bit more strength to his character and instead of being kind of sappy with it heís coming from a place of, ďI could die, I need to tell you how I feel about this.Ē Katniss is such a strong character and the story is obviously told from her perspective, so I think that anybody who is a strong woman can relate to that, and strong women can be with a strong man and it works out that way. But it is different and that could be why itís so important to people because itís something that they havenít seen before.
Yeah, typically itís supposed to be ďthe man,Ē and ďI donít cry.Ē And itís cool for me because Iím a lot like Peeta in that way. Iím very open with how I talk about things and talking to people and my emotions, I really connect with him on that level, especially.
At what stage did you really click with the character? Was it in the audition process or was it while you were on set?
I clicked with him when I read the book. For me, as soon as I read it and I saw how much he was like me in certain ways and he had the same kind of constitution as a person, I connected with that instantly. As far as me rousing out how big a deal this whole thing was, that whole thing didnít connect until I was on set. I was standing there and the first scene that I shot was actually the scene where Peeta throws the bread to Katniss Ė and thatís an amazing way to start off a shoot, by the way Ė I was standing there and then they called action and the rainís pouring and I have a loaf of bread and Iím in my apron and everything and I look over and thereís Katniss leaning u- against a tree and I was like ,Ē Oh my god, this is actually happening.Ē [laughs] To that point it was really too surreal to believe.
To talk about being in that environment, I have to imagine that being in a science-fiction film is really something else because youíre actually inhabiting a completely different world. Particularly having read the books where you only have your imagination, what is it like stepping into, for example, the Capitol and seeing it all brought to life?
Itís pretty cool to see it realized. Itís one of those things where everybody has their own kind of idea of what it looks like in their minds and to finally see it out in front of you is incredible. I thought the same thing about the characters. When I saw Woody [Harrelson] transform into Haymitch, Elizabeth [Banks] transform into EffieÖ it was just incredible to see those kinds of characters come to life.
Honestly, not really because as the story happens, those things havenít happened yet in that world, so therefore if I was trying to bring in elements from the second and third books beside the ones that are already built in, with foreshadowing and what not, it might kind of ruin the performance and make it so we can see into the future, kind of. For me, I like to take it at the same pace as the characters.
That in mind, how much were you able to add your own flavor to the character? Obviously fans are so passionate about Peeta on the page, but some things just canít work for the movie. Were you able to kind of move into it?
Yeah, definitely. Gary was very open to us bringing elements of ourselves to the roles, which I think is great. I love having a collaborative environment on set and Gary is very collaborative and extremely smart, and while I had my ideas and everything I 100% trusted Gary. Every time that I had a question about something Iíd go to him and trust him with all my heart. But we had some freedom to move around.
I was also hoping you could talk about the audition process for this part. When it was up for grabs Peeta was one of the most in demand parts for young male actors in Hollywood. How intense was it sitting outside that room?
It was really intense. I never really, nowhere near wanted a part as much as this and if I didnít get it I would have lost my mind [laughs]. So itís a good thing I did. The audition itself was the kind of normal process, I came in and auditioned twice, once with Gary and Suzanne and again with Jennifer and Gary. And it was actually fun because Liam [Hemsworth] and I had the exact same audition schedule. I went in the first time and saw him in the waiting room and then again when I came back to read with Jennifer so it was pretty cool.
And what was it like working with Jennifer, because obviously you have to have the chemistry or it doesnít work.
It was great. Jen is amazing, we hit it off right away. I met her a couple times before hand and we were from the same place in understanding what that worldís like and sheís a very real person. Sheís very genuine and says what she believes and what she thinks and thatís what I admire in a person.
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