As part of Vanity Fair‘s special on The Hunger Games they interviewed Gary Ross, the director, about the the cast and characters in the film. Gary tells Vanity Fair how he originally got into The Hunger Games, how he came to choose Jennifer Lawrence for the role of Kaniss Everdeen, his opinion on Josh Hutcherson as an actor, and living up to Suzanne Collins’ expectations.
Krista Smith (Vanity Fair): Tell me—how did you get into The Hunger Games?
Gary Ross: I read the book. My kids turned me on to it, and I went nuts. I guess, about a year ago. I literally read it and said, “I have to make the movie.”
KS: And what’s been the best part so far?
GR: You rarely get a tentpole that has this much emotional depth, this much character to dive into. The character of Katniss is . . . incredible. Suzanne [Collins, the author of the books,] did such an amazing job, and painted such a vivid character that I think for me and Jen. . . . It was just exciting every day. Not just from a pure filmmaking perspective, but also just in terms of the depth of the acting and exploring the character.
KS: How did you get Jennifer to play Katniss?
GR: I was just a fan. When you do what I do, any time you see an actor like this emerge—I think everybody’s head sort of snapped, you know? Both from Winter’s Bone and other work that she’s done, I was just always very aware of her. And then I had a meeting with her, and I was just as impressed, and then she came in and read for us and she sort of blew me away. But I wasn’t totally surprised, because I think that an actor like this comes along, you know, once a generation.
KS: I’m reading the book now—I’m told once you start, you’re not able to stop.
GR: Totally true. And also, [Katniss is] just such a compelling character, and her struggle and her evolution is so beautiful, and that’s what I’m saying. You see the character emerge and grow and have so much strength—she’s a very important character for kids, because she starts off purely in a fight for survival, and by the end of the story, she learns there’s so much more. There [are] things more important than merely surviving—like, what does it mean to actually live?
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KS: And Jennifer is just a great fit for it.
GR: She has such command and control of what she’s doing, which is a raw, emotional power—it’s like looking into a blast furnace at times, and it literally can knock you back in your seat. And the rest of the cast, Stanley Tucci and Donald Sutherland and Woody Harrelson, were amazing. I was just so lucky.
KS: You also have Josh Hutcherson in the part of Peeta.
GR: He kind of reminds me of a young Jack Lemmon. There’s this incredible versatility to him; he’s wise beyond his years, he’s sort of mature beyond his years, and there’s just such a natural ease to his acting. He’s so comfortable.
KS: You’ve been nominated for four Oscars—is there a different kind of thing when you go in and you take on this kind of—
GR: Piece of pop culture? [...] So in terms of what it is in the culture and everything, is there pressure? No more pressure than I put on myself to live up to what Suzanne has done.
KS: Was she on set for all of it?
GR: Yeah, she came down to the set, but we also collaborated on the last draft together. I wrote a draft, and then Suzanne and I got along incredibly well, and did another subsequent draft, the final draft together. She’s wonderful.
[To read the rest of the interview click here to visit Vanity Fair!]