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Thu March 22, 2012

Spiders And Fighting And Trees, Oh My: Filming 'The Hunger Games'

Originally published on Fri March 23, 2012 9:24 am

There's a movie freshly out this weekend — perhaps you've heard of it.

The Hunger Games?

On Friday's Morning Edition, director Gary Ross and star Jennifer Lawrence talk to NPR's David Greene about the film.

If you devoured the books, both Ross and Lawrence are right there with you: "I read all three of them in four days," Lawrence says of Suzanne Collins' trilogy (which also includes Catching Fire and Mockingjay). Asked what drew her specifically to Katniss, Lawrence says, "She's not a hero, she's not a James Bond or Lara Croft who's done this a million times with all the tools and knows how to do it, and we're just going to watch her win."

While Lawrence has kind words for the story's message about both personal strength and standing up to authority on a larger level, the conversation quickly turns to the grueling shoot.

If you're wondering whether Lawrence's training would impress you, here's how she describes it: "I had running, free running — like parkour agility training, combat, climbing, archery and yoga."

That's right: parkour agility training. Maybe that's why when she's asked whether they're on board for the future films, she suggests Hilary Swank could take her place, or maybe Snooki. Fortunately, she's kidding.

She is not kidding, however, about having accidentally kicked co-star Josh Hutcherson, who plays Peeta, in the head, resulting in a concussion. This, as you might imagine, caused some guilt.

"The best part was him holding an icepack up to his head and rubbing my back, telling me it was all going to be OK while I cried. Then when Gary came in and said he couldn't work because he had a concussion, I started bawling in the makeup trailer."

When not battling her human co-stars (Accidentally! It was an accident!), Lawrence was worried about some of the ones with a few more legs. Ross busts her on one of her fears: "Kickass heroine" or not, she does not like bugs.

"I'm terrified of spiders," she acknowledges. "I'm really scared of spiders." Fortunately, those on the set were sympathetic, or at least willing to pretend they were: "They used to lie to me and tell me they de-spidered the tree before I climbed it."

The next film, Ross says, is scheduled to begin shooting in September, and Lawrence knows the physical challenges will continue.

"Can [Katniss] walk at all in the second one?" she asks. "She never walks, this person."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE HUNGER GAMES")

ELIZABETH BANKS: (As Effie Trinket) Welcome. Welcome.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Well, the wait is finally over.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE HUNGER GAMES")

BANKS: (As Effie Trinket) The time has come to select one courageous young man and woman for the honor of representing District 12 in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.

GREENE: The highly anticipated film "The Hunger Games" is in theaters today. It's based on the first book of author Suzanne Collins' trilogy aimed at young adults. Of course, the best-sellers have already caught fire with readers of all ages. The story is set in post-apocalyptic North America, where the government squashed a revolution and has continued to flaunt its power with an extreme and violent tradition.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE HUNGER GAMES")

DONALD SUTHERLAND: (As President Snow) Until it was decreed that each year, the 12 districts of Pan Am shall offer up in tribute, one young man and woman, between the ages of 12 and 18, to be trained in the art of survival, and to be prepared to fight to the death.

GREENE: Joining us from our studios in New York, the star of the film, Jennifer Lawrence, and also "Hunger Games" director Gary Ross. Welcome to you both.

GARY ROSS: Thank you.

GREENE: Have you two been busy?

ROSS: Oh, nah.

JENNIFER LAWRENCE: Just a little bit.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GREENE: So let me ask you. I've heard that both of you were fans of these books before there was any talk of either of you being involved in the movies. Gary, how did you come across them?

ROSS: My kids were huge fans of the books. They both read it about the time it came out. I saw my daughter literally disappear into the pages - you know, look up with a stunned expression on her face and disappear, again, into them. So - I think I started reading like, 10 o'clock one night and closed the cover at 1, and knew I wanted to do the movie. I mean, it was really that instant.

GREENE: And, Jennifer, how did you come across the book?

LAWRENCE: My mom was really them in her book club. She recommended them to me, and then I read all three of them in four days and did the same as Gary's daughter - disappeared into them, with a couple of shocked looks on my face.

GREENE: What shocked you?

LAWRENCE: Then it could be exciting, but I loved how powerful the message was for our generation. I kind of - I loved this kind of story not being spoon-fed to anybody - this very sophisticated, young adult story with a very large, powerful message.

GREENE: And speaking of that sophisticated young adult - I mean, clearly, the key to this movie was casting the right Katniss Everdeen. I mean, the whole story is centered around her fight for survival. And what draws you to the character?

LAWRENCE: She's not a hero. She's not a James Bond or Lara Croft that's done this a million times and we - she has all the tools and knows how to do it, and we're just going to watch her win. There's never really a point in the games where she thinks she won't die. She's just trying to survive for her family, and then becomes this Joan of Arc by starting to fight for her people.

GREENE: Jennifer Lawrence, when you think about the young women who are going to be in these audiences, what do you want them to take from this character?

LAWRENCE: I think the most important message that this movie has, and what Katniss has, is how powerful one person can be; and the power that we have, as the people. Because we're always being, you know, whatever we are being manipulated by - if it's reality television, the news, the president. And also, on a simpler note, she's just a girl who's standing up for what's right when something is wrong, when it's hard - and when it's scary.

GREENE: This is an incredibly physical movie. I mean, you are running, tripping in the woods; you're killing people, knives are flying. How did you prepare for all this?

LAWRENCE: Lots of training.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

LAWRENCE: I had running and then free running - like park or agility training; combat climbing...

GREENE: Wow.

LAWRENCE: ...archery...

GREENE: This is all before the filming started?

LAWRENCE: Yes.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

LAWRENCE: And then yoga.

GREENE: I'm going to put you both on the spot: Craziest moment of doing this project? I mean, you were talking about...

ROSS: She gave Josh a concussion.

LAWRENCE: I did give Josh a concussion.

GREENE: And remind us who Josh is.

ROSS: Hutcherson...

LAWRENCE: Hutcherson.

ROSS: ...who plays Peter.

LAWRENCE: Who plays - we were shadow-boxing, and then I kicked towards his head, and then got a little carried away and actually kicked his head. It was actually...

GREENE: And did you feel bad, or was that like...

LAWRENCE: Yes.

GREENE: ...darn it, I got this Katniss character down?

LAWRENCE: No, then I knocked him out cold and walked away; stepped over his body.

ROSS: She did not feel as bad as he did, though.

LAWRENCE: No, I did. I felt worse.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

LAWRENCE: The best was him holding an ice pack up to his head and rubbing my back, telling me it was all going to be OK - while I cried.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

LAWRENCE: And then, when Gary came in and said that he couldn't work 'cause he had a concussion, and then I started bawling in the makeup trailer.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GREENE: Well, where was this all happening? Where did you film this?

ROSS: We were in the woods in Asheville, North Carolina. So I mean, I'm only half joking it's like "Apocalypse Now." I mean, we hiked into the location every day. It was an hour into the woods and an hour out. It poured rain every couple of days with, you know, torrential downpours...

LAWRENCE: Every couple of days? It was four hours every day.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ROSS: Yeah, I mean, you know, which would impede the shooting and stuff. But yeah, there were mudflows and hornets and bears...

LAWRENCE: Bears...

ROSS: ...and we're hanging up in trees. And you know, there were no trailers. We're sitting on tree stumps. So you know, it was always funny that I would see Jennifer walk around with the bows - kind of this amazing, kick-ass heroine. And then, when there was a bug next to her - and by the way, we're in the woods so there are always...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

LAWRENCE: I'm terrified of spiders.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ROSS: There are always bugs next to her.

LAWRENCE: I'm really scared of spiders.

GREENE: And even though you're a tough Katniss - I mean, you're screaming when a bug comes in?

ROSS: Scream is not even...

LAWRENCE: They used to lie to me and tell me that they de-spidered the tree before I climbed it.

GREENE: Jennifer, you - I understand that you said that your mom recommended "Hunger Games" to you. And what does she think of you as Katniss?

LAWRENCE: No, she loves it. I mean, she was - you know, I spoke to her at the beginning when I got offered the part, and then took a few days to think about it. And, you know, at first she was just kind of in mom mode of what's best for me as a person. And then she was like, well, I don't know. Are you sure of something this big, and what's it going to be like?

GREENE: What were the doubts? What if she had said, you know, that there could be a potential downside to something like this? What was it?

LAWRENCE: I was just worried about, you know, there's not a lot of decisions that you're faced with that will change your life forever - and it'll never go back. You know, I was afraid I wouldn't - nobody would ever be able to lose themselves in another character that I did; that I would always be, you know, Katniss is doing a period drama. Katniss is doing a - and then I realized that if I'm going to be known for any character, that this is the most incredible character that I could ever - you know, I'd be honored.

GREENE: Well, you have both already signed up for the rest of the trilogy. Is that right?

ROSS: Yes.

LAWRENCE: Well, no. I think Hilary Swank is doing the second one.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ROSS: You're kidding?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GREENE: Gary...

LAWRENCE: That's what I heard.

GREENE: ...did she just break that news to you?

ROSS: Yeah. What's up with that, sweetheart?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ROSS: I thought we were down for this whole thing. I mean, I like Hilary Swank. I'm a big fan. This is...

LAWRENCE: I know. I was just - that's why I thought I was...

ROSS: No, it's just a bit of a surprise for me right now. That's all.

LAWRENCE: Snooki from the "Jersey Shore."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ROSS: I'm going to have to kind of make just - I'll adjust, but it's going to take a minute. No, I'm intending to do the next one, and so we're in the process of negotiating that with the studio right now.

GREENE: And Jennifer, you're on board?

LAWRENCE: Yes.

GREENE: OK. Well, when do you both get started on number two, which is "Catching Fire," right ...

ROSS: It's supposed to...

GREENE: ...that's the name of it?

ROSS: Yeah. I believe we start shooting in September, which means you start training tomorrow.

LAWRENCE: I was just thinking that. I was like, September...

ROSS: Which means I probably should start writing.

LAWRENCE: Can she walk, at all, in the second one?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GREENE: Instead of running all the time?

LAWRENCE: Yeah. She never walks, this person.

GREENE: Well, Gary, get to writing. And Jennifer, hit the gym.

Jennifer Lawrence plays...

LAWRENCE: What's that supposed to mean?

GREENE: Jennifer - well, you know, just start training for the next movie.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GREENE: Gary said it, not me. Don't listen to me. Listen to your director.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GREENE: That's Jennifer Lawrence. She plays Katniss Everdeen in "The Hunger Games." Gary Ross directed the film and it is in theaters today.

Thank you, both, so much for talking about it with us.

ROSS: Thank you. This was really fun.

LAWRENCE: Thank you.

GREENE: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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