DALLAS — Gathered in a Dallas hotel room for a series of media interviews, three stars of “The Hunger Games” didn't seem too affected by all the hype surrounding the blockbuster movie or the screaming fans who awaited them at appearances across the country.
Instead, Josh Hutcherson, Isabelle Fuhrman and Jacqueline Emerson, in their interview with The
“It was a very weird summer camp. I think that's the best way to describe it,” said Isabelle Fuhrman, 14, who plays Clove, one of the “tributes,” or forced fighters, aligned with the more affluent districts known for coming out ahead in the violent Games.
During filming, depending on their character, the actors threw knives (Fuhrman's newly learned skill), shot arrows, scaled trees and acted out the deathly scenes described in Suzanne Collins' novel that spawned the movie.
In between takes, they joked around and enjoyed the camaraderie that developed between them.
“Everybody on set was really close, you know, from the whole cast to all the crew members,” Hutcherson said. “When you have a movie that does have more intense, kind of serious tonal qualities, it's nice to step away from that on set and have more of a fun environment.”
Set in the future, the movie opening today centers on a group of 24 children who are sent from 12 conquered districts and forced by the Capitol government to fight to the death in an arena-like setting on live TV.
The entire nation watches these events unfold, but only the shallow Capitol residents enjoy them for entertainment. The stars are dressed up, paraded, interviewed and fawned over before being sent into the arena. Each year, the lone surviving “tribute” is declared the victor.
The story is told from the point of view of Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence. Hutcherson plays her fellow District 12 tribute, Peeta Mellark, the baker's son, and the two share many scenes.
Hutcherson, 19, said he and Lawrence, both from Kentucky, hit it off right away. They connected with the novel's setting in coal-mining country near their real-life home state and with the movie's set in nearby North Carolina.
“It was weirdly serendipitous,” he said. “It all felt very, very, like, right.”
Fans line up
Hutcherson, Fuhrman and Emerson, 17, were in Dallas for an autograph signing and panel discussion at the Galleria. Fans lined up as early as 6 a.m. that day for a chance to meet them during the late-afternoon event, and hundreds waited for hours before their arrival. A mall representative said fan mail sent to the mall before the event filled several boxes.
The movie's status as a blockbuster continues to grow, as do ticket sales, which are tracking to launch “The Hunger Games” into the same status as movies such as “Dark Knight,” according to The Hollywood Re
Hutcherson said he thinks the story's theme resonates with people who are struggling in today's world, referring to the Occupy Wall Street movement and others like it.
“People are standing up and fighting against something that seems ‘unfightable,' and they kind of are given power when they feel powerless,” Hutcherson said. “And that's what this movie is all about ... giving power to people that seem to have none and ... giving hope in really grim situations.
“I think now more than ever people want to latch onto a story that has that kind of hope, just because times are tough.”
Emerson and Fuhrman both noted the strong heroine in Katniss to which people can relate.
“It's a story about what lengths you would go to protect the people you love and care for,” Fuhrman said.
‘Camp Hunger Games'
To prepare for the role, Hutcherson had to go on a high-protein diet and add 15 pounds of muscle to bulk up for his fight in the Games' arena. Fuhrman had to learn how to throw knives, a skill she said she hopes to keep up if she can find a place to do it.
In Dallas, Emerson, Hutcherson and Fuhrman laughed as they remembered crew members chasing away turkeys that had wandered into the scene during filming and a bear that charged Hutcherson's group while doing an interview. Luckily, the bear got scared before reaching them and ran off.
“Every day that we drove up there, we would all just look at each other and go, ‘This is work?'
Hutcherson's thoughts echoed Emerson's, noting that he loves hiking and camping.
“Growing up in Kentucky, I was always playing in the woods and outside and using my imagination. I kind of do that now, but it's my career. And it's a pretty great one,” he said.