(Interview with Josh Hutcherson (“Peeta”), Isabelle Fuhrman (“Clove”) and Jacqueline Emerson (“Foxface”) was conducted March 8 in Dallas.)
Presbyterian Outlook: (participating with other media outlets in a roundtable interview): How did you get connected to this project?
Isabelle Fuhrman: My agent actually gave me the book, when Lionsgate first optioned it. I read the first one that night. I got the second one the next morning and read it all day. I had to wait for the third one to come out. I was hooked. I sent a letter to Gary Ross (the film’s director) asking if I could audition, and told him how much I wanted to be in the movie. Originally I read for Katniss, but I’m only 14 – way too young – but they called me back and asked if I could read for Clove. When I got the call a couple of weeks later saying I got it, I cried, I was so happy.
Jacqueline Emerson: “The Hunger Games” was actually the all-school read at my school. And at first I didn’t want to read it, but all my friends said, “You got to read it,” so I did, and quickly became hooked. Read the first one, the second one, and waited until midnight for the third one, and I knew Gary Ross’ daughter, Claudia, so I got an audition, and it’s still mind-boggling to me that I got the part.
Hutcherson: I read the books first, and got hooked right away. I love the story. My character, Peeta, was so interesting to me, and I connect with him on so many levels. So it’s a passion thing for me, and I had a couple of auditions, the second one being with Jennifer Lawrence as a chemistry read, and they all went fantastic, I thought, but I’ve thought that before, and not gotten jobs, so you never know. It was a couple of weeks later that I actually found out, but it was absolute torture waiting to hear. I was literally sitting by the phone, hoping it would ring. And it was a great relief once I got that phone call.
Outlook: Were they trying to find people who were fans of the book?
Hutcherson: It’s hard not to do that.
Outlook: What are you hoping young adults will walk away with?
Emerson: A strong female lead! Because there’s not a lot of that out there in literature, or movies, or our culture today. I think it’s great that here’s somebody who’s not really ruled by romance, but is ruled by love for her family, and goes in to protect them. I think that’s something important for girls to see.
Outlook: How accurate is the book to the movie?
Hutcherson: Extremely. And honestly, you walk away with such an emotional investment in the characters, which is exactly what the book does. Also, there are some perspectives in the movie other than the main character’s narrative, which I thought was interesting.
Outlook: Have you had fan experiences yet?
Emerson: Yeah, I was recognized once already, and of course it was Pajama Day at school, and I was wearing these bright pink footy pajamas, covered in cats. And these girls across the street yell out, “We love you, Foxface!”
Hutcherson: For me, the mall events have been wild. I didn’t know humans could reach such a pitch. There’s a certain age range –11 to 17-year-old girls – and it’s amazing to see that and hear that from them. But the craziest experience was when I was back in Kentucky with my family for the holidays. The day after Christmas, I was having dinner at my house with my grandparents, and the doorbell rang, and I went to get the door, and there was a mom standing there with two girls, who then do that scream at a level you don’t understand. And they’re crying. And they have these shirts on with my character’s face, and they told me they’d driven from Chicago, and saw that I was eating dinner, and wanted to wait until I was finished. So they were polite stalkers. It was kind of flattering, once, but I hope not to have that experience again.
Fuhrman: People will walk up to me and pretend they know me, and I’m uncomfortable because I’m wondering if I should know who this person is – the last time was on the beach. But most of the time, I just go to school and hang out with my friends.
Outlook: This was a very physical role. Did you do your own stunts?
Hutcherson: Actually, I did, which I enjoy, but the only time I got hurt was not when I was doing a stunt, but when Jennifer Lawrence decided to show me that she could kick over the top of my head. She actually kicked me on the side of the head, and gave me a real concussion. She felt so bad, she was crying, and said, “You can kick me in the head if you want to, I’m so sorry.”
Fuhrman: I did my own, too, but my mom wasn’t very supportive of the knife-throwing. The only time I got hurt was when the director was watching our training and I was watching him instead of what I was doing.
Hutcherson: We were all like, “Are you OK?” She fell six feet, and we thought we’d lost a cast member.
Fuhrman: And I didn’t want to tell anybody I’d sprained my ankle, because I still wanted to do my own stunts.
Emerson: I was training to do dive rolls, and did injure myself – gave myself a black eye. When I got to school, I couldn’t say anything about why, because we weren’t allowed to tell anybody yet about “The Hunger Games.”
Outlook: I understand you met Suzanne Collins (the author of the books)?
Hutcherson: Yeah, she was actually at my second audition, which made me a little nervous, but after I got the part, she called me and told me she’d be happy to help in any way, provide any kind of back story to help me understand the character, which was really nice. She was there during the filming, too, which is sometimes a problem, if a writer is going to be a stickler about things being a certain way, but she was on board with Gary’s vision of things, which gave all of us a vote a confidence. And Gary was great about allowing us to be collaborative with the dialogue, making it our own so it felt comfortable coming out of our mouths.
Outlook: It was very nice to meet you.
All: And nice to meet you, as well!
Ronald P. Salfen is interim pastor of St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church in Irving, Texas.