“You must be getting sick of this,” someone said to Amandla Stenberg on March 9 as the 13-year-old actress sat at a conference table between her Hunger Games co-stars Jennifer Lawrence and Alexander Ludwig, fielding questions from reporters while thousands of fans waited eagerly for the cast’s appearance at Mall of America.
No way, she said. “I think it’s really fun!”
I was among the dozens of reporters who crammed into a crowded suite of conference rooms at the Grand Hotel in downtown Minneapolis for a few minutes of face time with Stenberg (Rue), Lawrence (Katniss), Ludwig (Cato), Josh Hutcherson (Peeta), Isabelle Fuhrman (Clove), and Jacqueline Emerson (Fox Face) on their multi-city tour promoting the new film adaptation of Suzanne Collins’s bestselling novel—as though the movie even needed promotion. “I didn’t know this movie had such a fan base,” said Stenberg. “Really, the fact that people would sleep outside is beyond my wildest imagination.”
“I wouldn’t wait five minutes to see me!” said Ludwig.
I didn’t brave the public event at the mall, instead watching on the news as a camera caught Emerson’s awed reaction. It’s been an especially steep ascent for her: the 17-year-old theater kid had no movie experience until she was discovered via a friendship with director Gary Ross’s daughter, she said at the hotel. “It was such an amazing opportunity.” Writers of fan fiction will be excited to learn that Emerson read a number stories written by fans while she was preparing for the role. “I searched ‘Fox Face’ on FanFiction.net,” she said. “A couple of the stories, I was like, ‘No thanks,’ but there were a few that saw the games through Fox Face’s eyes,” which the actress appreciated and said she took some ideas from.
The young cast members seemed to be taking everything in stride—moreso than the reporters, many of whom seemed to have caught the Hunger Games fever that’s afflicted the film’s legions of teenage fans. One reporter leaving an interview said she didn’t even remember what she’d asked: “I blacked out!” Another said that her interview had brought her to tears. When Stenberg and Emerson came into the press waiting room to nosh on the buffet (candy bars and spinach dip), several reporters looked up abashedly from their seats on the floor.
Lawrence is the star of the movie and was the star of show in Minnesota, but at 21, she’s a seasoned actress and handled the press crunch with complete aplomb, doodling on a pad of paper as we rotated through the seats across the conference table from her. “I’m working on a new signature for you,” she told Stenberg, signing her costar’s name several times in slightly different styles. When I asked whether she and her costars had considered the possible downside of being associated with some of the world’s most famous characters, Lawrence just shrugged. “Of course,” she said. She’s a cool customer for someone who was at that moment, according to USA Today, at the very summit of the “celebrity heat index.”
Hutcherson was by far the chattiest of the six. When I asked the cast members whether there was a question they wished they were asked more often, Hutcherson jumped in and said he wished people would ask why he decided to become an actor. He also talked at length, prompted by a reporter, about how Ross had done well bridging his acting style and Lawrence’s. “I like to think about what the character’s feeling,” he said, “and Jennifer prefers [a director to say simply], ‘Look this way. Turn this way. Open your eyes.’ Gary was great at adapting to each of our needs.”
So in other words, being a talented, good-looking young actor working on the year’s biggest movie and attracting legions of adoring fans from around the world is just as great in reality as it sounds in theory? Yep, confirmed Hutcherson. “I love the [movie] business so much. It has a negative connotation, but I’ve met the greatest people in the world through this business.”
When The Hunger Games opens on Friday, March 23, you can see the greatest people in the world for yourself—and watch several of them die painful deaths. That’s show business!
Coverage of issues and events affecting Central Corridor communities is funded in part by a grant from the Central Corridor collaborative.