Since the novel was first released in 2008, The Hunger Games and its sequels have become a global phenomenon, comparable to the Twilight or even Harry Potter series in their related media coverage, plethora of online forums and screaming legions of fans.
Four years later, and the film adaptation of The Hunger Games is expected to be one of the biggest events in theatres this year. Directed by Gary Ross and starring Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, the feisty, stoic heroine, the blockbuster opened to throngs of fans last night and so far the reviews have been positive.
Youthink had the opportunity to catch up with Vancouver actor Alexander Ludwig, who plays primary antagonist Cato, at a press junket just days before The Hunger Games premiered to talk about everything from his character to his opinions on his fellow actors.
Q: I know you trained for the film, but did you train for the aftermath? You’re going to have to run from screaming crowds of teenagers.
AL: It’s been amazing. It’s been super, super flattering. It’s really nice to be acknowledged for your work. Even this morning, just going to a radio station, I had these girls following me to the station. I wouldn’t wait five minutes for me… I don’t really understand it (laughs).
Q: In this film you have a very large role but you have to create your character with not a lot of lines of dialogue. What kind of challenges did that present you with as an actor?
AL: That’s a very interesting question. A lot of it was just creating a really nice backstory for the character. Suzanne [Collins, the author] and Gary Ross, the director, and I sat down and talked about the character and luckily Suzanne’s such a great writer that part of who Cato was was already mapped out for me in the novel. I wanted there to be a really true portrayal of Cato in the movie; I didn’t want to just create some new guy that nobody knows. Everyone fell in love with these books for a reason and it’s because the characters are very interesting and everyone can find a way to relate. The interesting part was trying to justify what Cato was doing, because as an actor, if you’re playing someone like that, you have to fully believe in everything that character’s doing, that it’s for the right reasons. It was definitely a very dark, intense, but really fulfilling experience as an actor, and I’d do it again in a second.
Q: Is there anything good in Cato? Does he have anything redeeming in him?
AL: Absolutely. This is the reason I took the role because of this one scene at the end of the film, [when] you really see, even just for a second, a glimpse of humanity in Cato and it kind of just goes with the whole message of the movie, which is really just hope that everyone will one day realize their faults, and there’s more to everyone than meets the eye. And I think Cato is in a way a little misunderstood… I think in that very last second people kind of sympathize with him and even though what he’s doing is horrible and unforgivable, you kind of see where he’s coming from.
Q: The film speaks volumes about the culture of surveillance and the idea of the spectacle that we live in these days. Did this make you see the media in a different way?
AL: That’s a very good point and absolutely. Suzanne Collins got the idea for these novels by watching a reality TV show and then switching to the news and the war in Afghanistan was on. Yeah, it does speak volumes to that and I agree completely – our world is going down a weird road in that aspect and there’s something to be said for a TV show that’s getting so much popularity because the audience enjoys watching people’s faults and watching people fail. Definitely, the movie made me take a step back and realize, “Wow, why aren’t there more shows that are applauding people’s successes and talking about someone’s struggle to succeed?” Those are the shows we should be watching in our society, not the Kardashians.
Q: Do you think there’s something inherently savage in adolescence that the book kind of appeals to on that level? That it plays out some kind of power fantasy?
AL: I think it’s appealing because yes, it does touch on the topic of adolescence. I think the reason people are really into it is A) It speaks of our society, like Lord of the Flies. You look upon these kids who have to duke it out and you kind of see our society and our world in that aspect, in that light. Also, when you’re a child, you’re seen as being very innocent and I think if you threw an adult into the arena, it’d be a very different movie. With adults, I feel like it’d become a wrestling movie, The Rock could play Peeta. It’s not an action movie, even though there’s lots of action in it – it’s more about watching these innocent children who know nothing else have to figure out if they’re going to take someone else’s life. That’s an emotional roller coaster and that really makes people think, and [the movie] is special in that way.
Q: The cast was largely your age. Did some natural competition arise from all of you being put in the same training together?
AL: Oh, totally! We were all duking it out from the beginning. Right when we got into the training, we had relay races and stuff. It was all good fun but I’m a very, very competitive person at heart and that’s one [way] I could relate to my character – we’re both very competitive people. If my career was the arena – I’d like to think of it that way – my career as just kind of the arena that Cato is in and I have to duke it out with everyone else and come out on top… and hopefully not die.
Q: So you have [actors] like Stanley Tucci and Donald Sutherland in front of you. That must’ve been really intimidating!
AL: Oh, totally! Those guys are legends and they’re some of my favourite actors. One of my favourite scenes was getting to work opposite Stanley Tucci. He’s such a legend and I learned so much from him just in those five minutes when we talked. And when we first met, I was already like taking down mental notes, “Remember everything Tucci says.” Just playing opposite him [was amazing], because our scene was totally improv. He was interviewing me and so watching him come up with new questions and how he would respond to my messing up or my not answering a question like he’d predicted originally, it was very intriguing. He’s a great, great guy.
Q: Was that audience actually there at the time or CGI?
AL: They were absolutely there. That’s one thing I also loved about the movie. Everything was done very, very real for how fictitious the book is in terms of it being post-apocalyptic in the future and everything. The sets – we were outside in the woods in the middle of nowhere – and the audiences were all real. They tried to make this as real and as raw as they possibly could.
Q: What high school did you go to?
Q: When did you leave Vancouver?
AL: I left a year, a year and a half ago. Almost two years now.
Q: Do you miss it?
AL: So much. Vancouver’s the best city in the world – absolutely, hands down. Coming off the airplane and just breathing that fresh air is just so nice, and Vancouver has such a special place in my heart. When you start thinking about charities and stuff that you really want to start giving back to, the environment is something that is so big for me and I think a lot of that comes from Vancouver and living here because what other city can you come to that’s just so fresh and the people here are so friendly and the quality of life is so amazing? I think that’s what makes us who we are and coming back and just seeing my buddies and everyone, it’s amazing. It’s the best feeling in the world.
Q: Team Peeta or Team Gale?
AL: Team Rue.