The competition for the role of Katniss was almost as fierce as the action in the Hunger Games arena. In the end, Jennifer Lawrence, 21, won the coveted part. Though she was coming off an Oscar nomination for 2010’s Winter’s Bone, some fans griped that she was too old and blonde for the part. The discontent subsided when author Suzanne Collins offered her public support.
Jennifer Lawrence talked to PARADE’s Emily Listfield about prepping for the part, the toughest day of shooting, and being on the brink of superstardom. To borrow an oft-used phrase from The Hunger Games: May the odds be ever in her favor! Be sure to check out this weekend’s issue of PARADE magazine in your local newspaper for more onThe Hunger Games.
What makes Katniss such a popular character?
“I love Katniss. She doesn’t have a lot, but she’s happy, and she faces death out of love for her family. She doesn’t want to be a hero, but she becomes the symbol for a revolution, a kind of futuristic Joan of Arc.”
Why do you think so many people relate to the books?
“I was watching the Kardashian girl getting divorced, and that’s a tragedy for anyone. But they’re using it for entertainment, and we’re watching it. The books hold up a terrible kind of mirror: This is what our society could be like if we became desensitized to trauma and to each other’s pain.”
You’re on the brink of what could be change-your-life stardom. How do you feel about that?
“I’ve never played a part this famous. It’s insane to get recognized from a movie that hasn’t been released yet. That’s just bizarre. And scary.”
Were you nervous when Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins visited the set?
“I was so nervous! I was like, what if she watches me and says I’m awful? But she was wonderful. She’s sweet, and nice, and smart.”
How did you prep for the part?
“There was running training, stunt training, combat training, archery. It was all really fun but filming in North Carolina in 100-degree heat and 100-percent humidity in cargo pants and leather boots and a jacket was tricky. The whole crew bonded over the heat and the bugs. And I conquered my fear of spiders.”
What was the toughest day?
“I had to do a scene running across a field, grabbing a backpack. There was no shade. It was just in this field of really tall grass and I had to sprint, and sprint, and sprint as fast as I could, five or six times. And then I had to get in this huge fight. I felt like I was in a car accident the next day.”
Are you nervous about opening day?
“I’m always nervous. I always think this is going to be the end of my career. I’m going to have to go back to school and nobody’s ever going to want to see me again.”