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Interview

Gary Ross Fulfills 'The Hunger Games'

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Gary Ross Fulfills 'The Hunger Games'
Photo Source: Getty Images
Gary Ross is refusing to feel the pressure. Sure, he just completed the final cut of "The Hunger Games," one of the most anticipated movies of the year, three days earlier. And yes, he's aware of the ardent fanbase surrounding the adaptation of the first book in Suzanne Collins' beloved trilogy. But he seems relaxed and content when talking about the project. "I'm just excited about it," he says. "It's nice when people are connected to the thing you're doing."

In case you're been living under a rock, "The Hunger Games" is set is a dystopian society where Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) finds herself sent into an arena where 24 teens compete in a bloody battle to the death. Complicating matters is a love triangle between her, her best friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth), and fellow contestant Peeta (Josh Hutcherson.) Ross spoke to Back Stage about casting the movie, the series' fans, and comparisons to that other popular franchise called "Twilight."

Back Stage: How did you first become familiar with "The Hunger Games" novel?

Gary Ross: My kids read the books about two years ago and they told me about them. I kind of forgot bout it for six months, and then I heard they were being made into a movie. And I read it and felt the way every fan did.

Back Stage: Fans are so passionate about the series, would you check in or get word of all the rumors surrounding the casting and making of the film? Did you ever feel pressure?

Ross: I was aware of what the fans were saying but it didn't really affect me because I thought we were being very faithful to the book and faithful to what the fans would want. I knew when they say the movie they would realize it was a very faithful adaptation.

Back Stage: Did you check out any message boards to see what was being said?

Ross: No.

Back Stage: Jennifer Lawrence faced some stiff competition landing the role of Katniss. It seemed every young actress wanted the part-

Ross: Yes, but I don't think she has any peers in her generation. I think we're seeing the infancy of what's going to be a huge, huge career; an historic career. One of the first things I saw her in was "Winter's Bone" and I loved it, and then I met with her and she seemed so the part to me that I remember thinking I'd be surprised if I didn't cast her. Then she came in and read for me and blew me away in the audition. It was like no audition I'd ever seen, it was one of the most powerful acting experiences I'd ever had. From then on, I was certain.

Back Stage: Which scene did she audition with?

Ross: She did the scene where Prim and her were saying goodbye. Which was devastating, I was knocked out in the audition.

Back Stage: Were you surprised she agreed to audition?

Ross: Actually, when I asked her, I was wondering if she would be okay with it because "Winter's Bone" was already out. She went, "Hell no, I love competition! Bring it!" She's that brave and fearless.

Back Stage: Josh is a brunette in real life and Liam is blond, but in the books their characters are the opposite. Did you ever consider leaving their natural hair color as is?

Ross: No, because it's very specific in the book. I was trying to be as faithful to that stuff as I possibly can. And it's very clear that Josh is blonde in the book and Liam has dark hair.

Back Stage: But you're still willing to deviate from the book in places, rearranging and adding scenes.

Ross: Sure. I don't mind departing form the text where it's necessary. But in terms of who the characters are and what they look like, there'd be no reason for me to depart from the book in any way. Someone's hair color is easy to change and Suzanne was very specific about what these people look like.

Back Stage: Are you interested in directing the next two films in "The Hunger Games" series?

Ross: Certainly the next one. I really can't think past the next one, it's just not possible. It's even difficult to think about the next one because I just finished the movie three days ago!

Back Stage: I have to ask: Have you read the "Twilight" books?

Ross: I have not.

Back Stage: How do you feel when people compare "The Hunger Games" franchise to "Twilight"?

Ross: I mean, I'm flattered, because I think what they're really saying is it's a popular series that's really connected with a lot of people. Obviously there's no similarity plotwise between the two, they couldn't be more different. I think they mean they appeal to young people and there's a lot of fan ardor about the books and people are anticipating the series. I don't think it means more than that.

Back Stage: You're more gracious than I, I don't like the comparison at all.

Ross: No, it's fine. One of the things that happens in the culture is that people confuse the potential success of something with the thing itself. So what people are obsessing on is, "Oh this is the next big thing, this is a pop culture phenomenon." I didn't know how popular it was when I read the book, actually, I just read it and was completely taken by it. And I would have loved doing this movie if nobody had ever heard of it.

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