During the recent Los Angeles press junket for The Hunger Games, I landed an exclusive interviews with the cast and director Gary Ross. While I already posted my conversations with Jennifer Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth, I decided to wait to post Lenny Kravitz figuring the movie would do well and fans would love to get some fresh content after the film had opened. However, while I thought Hunger Games would do well, I never figured it would be one of the biggest openings of all time and make $155 million dollars in three days! Needless to say, due to the box office, fans are definitely getting sequels.
Anyway, since Kravitz had been doing a lot of press before the film opened, I tried to ask some new questions like what’s his favorite movie, director and actor, how did he decide the look of Cinna, what made him want to play this role, what did his friends and family think when he got cast, how many takes does he like to do, and a lot more. In addition, Kravitz tells a great story involving Mick Jagger and karaoke. Hit the jump to either read or listen to the interview.
Based on Suzanne Collins’ novel and produced by Nina Jacobson, The Hunger Games stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Lenny Kravitz, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Wes Bentley , Alexander Ludwig, Isabelle Fuhrman and Amandla Stenberg. For more on the film, here’s three clips and six minutes of behind-the-scenes footage, as well as all our previous coverage.
As usual, I’m offering two ways to get the interview: you can either click here for the audio, or the full transcript is below.
KRAVITZ: I have favorites. My favorite movie, if I had to pick one: Manhattan. I’m a Woody Allen fanatic. You have to understand I grew up in New York City, half Jew, half African-American. I really relate to my Upper East Side, pseudointellectual, Jewish guilt—the whole thing. There’s a lot of Woody Allen in my life. I lived between a Spike Lee film and a Woody Allen film. Because I also grew up in Bed-Stuy Brooklyn. So I had both sides. My favorite director: Fellini, I’d have to say. And my favorite actor… That’s a hard one, but I have to say De Niro.
Getting back to Manhattan, which is one of my favorite films, it’s interesting that Woody doesn’t hold it in such a bright light, the way that we all do. But that opening shot is fucking amazing.
KRAVITZ: Of Woody? Coming through on the train?
Also the fireworks over Central Park. It’s amazing. Sorry I have to put myself in there. I love the film. I ask this of everybody: What is your go-to karaoke song? Have you ever actually done karaoke?
KRAVITZ: I’ve never done karaoke. I’ve never done it. Isn’t that weird? I’ll tell you my favorite karaoke moment, which is not karaoke per se. I was on vacation with Mick Jagger once, several years ago. He was on a world tour. This is what we do. The throat is a muscle. So if you’re touring, you have to build up the strength of your voice. Now all of a sudden if you have a month off and you don’t sing, that first show, you’re gonna not be happening. And you might get hoarse, and it fucks up the whole next leg of the tour. So you have to keep singing. We were having dinner and he said, “Lenny, excuse me, I’ll be back in about 45 minutes.” So he goes downstairs and all of a sudden I’m hearing “Brown Sugar.” And I’m hearing Mick. What Mick is doing (because I had to peep), he was dancing around and doing Rolling Stones karaoke to keep his breath up and to keep his voice up so that he would stay up on his off time. He had a band tape of Stones with no vocals that they would record at sound check, right? He’s doing Mick Jagger karaoke downstairs, and I’m listening to this. I was like, “This is the best moment of my life.”
That’s awesome. That’s fucking awesome. I’m going to jump into the movie now.
KRAVITZ: Sorry, we went off the movie.
No, I do this on purpose because you can’t just talk about the same stuff. Talk a little bit about your look in the movie. You have a little bit of makeup going. I haven’t read the book. In the book, how much is that you, and talk a little bit about the middle ground.
KRAVITZ: I talked about the gold, but I wasn’t sure how outrageous he was, or could be. A lot of kids who read the book, when they thought I was playing Cinna said, “Oh, you’re playing the gay guy. The really flamboyant guy.” People don’t really know— like, what is he? I guess they also assume because he’s a stylist and he’s got gold eyeliner. But what I thought was interesting was let’s make him right down the middle. You don’t know what he is. It doesn’t matter. Let’s pull him back. Gary [Ross] and I spoke and we were like, “Let’s pull him back.” And I was like, “Yeah, I see him more as a Tom Ford or an Yves Saint Laurent.” Great designers, they dress classic. That was my inspiration.
That’s the portrayal I saw on screen. You act selectively. You don’t do a lot of movies. What was it about the material and this character that you’re like, “I want to be a part of this.”
KRAVITZ: I fell in love with the book. As soon as Gary called—because I didn’t know what the book was—he offers me the role and says I can have the role. Just show up. But I’m like, “I don’t know what the hell this is.” So I read the book and fell in love with the book. Thought it was great storytelling. I’ve been wanting to move forward after Precious. I really enjoy doing this. Here was a good opportunity to work with a great director, a great book, a great cast. I was like, “I’m in.”
What was the reaction when you started telling friends or family that you were going to be doing this.
KRAVITZ: Well, I didn’t know how big the book was. So I’m telling people and all these kids are like, “What? You’re doing Hunger Games? You’re playing Cinna?” Everywhere I was going. And I was like, “How did I miss this?” Everybody’s kid had read the book. Everyone. Even adults: “Oh, I read the book, too. The books are great. I read all three of them.” “Really?” People were blown away that I got this. All of a sudden my cool factor went up with the youth, man.
Some people like the two-take method, the Clint Eastwood. Some actors like doing the David Fincher method of 50 takes.
KRAVITZ: I like the 1-2 times. Because that’s how I do music. I like when you’re not quite sure what you’re doing. I like that edge. Any song you’ve heard on my album, that was the first or second take. And the vocal is always right when I’ve just written it. I’ll write the vocal and I’ll still have the words on a music stand. And I don’t really know them, but I know them because I’ve just written them. I like that edge, because then you get mistakes. Mistakes are the best part. There’s so many mistakes on my records. “Mistakes” that are the spice, that’s the thing that made it. Same thing with doing takes. I like to just nail it. But I’m there to please the director. So if he wants to do it ten times, we do it ten times.
I’m running out of time with you, but really quick. You’ve won a lot of awards in your career. Is there one that stands out more than the others, that means that much more to you?
KRAVITZ: I’m proud of the four Grammys that I got in a row because no one has done that. It was four in a row for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance. And I think the record was two in a row.
My final thing, for your music fans. What’s the story with you doing more tours?
KRAVITZ: Black and White America is out, and I’ve already done South America, Europe, and America. I just finished America last week. And now I’m going to Japan, Korea, and Australia. And then back to Europe for a summer tour. So I’m on the road.
For more Hunger Games interviews from the recent Los Angeles press junket: