Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz and Wes Bentley THE HUNGER GAMES Interview

     March 12, 2012


In The Hunger Games, adapted for the big screen from the best-selling novel by Suzanne Collins, actress Elizabeth Banks plays Effie, the elaborately dressed escort and PR handler for the Games, rock star Lenny Kravitz plays Cinna, the personal Stylist for the Games who becomes a confidante and supporter of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) from District 12, and actor Wes Bentley plays head Gamemaker, Seneca Crane. The trio definitely provide much of the color and many of the moments of humor in the film.

At the film’s press day, the co-stars talked about what attracted them to the project (neither Kravitz nor Bentley had read the book before), the process of deciding on the look for each of their characters, and what each of them personally took from the experience of making the movie. Check out what they had to say after the jump:

For those not familiar with the story, here’s the synopsis:

Each year in the ruins of what was once North America, the Capitol of the nation of Panem forces each of its twelve districts to send a teenage boy and girl, between the ages of 12 and 18, to compete in The Hunger Games. A twisted punishment for a past uprising and on ongoing government intimidation tactic, The Hunger Games are a nationally televised event in which Tributes must fight with one another until one survivor remains. When the young Primrose Everdeen (Willow Shields) has her name called, her 16-year-old sister Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to enter the Games in her place. Once there, she is forced to rely upon her sharp instincts and, if she’s ever to return home to District 12, Katniss must make impossible choices in the arena that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

the-hunger-games-elizabeth-banks-woody-harrelson-jennifer-lawrenceQuestion: What attracted you guys to this project and your roles? Were you familiar with the books, before you got involved?

ELIZABETH BANKS: I was a huge, nerdy fan of the books. I read all of them long ago. I read them in hardcover, and I was on the waitlist on Amazon for (the last book) Mockingjay. I devoured these books. I loved Suzanne’s writing, loved the trilogy and loved the heroine. I love Effie. She’s comedic, and she’s the exact type of role that I like to play, if you’ve seen any of my work. It was just so much fun. And, I was so excited when it was Gary [Ross]. We made Seabiscuit together, and he’s an amazing storyteller. I knew he would treat the material with as much respect as me, being a fan, wanted whoever made it to do. And then, he put together this incredible cast, starting with Jennifer [Lawrence].

LENNY KRAVITZ: I was living under a rock and didn’t know about it.

BANKS: It really was not a best-seller until really recently.

KRAVITZ: Gary actually called to ask me to be in the film, and I had to say, “I don’t know what it is, so I have to read the book.” So, the next day I downloaded and read the book, and then called him back very quickly.

WES BENTLEY: I knew about the books, but I hadn’t read them until they offered me the role.

hunger-games-movie-image-elizabeth-banks-jennifer-lawrence-011Elizabeth, how much fun was it to totally disappear into the character?

BANKS: It’s really fun to watch yourself disappear in the movie every day, and watch Effie appear. It required a full transformation. I never knew how old she was, in reading the book. She could be 30, or she could be 100. I imagine, in the future, life expectancy is long and they use crazy plastic surgery. Who the hell knows what’s going on? So, I really wanted her to be ageless. Gary’s one real note was, “I imagine Joel Grey in Cabaret for her face.” That was our jumping off point, and why we ended up with the rough skin and the gnarliness of that.

What was the process of the deciding on the look for your characters?

BANKS: I was on the film pretty early and Judianna Makovsky, who did the costumes, did Seabiscuit with me as well, so we’re old friends. She called me immediately and said, “Come to the studio. I want to show you what I’m looking at.” All of my costumes are handmade. She has one of those dress forms of me, which is weird, in her studio. She had reference boards all the way around the room, and it was great. We looked at Kabuki, a lot of Christian Dior, Marie Antoinette, all these crazy adornments, and just really crazy, cool stuff.

KRAVITZ: Mine was more laid-back. It was basically just the gold eyes, and he was dressed very simply. I decided to play Cinna in a more classic way. I was thinking about Tom Ford or Yves Saint Laurent. He lets out his outrageousness in his costumes. The costumes that Cinna creates are quite dramatic.

donald-sutherland-wes-bentley-the-hunger-games-imageBENTLEY: It took about two hours for me, with the hair and the beard. The reference for the wardrobe for me was Alexander McQueen, but it was just the one outfit through the whole thing.

Are you ready to see a lot of people dressed as your characters for Halloween?

BANKS: Yeah, there are going to be a lot of Effies for Halloween. It’s going to be fun!

Wes, what was it like to go toe-to-toe with Donald Sutherland?

BENTLEY: It was easy because I’m supposed to be intimidated by him. Half-way through the scene, I looked him in the eye and I realized, “It’s Donald Sutherland.” I tried to ignore that the whole day. He was just looking at me coldly.

KRAVITZ: When I watched that scene in his garden, I was like, “Check out Wes, he’s fucking handling it!”

BENTLEY: I was terrified, though. Actually, it was amazing. I’m lucky to have worked with great actors, my whole career. I’ve been a fan of his, my whole career, so it was great to meet him. Then I was like, “What the hell am I doing?”

hunger-games-lenny-kravitz-woody-harrelson-josh-hutchersonElizabeth, how delicate of a balance was it to find your character without going overboard

BANKS: I never wanted Effie to be a clown. I really wanted her to be three-dimensional. She represents the Capitol, in every way. Not just in the way that she dresses, but in her attitude. That line where I say, “I just love that,” was an improv on the day. Gary and I were trying to figure out a way to really say that she drank the Kool-Aid. There also was no video at the Reaping. I had no idea what that video was going to be. It was the third day of shooting and he was like, “Yeah, there will be a video. I don’t know. Something will be on there.” It was just a giant green screen that I was watching. When we did the hair and make-up, in the beginning, we had a moment where we thought, “Oh, my god, this is so her,” and we showed Gary and he was like, “No, it’s too much color. It will be too distracting.” And he was absolutely right. For the Reaping, it was not right. My looks get a little more outrageous, as the movie goes on. Once we’re in the Capitol, then it was whatever I wanted to do. But, for the Reaping, it was very specific. I was really nervous because, in the book, she has pink hair and she wears a green suit to the Reaping. I thought, “The fans are gonna die, if she’s not in a green suit at the Reaping.” And we had a green suit that I didn’t end up wearing because, once we looked at the color pallette of the day and the background and everything, that fuschia was better. That was the right decision. It’s perfect for that moment. The green was wrong. It was too much nature, too early. That’s Katniss’ thing, at the beginning of the movie, and you don’t want Effie stepping on it too soon. Gary is really fucking brilliant about that stuff.

How did you function with those nails?

lenny-kravitz-jennifer-lawrence-the-hunger-gamesBANKS: I didn’t. I literally didn’t function. I had ladies-in-waiting that did everything for me. I couldn’t type on my phone. I couldn’t go to the bathroom. I couldn’t get in and out of [the costume]. By the time I got to the lunch line, everybody was back in their trailers, done with lunch. I was like, “There’s no one to eat with! I just got here!” It took me 25 minutes to get in and out of my costume. My lunch hour was a full 10 minutes of eating, and that’s it. But, it was fine.

Lenny, what do you think it is that draws Katniss and Cinna to each other?

KRAVITZ: Obviously, he has integrity. He’s at the Capitol and he’s working at the Capitol, but he’s the guy that, when the revolution busts, is going to be right there. This is not his thing, but he’s stuck within the system, and he gets to use his talent and design. From the very beginning, I think he was really taken by the fact that she took the place of her sister. When he comes in to meet her, he’s all about, “That was the bravest thing I’ve ever seen.” He’s open to her, from the very beginning. I think that he sees her integrity, and he really becomes personally invested. I don’t know how long he’s been there, but he’s been there for a little bit and he’s seen kids come and go. He dresses these kids and they’re dying. He really wants to do whatever he can do to help her survive.

Wes, did you model your character after anyone?

the-hunger-games-posterBENTLEY: No one in particular. I really just drew off of where we are now, with reality TV. You can’t help but see a lot of it. You choose to watch some, but with some, you just can’t help but hear it and see it. It’s just piercing in your brain. That piercing is what I was tapping into , with whatever they were doing to pierce into the minds of everybody. It takes a certain kind of person to shut your mind off to the consequences and just try to get results. That’s what I was going for – results.

What did each of you personally take away from this experience?

BANKS: Jennifer Lawrence is a fucking ridiculously crazy-good actress.

BENTLEY: Yeah, that’s definitely true. She blew me away. To carry a movie on subtlety is amazing.

KRAVITZ: Obviously the film is great and it’s The Hunger Games, but what I came away with is that it’s just so satisfying to do a great project with great people. Every day was fun. I’m not used to movie sets. This is new for me, so I didn’t know what to expect. I thought there would be divas and drama and actor stuff, but everybody was cool. There was a great feeling on set, every day. We all really liked each other. I asked people on the set, “Is this normal? From what I heard about acting stuff, this is not normal.” [Elizabeth] was supposed to be storming off and being a bitch. [Wes] was supposed to be a recluse in his trailer, not speaking to anybody. But, everybody was so nice. For me, I’m all about experiences. It’s great to do things that are big and wonderful, but if you’re not enjoying it and it’s not a good vibe, then what’s the point? So, I went home with this great feeling of, “Wow, I just made this blockbuster film with all these great actors, and it was so much fun.” It was wonderful.

For more Hunger Games interviews from the recent Los Angeles press junket:

Jennifer Lawrence Talks The Hunger Games, the Mall Tour, Director Gary Ross, and More

Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth Talk The Hunger Games, the Sequels, and More

Producer Nina Jacobson Talks The Hunger Games, Sequels, the Violence, and More

Donald Sutherland The Hunger Games Interview

Alexander Ludwig, Isabelle Fuhrman & Amandla Stenberg The Hunger Games Interview

And if you missed it, here’s 2 clips and over 6 minute of behind-the-scenes footage from the making of the film

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