Josh Hutcherson — the teenage star of Bridge to Terabithia and The Kids Are All Right — appears this spring in The Hunger Games, alongside Jennifer Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth. He talked to Vanity Fair’s senior West Coast editor Krista Smith about being directed by Gary Ross, how he got the part, and his love for fellow Kentuckian Lawrence.
Krista Smith: Thank you for calling me in such a timely fashion!
Josh Hutcherson: Oh, I am a prompt person!
Especially in an actor, that’s fantastic.
It’s not very often, but there are some of us out there.
I remember you from The Kids Are All Right—I love that film.
Right on, thank you. That was a while ago. It was a good time, though.
Tell me about getting this role.
It was a very rigorous auditioning process. I’ve been a fan of the series for a little while now, and I went in and I met with Gary and Suzanne [Collins, the author of the Hunger Games books] and a couple of the producers initially, and I did a little audition. It was great, and I really hit it off with them and felt really good about it. And then a couple weeks went by, which were brutal. And then they brought me in to do a screen test, basically, with Jennifer, where I read with her. . . . And then I had to wait another couple of weeks or so before I found out that I got the part. And that was brutal, after doing a screen test. I think it was actually about a week and a half, [and] waiting to hear anything was just, like, ugh. Because I wanted it so badly, and all that time just lying there, waiting to see what happens, was pretty rough.
Have you read the books?
I don’t read a whole lot of books, because I’m usually busy reading scripts, but these books were so good that I literally read all three of them over the course of five days or something. I really powered through them. And while I was reading the books, my mind was being blown as to how much I felt like I was like Peeta, and how I felt like I could relate. I’ve never really felt more right for a character in my whole life. That, in a way, is kind of even more scary, because if you don’t get hired, it’s like, Oh my God, what am I? What am I doing? What’s wrong?
And how is it working with Jennifer?
[She] and I totally hit it off. We’re both very crazy people—we don’t really hold anything back. Which is really great. We were able to have a really good time, and not let anything get in the way of it looking stupid or anything like that. We probably look stupid like 99 percent of the time, but we have a good time doing it—so it’s worth it.
And overall, how do you think people are going to receive these?
At times when you’re adapting a book into a movie, you have to take certain creative liberties to bridge the gap between the two forms of media. And with Suzanne involved, I feel like that can really ease people’s minds who are worried about it being changed too much, because it’s staying true to the story. But there are certain things—like, for instance, in the Hunger Games books it’s completely internal monologue with Katniss. She talks out loud, or you hear her voice in her head basically talking about how she feels and whatnot. In the movie, you can’t really do that without narration. . . . [Y]ou have to find a way to tell these things without using exposition or without using narration. I think we did that really well, and I think that people are going to be really happy with it. What’s cool too is that even though it’s a big, action, kind of studio movie, it had a really sort of indie feel on set, where we had a lot of creative liberty.
Well, that’s a big testament, actually, to the production that you did feel like you’re on an indie-movie set.
We had a pretty small crew for being such a giant movie, which was really nice also, because when you had these big emotional scenes on set, it’s not like there’s, you know, 150 people standing there and staring at you. You became really close with everyone, and it was like a little family, which in my opinion made it much more comfortable to give really great performances.
Did you have friends that were also auditioning that didn’t get the part?
I knew a couple guys in the room, but thankfully not too many of them, so it wasn’t too rough. Honestly, you know, I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason . . . I would’ve kept on truckin’ and found the next thing and whatnot. So yeah, I think even though there was a little bit of competition with it, it’s definitely a healthy competition. That sort of drive is what keeps all of us actors hungry and wanting more.
And on the books, are you on the third or are you finished?
I’m finished already. I finished them. You can’t stop! When the book ends, you’re like, I am reading book two immediately!