Pressure and excitement continues to build for the beloved teen dystopian thriller franchise, The Hunger Games, and with each successful film, a rabid fan base will further raise their expectations.
So when the second installment of the three part book series (and what will be a four part film franchise),hits theatres this Friday with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, part of the focus will land on the newcomers to the story and how they are translated from book to screen.
Two of the newest cast members, who will join an impressive ensemble from the first film in Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, and Elizabeth Banks, among others, are Jena Malone and Sam Claflin. Both play former winners of The Hunger Games, having fatally dispatched their foes, just saw Katniss (Lawrence) and Peeta (Hutcherson) did in the first film.
Malone plays Johanna Mason, an axe-wielding tribute who has sort of gone off the deep end since winning, while Claflin is the beautiful and cocky Finnick, a character who won the games ten years ago at the age of 14.
Their characters are thrust back into the games when Katniss’ insubordination and popularity among the plebs forces the dictatorial President Snow to send former winners into the arena to fight to the death, and crush their spirit.
While both Claflin and Malone have admittedly faced a lot of pressure, they seem to agree that the book gives them perfectly everything they need to know.
“A lot questions have been asked if I have taken any inspiration from real people, and I’ve said no,” explained Claflin while on the red carpet for the Toronto premiere. “The source material is so strong and so great that there isn’t much you have to add to it.”
Malone felt similarly, but whereas Claflin joins a cast that already has a couple young male leads, Malone’s Johanna is Katniss’ only comparable female character.
“I feel [author] Suzanne Collins created two distinct females, and two different arcs,” said Malone, who joined Claflin on the red carpet. “I thought they were unique enough, and I felt I didn’t have to do any work, just dig into who the character was as written in the book, and just try to make her live in my body.”
While Finnick certainly has a different attitude and presence than fellow tribute Peeta, or Katniss’ love interest Gale, Malone expressed that maybe Katniss and Johanna aren’t too different.
“If we met Katniss seven years after the first time she won the Hungers Games, she might be similar to Johanna, but there is still that spark of hope and love and life and courage,” said Malone. “I feel like Johanna has really had all of those things wiped out of her body, unfortunately. Or maybe she’s easily given up because holding those things is quite the weight, particularly when you have to become such a puppet for a capital or system that has no use for hope.”
Even though there is a strong source that fans have devoured and filmmakers adhere too, Claflin admitted there is always a desire to put oneself in the character somehow.
“Of course as an actor you want to put your stamp on it; you want to approach it in a way that only you can,” he explained. “For me, that was approaching it from the interior of his personality, as opposed to portraying him on the external. He is beautiful and blond and tan, and obviously we had to do that, but I wanted to approach him from the interior.”
Finnick does show off his emotional side at times to be sure. Of course though, in Hunger Games fashion, both Finnick and Johanna are introduced in dramatic fashion, with both beautiful, young stars in various states of undress.