"Hunger Games"' Stars: "I love that the story tells kids they matter!"
In the “Hunger Games” film, Elizabeth Banks of Man on a Ledge and Our Idiot Brother plays flamboyant publicist Effie Trinket. International singing idol Lenny Kravitz who was in Precious, is Katniss’s mentor and friend Cinna and Wes Bentley of Gone and American Beauty, portrays evil Gamemaker Seneca.
Elizabeth talks her crazy wardrobe and what the books mean to her. Lenny talks his friendship with Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss) and Wes reveals that he likes Seneca’s wild beard and had fun with the character’s cocky ‘tude.
Elizabeth enters our interview room in a pretty bright, multi-colored dress.
TeenHollywood: Great dress. It’s very “Capitol colorful”.
Elizabeth: Yes! It’s very Effie-inspired.
TeenHollywood: Do you think that playing Effie has influenced your personal wardrobe any?
Elizabeth: Uh, maybe. In my real life I still wear way more black than I should. But, talking to the press, I’ve been wearing and loving a lot of color.
TeenHollywood: Sometimes, Effie looks like a colorful lollypop in a cement world. Everybody at the reaping is looking at her and hating her. Was that fun to act?
Elizabeth: It was great. It fed me. That’s what the scenario is. The idea of getting up there and trying to win over an audience that is unwinnable is so much fun to play.
TeenHollywood: Favorite overall costume piece?
Elizabeth: My favorite costume is when we are all watching the results show and I’m in the big green [dress] with the poufy sleeves. It was the most comfortable. I thought all of the costuming was great. Everything was made for me and I got to help choose the fabric and colors and shapes. Judianna Makovsky, who designed the costumes, is Academy Award-nominated and incredibly amazing. We’ve worked together before.
TeenHollywood: Did you keep anything?
Elizabeth: I’ve asked for some shoes now that we’ve wrapped but we’ll see.
TeenHollywood: When you guys were younger did you have any frightening future fave movies or books?
Lenny: I was definitely into “1984” [by George Orwell] the book.
Elizabeth: Me too!
Lenny: I thought of that instantly and I think what makes this book interesting is you have this great story with all the great characters and it’s set in the future but, at the same time, so many of the issues are right now; reality television, violence, the 99 percent [haves] versus the 1 percent [have nots], oppressive governments.
I remember when reality television really got its jump say15 years ago. They started with “Big Brother” in Europe first and as I watched it grow I thought “How are we going to quench our thirst? Fifty years from now are we going to have people fighting to the death on TV? Going back to Roman times?” Who knows?
TeenHollywood: Yeah. It’s pretty creepy to think about. Lenny, Cinna is a stylist but the only extravagant thing he “wears” is his gold eyeliner. Did you have input on his “look”?
Lenny: Yeah. The first question I had to answer was “How far do you want to take this?” because when I told friends that had kids that I was doing this film and playing Cinna, they were like “Oh yeah! He’s super flamboyant and super out there!” and I didn’t know at the time what the movie’s style was going to be.
Was I going to be wacky like Chris Tucker in The Fifth Element or what? So we thought it would be interesting to pull him back and make him more like a Tom Ford or Yves Saint Laurent (fashion designer). Cinna wears waistcoats, shirts and slacks and is very clean. The gold is his touch of the glam Capitol. He’s more subdued than I thought and I liked that.
[He looks at his fellow actors]. I couldn’t compete with Effie or Seneca’s looks and I was jealous as Lenny Kravitz, a person who likes to wear wild things.
Elizabeth: It’s like Cinna’s little sign of rebellion already.
TeenHollywood: Wes, how did you like the really wild beard Seneca sports?
Wes: I liked it. It was great. They did an amazing job. The make-up person created the character and we went from there.
TeenHollywood: You are really funny in the scene where Katniss shoots an arrow through the apple in the pig’s mouth. “Who brought the pig?” Was that ad-libbed?
Wes: There was a lot that I said there and they chose that. I think I was saying things like “That’s a big fat juicy pig. Love that pig” and other silly things but they picked that one. That was the favorite.
TeenHollywood: How do you see the Seneca character in the movie?
Wes: He’s a flashy young gamemaker. We thought most gamemakers would be older and had worked their way up. He was a young, hot, up and coming guy and they put him in the position and he had a couple of good Hunger Games before this one that maybe proved very entertaining and maybe violent. He’s scared to lose all that.
Elizabeth: Everybody in the Capitol is afraid. I think Effie drank the Kool-Aid [bought the Capitol hype]. She believes that change is bad and let’s keep the status quo because if we do that I get to eat a lot of treats and have a great life. I don’t wanna start a war. This happens everywhere. What about the 1 percent in America trying to hold down the other 99? This isn’t a new idea. We had Nazis. Effie is just going along.
TeenHollywood: Lenny, could you all talk about meeting and working with Jennifer Lawrence? You knew her before.
Lenny: I knew Jennifer before the film because she made X-Men with my daughter Zoe [Kravitz]. They were filming in London and I live in Paris so they would come up on the train; the whole cast would come spend a weekend. From day one she was like part of my family. She fit right in. She’s so open and genuine and extremely funny. She had me cracking up 24/7. Kinda weird, then working together doing our scenes and I know her like my 2nd daughter and that made it that much warmer. She’s sooo good. She turns it on and pulls you in!
TeenHollywood: I know you three weren’t actually in the Games but did the question ever come up that if you were put in a situation like that, could you kill someone?
Lenny: [pointing to Elizabeth] She’d kill us all! [Elizabeth laughs].
Wes: I’m fast like a cheetah so I could use my cheetah-like speed to get around.
Elizabeth: I’m crazy as a bag of tigers [laughter] so I’d fight real dirty, bite, pull balls and stuff. I would hide first though, as long as possible and let everybody kill each other.
Lenny: I’d jump and leap. I’m quick on my toes. You do what you have to.
TeenHollywood: Wes, where did you get your cool as Seneca? President Snow (Donald Sutherland) threatens him a few times but he holds his own.
Wes: That was part of the decision to play him as a young, arrogant up and comer. In the three books there’s not much to work with as Seneca so I was working with the world and what was going on, how his world was flowing. There is a disconnect between the older and younger generation. What’s coming next with other gamemakers? I thought that why he could stand in the face of President Snow and not wilt was because the younger generation see themselves as differently than the ones who actually fought in the old rebellion. So, he wasn’t scared.
TeenHollywood: Do you guys ever find yourself being a mean-spirited sports fan? The Capitol audience is watching the Games partially for the injuries and deaths.
Wes: No. I love sports but I don’t like them to be violent. I want them to be tough, play hard with skill. When I see a guy hit another guy with his helmet just for the glory, it’s dirty.
Lenny: I like boxing. It’s like chess when done correctly.
TeenHollywood: Lenny when you take a role, are you asked to do something for the soundtrack?
Lenny: Yes. I won’t say I would never do it but, in this case, I’m here to play Cinna and leave my day job at home.
TeenHollywood: What did you think of T-Bone Burnett [Music director for the film]’s choices?
Lenny: Very good. When you look at District 12 and you get this sort of country, backwoods vibe, it’s great. I thought the tones were really complimentary to the visuals. Just great.
TeenHollywood: What messages would you want people to take away from the film?
Elizabeth: I think what the book is ultimately is embracing love and dignity and hope and family and honor. That’s what you’re rooting for in these books, not our baser human nature which is The Games, right? I love that and I love that the story tells kids that they matter. This one teen girl changes the world around her. We’re seeing that in real politics right now.
Wes: Well said!