Woody Harrelson Hunger Games Interview
Woody Harrelson Hunger Games Interview
Woody Harrelson has long been a part of the American film industry playing roles that cover comedy, drama, horror and disaster movies in the likes of King Pin, No Country for Old Men, Zombieland and 2012, having first made his name in the hit US show Cheers, back in the 1980s.

Now starring in his first fantasy movie The Hunger Games, based on the books by Suzanne Collins, Woody Harrelson talks about trying not to go over the top with his character Haymitch, what he loved about the books that inspired the film, and how impressed he was by young actress Jennifer Lawrence.
Could you briefly describe your character in The Hunger Games?

Woody Harrelson

Haymitch is a mentor for the two characters who are going into the Games. He is grizzled and not exactly a teetotaller. In some ways he’s a little bit jaded, but under all that he is a wonderful person. To begin with, though, there is definitely a conflict with Katniss, the main character. That’s true. That is how it starts out.
I wanted to make Haymitch more drunk and debauched, but Gary wanted to keep a rein on it...
Haymitch looks like one of the most enjoyable characters to play …

Woody Harrelson

I think he is a pretty fine character. I can’t think of any other character I have played like him. He is quite unique. Also he’s interesting because he’s one thing on the surface but then you find he is a little bit different, further down the road. He has that thing of people not being able to quantify him. I’m not sure if it required anything new of me as an actor. It is hard to say. You’re going to have to watch it and tell me the answer to that. Deep down there probably isn’t anything new. [Laughs] It’s just me doing the same old shit!
That’s not true! He’s not a very a social character though, and does like a tipple. How did you pitch that into your performance?

Woody Harrelson

That was kind of a discussion between Gary [Ross, the director] and I, because I always wanted to make Haymitch more drunk and debauched, but Gary wanted to keep a rein on it so that it wasn’t too much like that. In other words there are times when he had to get down to business so, yes, that had to be properly pitched. Me, I am always ready to go over the top with it, so it is helpful to have a director like Gary bringing me back.
Gary came and offered you the role. Did you know each other previously?

Woody Harrelson

No, I didn’t know Gary. I didn’t know the books. Gary called me and asked me to play the part. I was kind of psyched because I really wanted to work with Gary. I think he is a really, truly great director, but then reading the script I thought it was a really good one. At first, though, I didn’t see that there was enough for me to do to warrant doing the part and so I kind of passed on it. Then he called me and said, ‘You have got to do this because I don’t have a second name or another guy in mind.’ So I was like, ‘Shit! If you put it that way, let’s do it.’ It kind of came about in that way. It was funny. Then afterwards, I read the books and loved them – so loved them! Everybody in my family has read them, so I was really psyched to be a part of this.

Everybody in my family started to read them when I decided to do the role, so we all got into the books at the same time and I think they are pretty psyched that I am in it. I will say there hasn’t been anything I have been involved in where I have had so many kids come up to me. Well, first of all, I have never done a movie that you could consider a kids’ movie but this has been incredible because I have been in different places all round this country and I have had kids coming up and saying, ‘Are you playing Haymitch?’ It’s as exciting as hell how kids are so into this movie.
Why didn’t you feel there was enough in the character at the start?

Woody Harrelson

I recognised that the role of this character is one that unfolds over the course of the story. But I didn’t know how much you could expand. We did have discussions in that context and Gary just wanted to keep it real and find a good balance. So I’m glad I made the right decision.
Presumably you got to inject some levity into the performance?

Woody Harrelson

I certainly did. I tried and we will see if it comes off!
What did you think of Jennifer Lawrence?

Woody Harrelson

I think she is an amazing girl. She is incredibly funny. I was impressed with her wit. She is a fun-loving person, as is Josh Hutcherson. I know there’s going to be a lot of success for them in the future. I get a feeling that they’re going to be able to keep a handle on it and not change their personalities, as sometimes happens.
Why do you think The Hunger Games books are so popular?

Woody Harrelson

I think there’s something about the main character Katniss that everybody relates to. It’s really a story of survival and family and in that kind of way it speaks to everyone. Almost all the people I have talked to — those who have read the books — were profoundly impacted by them. Something resonates.
It’s not a kids’ movie though, really, is it? It reaches out to way older audiences …

Woody Harrelson

Yeah, I mean kids killing kids. It is quite an intense thing. It’s not just a kids’ movie though, or a tweens’ movie. It‘s actually a P.G. rating in the States, but there is a good deal of violence in it.
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