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The Hunger Games A-Z
By Martin Howden
John Blake Publishing LtdCopyright © 2012 Martin Howden
All rights reserved.
A is for ...
About [The Hunger Games
The synopsis for The Hunger Games by the film company Lionsgate states: 'In a not-too-distant future, the United States of America has collapsed, weakened by drought, fire, famine, and war, to be replaced by Panem, a country divided into the Capitol and 12 Districts. Each year, two young representatives from each District are selected by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games. Part entertainment, part brutal intimidation of the subjugated Districts, the televised games are broadcasted throughout Panem as the 24 participants are forced to eliminate their competitors, literally, with all citizens required to watch. When 16-year-old Katniss's young sister, Prim, is selected as the mining District's female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart, Peeta, the son of the town baker, who seems to have all the fighting skills of a lump of bread dough, will be pitted against bigger, stronger representatives who have trained for this their whole lives.'
It is based on the hugely successful book series by Suzanne Collins.
Translated into 26 languages, The Hunger Games was first published in the US on 14 September 2008, with the audio book released three months later. It has sold over 2.9 million copies in print, and has also sold exceptionally well in eBook format. Collins is only the sixth author to join the Kindle Million Club, which honours authors who have sold over a million paid units in the Amazon Kindle store, and is the first children's or young adult author to do so.
She was originally only expected to write one adventure in the series. But as soon as she came to the conclusion she knew there had to be a sequel. She explained: 'Something happens to one of the main characters and does something that never goes unpunished, and I knew I would have to go back to the tale after that. Initially I plotted all three books but I find you learn so much about the characters as you go long it's not good to over plot at the start as you hope to find better things as you go along the way.'
Critics loved the book, with The New York Times raving: 'The concept of the book isn't particularly original – a nearly identical premise is explored in Battle Royale, a wondrously gruesome Japanese novel that has been spun off into a popular Manga series. Nor is there anything spectacular about the writing – the words describe the action and little else. But the considerable strength of the novel comes in Collins's convincingly detailed world-building and her memorably complex and fascinating heroine. In fact, by not calling attention to itself, the text disappears in the way a good font does: nothing stands between Katniss and the reader, between Panem and America. This makes for an exhilarating narrative and a future we can fear and believe in, but it also allows us to see the similarities between Katniss's world and ours. American luxury, after all, depends on someone else's poverty. Most people in Panem live at subsistence levels, working to feed the cavernous hungers of the Capitol's citizens. Collins sometimes fails to exploit the rich allegorical potential here in favour of crisp plotting, but it's hard to fault a novel for being too engrossing.'
The author of the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series called it the 'closet thing to a perfect adventure novel' he has ever read, while Los Angeles Times raved that it was 'enthralling, imaginative and creepy'.
And The Times said: 'If you are looking for something to grip your kids after an orgy of Xbox, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is it ... Plunge in because this is a rip-roaring, bare-knuckle adventure of the best kind, and destined to be an even bigger hit than Stephenie Meyer's Twilight ... It would be giving away too much to describe all the twists this absorbing and morally challenging novel throws up, but it is a real humdinger that adults, too, would love. In the renewed debate about why boys aren't reading, The Hunger Games would be the perfect antidote – if only schools had the wit to choose it for a class reader.'
The Hunger Games spawned two sequels – Catching Fire and Mockingjay.
Amandla Stenberg might just be a young teenager but she has already earmarked herself out as a star for the future thanks to her role in Colombiana. She plays Rue in The Hunger Games.
The self-confessed 'California girl, born and raised' was desperate to star in the franchise after becoming a huge fan of the books, saying: 'All the kids in my class were reading them and talking about how good they were, so I thought I should try them too. I tore through them because they're just so good. I fell in love with Rue right away. I love how musical she is, and how quick and smart she is.'
Quick and smart are traits that Stenberg also shares with her character. To prove this, she devised a clever plan on how to impress director Gary Ross at the audition.
She said: 'I heard that they were making a movie, and I already loved Rue. I called my agent repeatedly, saying: "Please, please, please get me an audition." After my many, many phone calls, they got an audition for me. That was my golden opportunity. I prepared and prepared, and I went in and met with the casting director, Debra Zane, who helped me, before I met with Gary.'
Her mother took some of her clothes and rolled them in the backyard to get mud and grass stains over the garments. To cement the look of a poverty stricken youngster, she also put twigs in her hair. Ross was suitably impressed, telling her that he couldn't believe she had her own hair, makeup and wardrobe department!
She added: 'I just discussed how much I connected with the character. I also told them how I've done parkour work, so I have some tree-jumping skills.'
Born on 23 October 1998, Amandla Stenberg was named after the Zulu word for power. She was destined for fame almost immediately, landing Disney catalogue modelling shoots by the time she was four years old. It was perfect vindication for the confident young girl, who had told her shocked mother that she wanted an agent a year earlier.
In 2010, she landed her feature debut in Zoe Saldana's action thriller Colombiana. She plays the younger version of the main character Cataleya Restrepo, played by Saldana. She caused such an impact The New York Times said: 'Ms Saldana has one other thing to overcome: the presence of a wide-eyed 13-year-old actress named Amandla Stenberg, who plays the protagonist, Cataleya Restrepo, at the time her parents are gunned down, in the first 10 minutes of the movie. Her portrayal of the future deadly-but-sensitive killer is such a perfect combination of trembling emotion, action chops and deadpan humour that Ms Saldana, no matter how sexily professional her work is, spends the rest of the movie failing to live up to it.'
Saldana, who studied Stenberg's mannerisms on set to ensure that audiences would believe she was the grown up version, raved: 'It was great to watch her. There are so many things we have in common and tapped into about our character. She blew me away. She was so beautiful and so present, but the killer was there, on the prowl. I thought, "I'd better bring my game, because she is bringing it".'
Stenberg is also a keen musician, stating: 'I come from a very musical family. My dad taught me to play guitar. I play violin and drums as well. I started the violin in elementary school. Drums actually came when I was in a programme called Rock Star, which was really awesome. We were doing a song by the Ramones, so I thought, "Why not play the drums?"'
Despite starring in a huge blockbuster, she's not set on just being an actress. 'I'm not sure. I love all kinds of art,' she explained. 'I mean, I love sketching and acting and music. There are so many doors open to me, I could go in any direction.'
Heartbreaking loss, romance, and betrayal are all big themes of The Hunger Games, the Hollywood blockbuster based on Suzanne Collins's best-selling book series. However, you don't make a story about teenagers having to compete in a violent tournament without throwing a few action scenes in. Buoyed by Collins's prose, The Hunger Games has several breathtaking action scenes. Amandla Stenberg, who plays Rue in the film, raved: 'There are lots of crazy things in the movie. Once I got stung by bees – not as a part of the movie, but I just got stung! So that was something I had to overcome, but I don't think that there's anything that traumatic.'
The actors were put through their paces for the movie, with the main cast being taught screen fighting and weapon training to ensure authenticity. According to E! Online, the cast were also thrown into stunt boot camp, with a source saying: 'They have to learn archery, sword fighting, martial arts and the like. They want the actors to genuinely know what they are doing.'
Stunt co-ordinator Allan Poppleton told Teen Ink: 'It starts with script/treatment, which would outline the fight. I would gather information from different departments, like armoury, costume, art, location, etc. From there, I throw in my intellectual property and then take that along to meet with the director. Then I will start choreographing; then teach the doubles or performers, and then film the rehearsals to then show to the director. Once he has signed off on the fight, I begin to teach the actors. Once they have learned it, I see it through on set with the filming of it.'
Lawrence received praise for her archery skills from iconic rocker Ted Nugent. The keen outdoors man praised: 'All of us archers and bowhunters are happy to see real honest-to-god archery form being displayed properly for a change. Proper archery is one of life's most beautiful ballets, especially when executed by a beautiful woman like Jennifer. It makes for the ultimate eye-candy.'
As soon as it was announced that there was going to be a movie of The Hunger Games, media sites were frothing at the mouth in anticipation of its release in March 2012. Collider being one, saying: 'If you've read the books, you know that Suzanne Collins's Hunger Games universe is ripe for a feature film adaptation. It's epic in scope, has multiple thrilling and unique action set-pieces, and centres on teenagers fighting each other to death with a hotchpotch of weapons/modes of murdering at their disposal. Judging from the full-length trailer, it looks like director Gary Ross has the tone-down pat, but Lionsgate are keeping the second and third act (i.e., the killing, running, and fighting) close to the vest. Hopefully the film takes what made the books so damn addictive – intriguing characters and a twisty plot – and expands upon them, giving us an all-out dystopian adventure.'
MTV said it was the most anticipated movie of 2012, as did several other publications. Lionsgate cleverly stoked up the anticipation from the start, throwing down breadcrumbs at a gradual pace. Before anyone had been cast the release date was announced. Fan sites began thrashing out names for who will play the characters in the book. Despite the clamour for news, Lionsgate chose to cast actors over a period of months, with each actor announced delightfully seized upon by its loyal fans. A teaser trailer was launched, but it did little to satisfy their appetite. A teaser is used just to drum up excitement, but that was hardly needed for this film. Even a series of stills being released over a number of weeks did little to quench their thirst. Eight character posters were eventually released, and weeks later saw the full trailer finally being launched on 14 November 2011 on Good Morning America. In fact, there was so much fanfare that the trailer was showed on a jumbotron over New York City's Times Square.
Lionsgate said: 'The partnership, which further distinguishes the film as a major motion picture event, will mark the first time ever that audiences will be exposed to sights and sounds from the film, such as Katniss's home District 12 and the opulent Capitol. With 16 million copies of The Hunger Games in circulation, a vast audience of book fans will also undoubtedly tune in for the first chance to hear the beloved characters speak iconic lines of dialogue from its pages.'
Film fans were understandably overjoyed by what they saw, with one exclaiming: 'The trailer does the job tenfold. It was well produced and brought the characters – and the books – to life.'
The cast also couldn't wait to see the final version, with Jackie Emerson, who plays Foxface, saying: 'I think the fans will be really happy. I'm a fan and I'm really happy.'
When asked why she thought it was such a phenomenon, she told Seventeen magazine: 'I think it's because Katniss is such a great role model for girls, and also there's something in it for everybody. There's violence, but there's also a big heart to the story. You become so emotionally attached throughout all the books. I think that's really important and the one thing that distinguishes The Hunger Games.'
Chief executive of Lionsgate UK, Zygi Kamasa, told The Independent: 'The Hunger Games book sales are on a par with Twilight and we are hoping to emulate that commercial success. The fans are rabid. But The Hunger Games crosses over more equally between girls and boys because there are more action scenes, and they're popular with adults too. They make a political statement. The citizens are slaves who are forced to take part in games watched obsessively on television. It's about the dangers of reality television when taken too far.'
It was the most anticipated movie since the first Twilight film. But if you think the hype was a lot for this film – what about the next two!!!
Alexander Ludwig plays Cato in the movie. He calls the character the 'bad boy of the group', and is clearly delighted with that. He told Seventeen magazine: 'I loved playing the bad guy. Maybe too much!'
Born in 1992, Ludwig was desperate to become an actor, conceding that he has a big imagination and loves performing. However, his parents were wary of his dreams, worried that child actors become sucked into the shallow world of showbiz. He said: 'My mom and dad were kind of iffy about the whole thing. You know as well as I do the whole kid-actor thing can get a bit warped. But eventually, they said "OK Alexander, if this is what you want, go for it".'
Luckily, he managed to convince them and at nine years of age he managed to land a part in a Harry Potter toy commercial. Through that he found an agent, and several film roles came his way, including Air Bud World Pup, A Little Thing Called Murder and The Seeker: The Dark is Rising.
The latter role saw Ludwig struggle to juggle filming with his education – with him admitting that it was 'really hard'. It was also a tough audition process, he told Comingsoon.net: 'I ended up doing about 16 auditions of this part and I've never done that before!
'They sent me the script and told me if I liked it I could go for an audition. So my mum and I went over the script and the second I read it, I swear, I knew that Cato was the part was for me. I absolutely knew it. I'd never wanted a part more. Ever since I've been a little kid I've always wanted superpowers, which are the coolest thing in the world.
'After about eight auditions, I went over my lines and the script on the phone with the Vice President of Fox Casting. It was really nerve wracking – I'd never met him before and we were doing it over the phone, which seemed so crazy.
'After that they flew me down to LA. I'd never stayed there before so that was a pretty cool experience, especially being flown in by a studio. It was really amazing. Once I got there I had to have about three more auditions. I was only supposed to be there for two days but ended up being there for about six and I didn't have enough clothes, so me and my mum had to go shopping.
'Eventually we were just waiting and waiting and it was so nerve wracking, I was just trying to keep my mind off things. Then they called again and wanted to go over the script on the phone in the hotel room, and then suddenly the phone went on speaker, on every phone in the whole room, so they started laughing and that made me laugh too. I felt so embarrassed because it was the Vice President of Fox Casting on the other line, but I couldn't help it!'
In 2009, Ludwig starred as one of the leads in Race to Witch Mountain, after immediately impressing the director during his audition. Filmmaker Andy Fickman recalled: 'AnnaSophia Robb was the first and only person I ever had in mind. I loved her work in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory but her performance in Bridge to Terabithia broke my heart – I thought it was such a difficult role for any actor to pull off. She never auditioned for me ... we just had a meeting and rolled the dice. She was born with innate talent, I think, you can't teach what she has.
Excerpted from The Hunger Games A-Z by Martin Howden. Copyright © 2012 Martin Howden. Excerpted by permission of John Blake Publishing Ltd.
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