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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire - Stanley Tucci and Jeffrey Wright interview

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Interview by Rob Carnevale

STANLEY Tucci and Jeffrey Wright talk about making The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and why they believe the films and books resonate with audiences on so many levels.

Stanley also discusses finding the look and laugh of Caesar, while Jeffrey discusses his approach to the franchise and why he was told it was bigger than James Bond. They were speaking at a UK press conference…

Q. This is an incredibly intense and powerful film that may be set in a parallel world but it does have many nods to our world in terms of surveillance, reality TV, politics, how governments work, etc. What do you feel that, in terms of the film’s ideas, resonates with audiences?
Jeffrey Wright: I think there’s an accessibility to the storytelling in that it’s not partisan and non-discriminatory. So, I think what I found from speaking to fans as we’ve been touring around is that people have a very honest and very personal connection to these stories, but for very different reasons. For example, you may have someone who is politically left leaning, who feels a sense of connection to this kind of one per centre relative to the 99 per centre argument that’s laid out. And then you have someone who is right leaning in the States who may see it as a second amendment idea – the right to bear arms and stand up to the tyranny of government. So, it’s really fascinating that Suzanne Collins has written this kind of universal world that allows the reader to step in and claim a space within it, but at the same time you have all of these social commentary, the political commentary as well, but they’re very simply theme that, as Josh was saying, Katniss is a heroine for, and it really relates to security, home and love and these things that we can all kind of relate to in very beautiful ways. So, it’s complex and it’s accessible.

Q. And Stanley?
Stanley Tucci: I think it’s everybody’s worst fear, isn’t it, to live in a society like this and to live in a dictatorial society under an oppressive regime and have your life and your children manipulated in such an awful way? I think it makes us happy, in a weird way, to go and see our worst fears realised, which is one of the reasons it exists. But also I think that there’s nothing gratuitous in these stories. They’re very much about people. There’s a truthfulness to them. The violence isn’t gratuitous. There’s no sexual gratuitousness… although there should be [he joked]. So, stuff like that and for that reason it resonates very, very strongly as pieces of film and, in particular, for people of a certain age.

Q. As one of the new guys, what was your experience of the first film? Were you already signed on for the franchise at that time? Or did you see it and think this was something you really wanted to be involved in?
Jeffrey Wright: I think Phil Hoffman and I were like the two people in America who hadn’t seen the movie. We were the only two. I see far fewer movies than I actually probably should, I guess. So, I wasn’t fully aware of the phenomenon that this thing was. So Francis [Lawrence, director] called me… Francis wanted me to work on another of his movies but it didn’t quite work out because of timing, and so he called me about this and I read the script, watched the first movie and found it interesting and realised after initially wondering what this thing was about – you know, kids killing kids in a gladiatorial setting, and how is that entertainment? As a father, that was a question that I asked myself.

But when I read the script I realised that there was much deeper allegory going on and a really interesting story behind this. And then m agent called me and said: “And it’s bigger than Bond!” So, that got my attention. I’m pleased to be on board. I’ve never really been as excited for audiences to see a movie that I’ve been a part of. I think it’s because people have such a strong sense of ownership over these stories. Obviously, when Sam [Claflin] and I step in we don’t want to be the mosquitoes at the picnic, we don’t want to detract from the experience, we want to add to the success and contribute and hope that we match and surpass people’s expectations. So, I was really floored by the movie when I saw it, so I’m really excited for these fans who have such a voracious appetite for this stuff to take it in. So, I’m glad to be here.

Q. Stanley, have you involved any real-life presenters in your portrayal of Caesar?
Stanley Tucci: No, not really. I suppose he’s like an amalgam of a whole bunch of different people that you see over the years – not necessarily presenters, although some presenters, but also just people that you see walking down the street un LA or Las Vegas or something like that. I haven’t been to Las Vegas in 25 years. It’s changed. I think if you look at those guys, Siegfried and Roy… I remember the images of those guys with the tan and the teeth and the hair. So, let’s start with that. And then let’s add Wayne Newton and an extreme version of Graham Norton and then, like they had a baby, or they all had a baby, which would be impossible because they’re all men! I don’t know which one would carry the baby but… anyway! That was a terrible answer, I’m so sorry.

Q. Where did you find Caesar’s laugh?
Stanley Tucci: You know, I don’t know. I don’t know. I wish I had an answer. It started happening when we first started doing it. I laugh my children to sleep [mimics laugh]. It just started happening and it seemed to be right. And every few lines that laugh sort of came out. I wish I could say I took it from this guy, or that person, and that it was a conscious choice and I carefully worked on it for months, but I didn’t. It just happened.

Q. As well established actors, do you have guiding principles as to which movies you choose?
Jeffrey Wright: I try to choose ones that are going to be good. That’s probably it [laughs].

Stanley Tucci: Well, that’s the trouble. You don’t know going into a movie. You can have a very good script and a very good director and a wonderful cast but the movie just might not come together for whatever reason in the way that everyone imagined it would. And sometimes the opposite happens, no one is talented and the movie is incredibly good! It’s hard. So, sometimes you take a movie for the role, sometimes you take a movie for the director, sometimes you take a movie for location and sometimes you take a movie for the money – I’ve heard that some people have done that!

Read our review of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Read our interview with Jennifer Lawrence

Read our interview with Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth