It’s time to say goodbye to the girl on fire. Part political allegory, part family saga, the Hunger Games franchise has already generated over $2.3 billion, proving that young adult adaptations can be substantive, and—most of all—that a blockbuster action-hero doesn’t need to have a Y chromosome.
But as much as these movies have influenced Hollywood (and millions of global fans), their greatest impact has been on their three leads: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth. They each entered the Games as relative unknowns, as wary of celebrity as Katniss was of the Capitol. But through the years, the actors—most notably now Oscar-winner Lawrence—have matured into major movie stars and have come to terms with the power of fame. “Jennifer realized at a certain point, that if people are going to be listening to you, you’d better have something to say,” says series producer Nina Jacobson.
The fourth and final installment, Mockingjay – Part 2 (out Nov. 20) opens in District 13. The propaganda campaign that filled most of Mockingjay – Part 1 has been predominantly successful with the exception of President Snow (Donald Sutherland) punishing Katniss by brainwashing her partner in crime Peeta Mellark (Hutcherson) before sending him back to District 13 to kill her. Part 2 opens with Katniss in a neck brace, recovering from Peeta’s Tracker-Jacker induced attack, and contemplating how she will enact her revenge on Snow. Meanwhile, under the watchful eye of President Coin (Julianne Moore), the rebels—including Gale Hawthorne (Hemsworth)—are making last preparations for their mission to topple the Capitol once and for all. It’s been a long run-up to the final battle, which finds the three leads, their camera crew and a few key allies engaged in warfare inside the booby-trapped hub of Panem. Returning director Francis Lawrence promises it won’t disappoint. “When you get to the end, you just feel the entire history of what these characters have been through,” he says. “It’s part of what makes this movie all the more satisfying.”
So with a three-finger salute, EW sat down poolside at a Beverly Hills hotel with Hemsworth, 25, Hutcherson, 22, and Lawrence, 25, to reflect on it all.
Here are some excerpts:
On being part of a cultural phenomenon.
Hutcherson: When you see the tons of people screaming and going crazy… I have the same problem that Peeta does of distinguishing reality from not reality. So for me, that’s not real. It seems so strange.
Lawrence: It’s like you’re an avatar of yourself.
Hemsworth: You get back into the car after a premiere and it’s dead silent and you’re like…
Lawrence: “I’m glad that’s over.”
On their friendship.
Lawrence: If we had met each other in any different circumstance, we would still be best friends. And our love is as close to unconditional as it gets because there’s no fear between us because we love each other so much. There’s no fear in our love.
On the scene they were most worried about during their epic 152-day Mockingjay shoot.
Lawrence: I was excited about the scene at the end of the movie when I shoot my arrow—I won’t give it away— because when I was doing my archery training at age 20, that was always the scene I pictured. Five years ago I used to look at a stack of hay and pretend that it was this moment, and now it is here.
How was your aim?
Lawrence: It was CGI, so let’s just say I nailed it.
Hemsworth: You were particularly nervous about the singing scene [from Part 1]. We all know that.
Hutcherson: It’s so stupid. You’re such a great singer.
Hemsworth: She was so worried about it, I assumed that she must have a bad voice. And she did it and I’m like, “Jen, it’s actually good.” She’s like, “Shut up!”
Lawrence: I only snapped at you because who else was I gonna snap at?
Hemsworth: No, I know. I’m your punching bag, man. Don’t worry about it.
Lawrence: But I can never be yours. Don’t you dare start thinking that’s a two way street.
Hutcherson: For me it was the scene where Peeta had to freak out and lose his mind. I was more excited than nervous, but then right before we shot, I realized I hadn’t planned on what the hell I was going to do. And then they say “Action.” You’re like “Ah!” And you just kind of do it.
Lawrence: But that’s always when you do your best because then you’re not thinking. You’re just feeling. Ugh! I meant that when I said it, but I realized how douchey it sounded so I just had to turn it into a joke.
For more jokes—including the secrets of the Hunger Games trio’s sleepover traditions—pick up the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands Friday, Oct. 2.