We caught up with Catching Fire stars Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz and Jeffrey Wright recently and for the latter, being new to the franchise provided a fascinating exposure to the series' fans that clearly impressed him.
“I think what’s fascinating about the movie is that, I’ve found with interacting with fans, it’s kind of one of those universal spectrums of how anyone can insert themselves into the world and really express their own perspectives and politics within it,” Wright said. As seen in the Catching Fire trailer, Wright is Beetee.
“Like any good piece, it raises more questions than it answers. At the same time, the politics for the young people in the movie are very simple. There are politics around home, family, security, love, and all of these very simple, universal themes that we all relate to, and that we can all understand. Young people should be politically engaged, but they should be so from a grounded place, not from a reactive place. I think that’s what they should take away.”
Kravitz, who plays Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) confidant and designer Cinna, reported he joined the cast of the first film and now is back for the second for one reason and one reason only. “Well, first of all, the story -- it's great story telling. You can have all of these great actors and actresses and directors and people, but at the end of the day, it was a really well-written story with really good characters,” Kravitz said.
Before he got a phone call from The Hunger Games director Gary Ross, he hadn’t even heard of the blockbuster book franchise. “I was in the Bahamas with my music, in the jungle somewhere,” he said and laughed. “I got this phone call about Hunger Games. I had to download it and read it. And once I read it, I was hooked. I read the whole book in one night.”
Kravitz was then asked what he thinks Cinna sees in Katniss that the two characters become so close. “He has an instant attraction to Katniss. He understands who she is. He believes in her, in her abilities, and he wants to be there for her. They begin this friendship,” he said.
In Catching Fire, as fans of the series know, Cinna steps out and puts his neck out there! “He's at the point now where he's ready to make a statement, to really show who he is and what side he's on. And he does that very strongly when he presents the wedding dress that President Snow wants Katniss to wear. We've all seen it. The dress turns into the Mockingjay, and he has to face some grave consequences for that.”
Wright is new to the franchise, and he could not have been better cast as the cerebral Beetee, as we reported in our Catching Fire review. He welcomed the chance to join a well-oiled machine when it comes to the creative element of bringing The Hunger Games world to life on the big screen.
“One of the things aside from the thematics of the storytelling that attracted me to this was that there had already been this extraordinary work done by many of the folks [in the movie.] I had an opportunity then to kind of piggyback on their efforts. Like Lenny, I was maybe in a jungle in West Africa somewhere in Sierra Leone so I missed out on a lot of the fanfare around the first one,” Wright said and laughed.
“But when I was called, in my case by Francis (Lawrence), to be a part of this, I dug in and I realized that there was something very interesting happening here particularly for younger audiences because this is epic moviemaking of a scale that we see a lot of now. But at the same time, there are these poignant, relative ideas that are being presented to young developing minds that I think are really essential.”
Wright sees parallels between what the young characters in Catching Fire are going through, albeit a little less perilous, and what the youth of today are living with, day in and day out. “They’re not specific but they’re just presented in an intelligent way that allows each reader or each audience member to place themselves within the world and make these considerations that are relevant to their lives outside of the theater,” Wright said.
“For me, it just seems to make sense that you entertain but at the same time, you provide in some ways a kind of escapism but a kind of relevant escapism that doesn’t discount the complexities of who we are and what our world is undergoing now.”
For Banks -- who is back as fan favorite Effie -- she is simply proud that there is a role out there for a strong female. And she hopes that they continue for her co-star and friend, Lawrence.
“Jennifer is an amazing actress who gets amazing roles and I wish that she gets them always and forever for the rest of her life. I’ve been doing it a little longer and I know there’s a lot of girlfriend roles out there, and a lot of wives and a lot of supporting roles that are less interesting than Katniss,” Banks said.
“I hope for her that she gets to play Katniss-level roles forever and ever. They’re rare. I think this movie and Gravity -- I’m so excited to be seeing such amazing, strong female role models in movies for the 50 percent of moviegoers who are ladies.”