When Josh Hutcherson went in to audition for The Hunger Games, after reading the books, he knew exactly what part he wanted. It’s the one he got: Peeta. “He was the character I connected with by far the most in the book. I felt that I could play him of all the characters for sure,” he said and laughed.
When he screen tested opposite Jennifer Lawrence, he just felt something click and had high hopes for scoring the part. “I hit it off with Jennifer right away. I had met her a couple of times at some events. We’re both from Kentucky and kind of had that automatic connection. She's such an easy person to get along with. And acting with her was incredibly easy as well. So for me, I felt it right away. We really hit it off.”
Peeta is quiet, yet he is able to turn on the charm when the camera’s on him once he gets to the Capitol, a trait with which the actor could seriously identify. “I am very much like that. I can be a lot more quiet and reserved with my friends and more of a subdued kind of personality. Then when I need to, I can turn it on and kind of be big and entertaining and whatnot. It was a lot like me in a weird way,” Hutcherson said. “As far as which side of him was more fun to play? I like the more quiet kind of version. As an actor, it's more interesting because you have to do more with saying less, which is always a challenge and always fun.”
He does share another trait with Peeta: Hutcherson believes he’d be alright if he had to survive in the wild. “I watch a lot of Man versus Wild so I think that's prepared me highly for this kind of situation. Because I grew up in Kentucky, I was always playing outside. I love hiking and camping and all those kinds of things. So I might do alright in the wilderness,” Hutcherson said.
Could he ever see doing a bold gesture as Peeta does professing his love for Katniss on national TV? “It's pretty bold! It's pretty bold. In the right kind of situation, if there was a situation like that where maybe I could help somebody out or really kind of help take care of somebody I care about, yeah -- I could do that.”
Of all the stellar actors on The Hunger Games set, it was Woody Harrelson (Haymitch) whom Hutcherson most had an affinity for and looked to learn something from. “I had a ton of scenes with him and just watching him, he is epic,” Hutcherson said, smiling. “He’s such an amazing actor. I've grown up loving all of his work and to be in scenes with him and watch him was definitely very big for me.”
When it comes to the future of Peeta and Katniss, the actor is thrilled to come back to the franchise to film the final two books in Suzanne Collins’ book series and further explore where their characters go after The Hunger Games.
“I'm just interested to see where I can take Peeta over the course of the story. He gets brainwashed and loses his mind. I believe it's in the third book, where he kind of starts to hate Katniss and has this thing out for her,” Hutcherson said. “I think that’s an interesting dynamic to play. It's going to be cool to take Peeta, who has been lovey-dovey and in love with Katniss this entire time, and flip it around and see what that's like to play that side of him.”
Even while looking to the future, Hutcherson comes back to the now to stress how eager he is for the first film to be released. “For me, excitement is building. This whole time we put a lot of work into it -- everybody has, and so it's been pretty anticipated for a while. So for it to finally be coming out, it's a relief I think,” Hutcherson said. “To have all this time and people have been wondering what it's like, for us to finally be able to say, ‘This is what it's like and now you get to see it’ is awesome. I am so proud of the film. I loved it thoroughly. And if I like a movie that I am in, that means that other people are going to like it too because I'm very, very hard on myself.”