In case you’ve spent the last few months locked in an iron capsule deep inside a volcano on Uranus, then you’re probably aware that The Hunger Games hits theaters this Friday. And all signs point to this thing being huge. If you haven’t read the Suzanne Collins book the movie is based on—the first in a trilogy—then all you need to know is that it features kids killing kids for the entertainment of a future society. Jennifer Lawrence plays the film’s reluctant heroine, Katniss, while 19-year old Vancouver native Alexander Ludwig sneers as one of her foils, Cato. To play the role, Ludwig had to tap into his inner badass, something he hadn’t done before onscreen. Here, he talks about what it’s like to be part of the movie event of the year.
You’ve been acting since you were 12. Did you always know that you wanted to be an actor?
It was definitely something I was interested in doing. I’ve always loved telling stories, and inspiring people, and making movies is such a magical experience. I first realized I wanted to do it when I saw my first James Bond movie starring Roger Moore when I was 9.
How were you discovered?
My mom is actually an actress, and when I was about 9, I begged my parents to let me act. They were very hesitant towards it because kids get very messed up in the whole Hollywood business. I got out a phonebook and called my mom’s old agent without telling my parents, and I was like, Listen I want to book a meeting, and she was like, Well, if a 9 year old has enough balls to call me, then maybe he deserves a meeting. She gave me a meeting and it’s been all uphill from there.
How did it feel, being on the set of your first big movie?
I was definitely more excited than nervous. You got the whole movie on your shoulders and everyone’s depending on you to carry this multi-million dollar film. It can be stressful at times, but for the most part I was just so thankful to have that experience.
How do you get your mind into the character you are portraying? When it came to Cato, did you do anything differently?
It really depends. I got to be very creative with the role in The Hunger Games because Cato has a much larger presence in the film than he does in the books. I was able to develop and create a foundation for my second build-upon throughout the course of my filming. The director and I got to work together quite frequently and figure out who we want this kid to be. Cato is supposed to be the bad ass, so we created a whole backstory for him. That’s usually what I’ll do before I go into set.
Speaking of The Hunger Games, how did you first hear about the project?
I was actually a huge fan of the books before the movie. I had read them a year before they were even considering making the film. Originally they were considering me for Peeta. I started traveling Europe with a couple buddies after my senior year, and while traveling Europe, I made it my goal to physically sculpt my body so I could portray the character. I was really getting ready for that role. When it came down to it, it was between me, Josh, and one other kid. Gary (Ross) thought my persona was more of one of those leaders, and Josh really did a great job of portraying Peeta’s overall essence. So Gary was like, Listen, I’d really love you to just try reading for this really quickly while I’m in the room. He gave me the script and asked me to read it as a cold read.
What did you like the most about channeling Cato?
My favorite part about portraying Cato is obviously playing the bad ass and getting to be very evil. Usually I’m always playing the nice guy, and it’s fun playing the bad guy once in a while. I got to really experiment with a side of me that I’ve never seen before and definitely the audience hasn’t seen before, so it’ll be really fun to see how people respond.
What was the atmosphere like on such a top secret set?
It was very locked down, and we have fans trying to get on set all the time. It was definitely wild. One of the funniest stories I have was we were shooting for Vanity Fair and I remember looking towards bushes, and suddenly I see these little girls pop out from behind the tree. I remember being like, Yes, I’m so happy that she was able to make it past security. Then she got chased off and I was like, Oh no.
It looks like you do a lot of fantasy as a genre, is it by choice?
No, it’s just been the way it has worked out. As an actor, when you’re younger that’s kind of more the genre. This is definitely fantasy, but I think it’s a little bit more drama and action, and I’m a big fan of that. My idols are Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt. I love the way they’ve chosen their careers and paths with movies like Blood Diamond and The Departed.
Styling by Cat Wennekamp.
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Photography by Hilary Walsh