Team Peeta: The Oxstu meets Josh Hutcherson, star of The Hunger Games

For any American experiencing England for the first time, the language is the same but the culture shock can make it feel like another planet. Often, it is the simpler things (taken for granted by locals) that take newcomers by surprise. Originally hailing from Union, Kentucky, Josh Hutcherson was no exception as he reflected on his first time travelling to London. “I was actually surprised at how many people were out and around…I didn’t realize that it was hustling and bustling like that all the time.”

Despite being only 19 years old and a newcomer to Europe, Hutcherson has already made his way around Hollywood to a substantial degree, tackling everything from family-oriented sci-fi (Zathura) to sexuality-exploring comedy (The Kids Are All Right) to 3D adventures that could double as theme park rides (Journey to the Center of the Earth). He can now add “dystopian fiction” to his list, having played a central role in “The Hunger Games”, one of the most successful films of the year. It tells the story of an all-powerful Capitol, which forces the twelve districts it oversees to each pay an annual tribute – in the form of a teenage boy and girl. All twenty-four chosen children must then fight to the death in a wilderness-centered competition shown on live TV. Only one returns.

Based off the first book in the bestselling trilogy by Suzanne Collins, its popularity is largely due to the complex love triangle at the center of the story. Katniss Everdeen narrates the tale as the newest female tribute from District 12, torn between her feelings for her best friend Gale and the male tribute Peeta that will be playing alongside her for survival. As a result, comparisons with other franchises like Twilight have begun to emerge. Hutcherson noted, with a chuckle, “I’ve seen a little bit of it already. It’s funny because they want to somehow make it out to be like a rivalry…but it’s really not.”

Whether fans support “Team Peeta” or “Team Gale”, Hutcherson’s motivation in auditioning for the role of Peeta came from his own appreciation and connection with the character’s personality. “With Peeta, what I think I love about him so much is that he’s very true to himself all the time, believes in maintaining who he is as a person no matter what kind of things he’s faced with.”

However, to say that the series’ protagonists face a number of obstacles in the series is a serious understatement. A great deal of commotion has been made (most especially by concerned parents) over the translation of the book’s gory violence to film, and the importance of the process was not lost on Hutcherson during the tricky adaptation. “It has to be (brutal). That’s part of the essence of the book…that these kids are forced to be in these kinds of situations. It was tough to find that balance, staying true to the book without alienating the audience.”

He took time to note the cast’s chemistry and director Gary Ross’ guidance in particular, saying that “he was hired because he knew how to make it work in all aspects.” The Hunger Games has dominated recent box office charts; and Hutcherson has been crucial in bringing the intense franchise to life. And in the end, remembering his Kentucky roots may be his greatest asset. As he succinctly put it, “I’m a very outdoorsy person, and I grew up playing in the woods.”

Ian Clemente

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