Gary Ross on Muttations and Voiceovers in The Hunger Games

ScreenRant recently talked with Gary Ross to give him the opportunity to defend some of the filming decisions he made in The Hunger Games. Ross talks about his choice to not use voiceovers, not making the Muttations out of tributes and more!

This was a tough nut to crack, obviously. The book is so Katniss-centric and relies on her particular understanding of how to play this game. Was there ever a point that you thought about voiceover narration to give us a sense of her internal dialouge?

“No, never. Because I never wanted you to feel like you were in a movie. I wanted you to feel like you were in the games. I wanted you to feel like you were in her world. I wanted you to feel like you were in the Capitol. And the minute I engage in voiceover, I shatter that and I tell you that you’re in a movie and I create a distance I don’t want. I want engagement not distance. And I felt that I could convey everything, especially with an actress like Jen (Lawrence). I mean, I don’t need to articulate in text what Jen is more than capable of doing in subtext, you know?”

Another thing that struck me as sort of a delicate balance is how far into the fantastical you go in the design of the world and the interpretation of the various pieces of science fiction and fantasy that are described in the book. For example I noticed that the “mutts” who appear at the conclusion of the games didn’t have the faces of the defeated (murdered) tributes as they do in the novel.

“We made the decision that they not be specific tributes, because if we did it, we would have been a massive digression at a moment in the movie where I didn’t think it could have afforded that. You’re hurdling toward the end and that would have taken a tremendous amount of room at a time when we didn’t have it. However, I will say that all the mutts, if you really look at them, they’re really half-human and half-dog. If you put a mutt’s face next to a dog’s face, and next to a human face, you really will see that they’re a hybrid of the two. And so we were specific about that. The important thing about the mutts to me was, not specifically that they were tributes, but that they were a creation of the Capitol designed for this particular instrument at this particular moment in the games. And because we had the games and were actually able to show their creation, we were actually able to show them being birthed in that game center and then revealed in the games. We had the ability to do something by cutting away that a novel isn’t when it’s constantly maintaining Katniss’s point of view.”

What I like about this film is that it appeals to this youth audience, but it also has something to say to them, and that is quite rare. Donald Sutherland also mentioned that he thought this could be a game-changer in terms of being a motivating force for them, possibly inspiring kids to enter the world of politics. Did that notion appeal to you?

“I think it has a lot on its mind. That’s why I wanted to do it. I wouldn’t do it if it was just a glossy piece of entertainment. Just before this, I was offered a sequel in a really large franchise, and I turned it down. I won’t say, but I turned it down and my agents were sort of stunned. I said there’s nothing fresh I could do and it doesn’t really have much on its mind and I’m not just interested in a piece of entertainment, per se. What I loved about Suzanne’s novel was that it was so intelligent, had so much to say, was so relevant. The idea of Katniss fighting for her own humanity in a system that wants to strip her of humanity, who wants her to be complicit in these games, to play the game, and the evolution of her own sense of ethics and her empathy and her compassion and her sense of who she is and her own moral line that leads to this act of defiance that is the thing that sparks the revolution, I thought that was fantastic. That’s why I wanted to do it. I wouldn’t have done it just because it was popular. I’m really glad it’s popular. But I did it because I loved it for those reasons.”

You can read the rest of the interview at ScreenRant!


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