Montreal Gazette had a really nice chat with Alexander Ludwig (Played as Cato in The Hunger Games Movie). Check it out:
They didn’t have to kill each other, but, according to Hunger Games star Alexander Ludwig, there was a healthy sense of competition on the North Carolina set of the juggernaut teen franchise.
“We did do exercises where we’d have to flip huge monster-truck tires, and a lot of cool physical stuff, just to keep us in the right head space,” says the Vancouver actor who plays Cato, one of 24 “tributes” faced with the ultimate struggle to survive.
“No boxing matches or anything like that,” he says. “We all got along . . . and we all knew we were part of something pretty special.”
Even though Ludwig wasn’t a Hunger Games neophyte before he read the script, he quickly educated himself once he was part of the prospective casting pool. He pored over the Suzanne Collins books, and figured out the central attraction wasn’t just the action or the love story.
“This is part of the zeitgeist,” he says, pointing to the parallels with shows such as Survivor, or even American Idol, where contestants are eliminated one by one.
“Modern reality TV sets up these competitive situations to show us real human nature,” he says. “This movie is a metaphor of that. And it’s a pretty edgy concept.”
Despite being set in a not-too-distant future, where civilization has devolved to the point of human sacrifice, Ludwig says the actual emotional content of the film is timeless, human and entirely earnest.
What he found refreshing, however, is the way the movie is allowed to show a little bit of camp, in addition to an epic scale.
“It’s kind of fake, but it’s real, because they were playing off the reality TV show. They wanted that feel. In fact, I have to say, of all the movies I have worked on in the past, this is the one with the least amount of CGI,” he says. “Even though we’re in this futuristic world and this futuristic story, it wasn’t hard to imagine we were there, because we shot in very real locations.”
Ludwig credits the successful mood and feeling to the hard work of director Gary Ross, but also series author Suzanne Collins, who came up with the concept of teen sacrifice in a post-apocalyptic universe.
“This is a complete world, and I think, once you see the movie, you enter that world.”
Fortunately, Ludwig says the kill-or-be-killed part of the narrative was something all the actors left behind on set.
“We became a family so quickly,” he says of his work with co-stars Josh Hutcherson and Jennifer Lawrence.
“I was just in Toronto with Josh, and it was great. We get along so well.”
Hutcherson plays Peeta in the movie, and, in many respects, it’s Peeta who represents the biggest threat to Ludwig’s Cato — even if he’s much smaller, and has about half the muscle mass.
“The thing about Peeta is he’s the one everyone can relate to. He’s just an ordinary guy who realizes he’s not going to survive using his physicality alone. . . . It’s cool, because it’s not a cop-out to run away. It’s more important to survive, and Peeta finds a way to do that,” says Ludwig. “That’s what makes him heroic.”
By contrast, Cato, who possesses all the manly qualities of a typical matinee hero, is the one who emerges as the de facto villain.
“Cato is this big alpha guy,” says Ludwig. “But I’m not like him. As competitive as I am, I’m actually in the process of losing some of this bulk, because I don’t really want to be known as that alpha guy. I mean, I don’t think Shakespeare had a need for the six-foot muscle man,” says Ludwig.
“Acting is what I love. I love being the chameleon, and you can’t do that if you have just one physical type.”
Although he’s not yet 20, Ludwig is already a veteran of the acting business, having landed the lead role in The Seeker (2007), followed by a star turn in Race to Witch Mountain (2009).
When he landed a part in The Hunger Games, he knew it would be a turning point.
“Everyone in Hollywood wanted a role in this movie,” he says. “Everyone wanted to have a part in it. I feel so lucky that I got one, but what I find so cool about Hunger Games is that the real star is the story itself.”
Ludwig says if he’s fortunate enough to stay in the business and call his own shots, he’d like to keep making movies such as The Hunger Games or Blood Diamond — one of his favourite movies of all time, because it balanced action with human drama.
“I like movies that instil passion in the viewer,” he says. “I like movies that can teach us about who we are as people.”
And for all the hype surrounding The Hunger Games, the fact is: It’s actually saying something, according to Ludwig.
“I think this is a story that shows us the power of hope, and the (redeeming) quality of love,” he says. “And that’s pretty cool.”