Jennifer Lawrence on playing Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games”

Jennifer Lawrence has won the nod of critics and fans alike for her authentic portrayal of Katniss Everdeen, the protagonist of “The Hunger Games”. The Gary Ross, based on Suzanne Collins' novel, has stirred the imagination of youngsters worldwide with its visceral depiction of a dystopian future where kids are made to slug it out in a gory reality show. Ross describes Jennifer, who won an Oscar nomination at the age of 20 for Winter's Bone, an unbelievable talent. “From natural athleticism to her emotional power, she brings so many qualities that are raw and true to the character. I can always imagine different versions of films I direct, but I can't imagine a version of this film without Jen.”

Edited excerpts from an interview:

What attracted you to the character of Katniss Everdeen?

Her strength. I'm always drawn to strong characters, because I want to be like that. This is a girl who has the whole world placed on her shoulders and she becomes a kind of futuristic Joan of Arc. I just knew that I had so much respect for the books and who she is that there was nothing I wouldn't do to bring that out in the right way. I also loved that Gary (Ross) understood that this movie is not about Katniss looking cool with a bow-and-arrow – it's about her being heartbroken by all that she has to do.

Were you taken aback by all the fan frenzy surrounding your casting?

There's a lot of pressure when you're playing a character so many people are crazy about, but I felt I could rest easy because I was committed to do the very best that I could. I knew we had a group of talented people focused on making the best possible movie and that's what I believed in.

Why do you think “The Hunger Games” has struck a nerve with so many people?

Because it's a story that reminds us of the worst part of humanity. We're living in a world obsessed with reality television and our shock factor is constantly desensitised. It takes more and more to surprise us and interest us and we feed off of other people's trauma.

This is a very large-scale movie, with lots of sets and visual effects. How did that affect your performance?

The sets were so helpful to creating the character of Katniss. I'd never seen anything like them and I felt like I was in some kind of wonderland for most of the shoot. From my house in District 12 to the woods, everything was even better than I'd imagined it in the book.

This is also a physically demanding role. How did you prepare for it?

Since half the movie for me is running, I worked extensively with a running coach. All day long I was running down mountains, through sticks and brush, and doing it over and over again. I also worked a lot on climbing, both at rock gyms and on real trees, as well as on vault stunts and even more on archery. The training was really rough, but also really fun.

You had to learn archery for your role. That must have been fun?

Archery is a real mind game, all about total focus, and if you do one thing wrong, you get whipped with a string going like a hundred miles an hour and it's painful! I developed a real love-hate relationship with it. Ultimately, the bow became my friend.