When The Hunger Games and subsequent sequels were released, they took the teen literary world by storm. Many critics likened its success and popularity to that of the Twilight books by Stephanie Meyer. Unlike weird tales of sparkling vampires, The Hunger Games was both popular and widely respected for its contemporary allegory. It was only a matter of time before film adaptations were produced.
Between 2012 and 2015, audiences were invited to enter the world of Panem over four films. These stories zeroed in on Katniss Everdeen, a volunteer for the annual "Hunger Games". The objective of the games is twofold: for the Capitol to keep the 12 Districts in line, and for the sport of youth challenging youth in a gladiatorial arena.
The lead role of Katniss was given to the renowned Jennifer Lawrence, who brought humanity and depth to the performance. As is true of all of her roles, Lawrence imbued the character with a nuance that translated the first-person novel trilogy into a relatable on-screen drama. Curiously, there was also a great deal of drama that occurred behind the camera. That drama is the reason the following list exists. Not everything was easy going when it came to the creation of the four Hunger Games films.
Between altercations, on-set surprises, and odd marketing strategies, there are many weird things that went into the creation of theses special games. Let’s dive in!
25 Capitol Fashion
Remember seeing all of those super elaborate costumes filling the screen in all of the scenes featuring the Capitol? We do, and they were memorable not only for their fantastic flair, but also for their over-the-top colours and styles.
The costume department on The Hunger Games alone made a staggering amount of costumes: a minimum of 1,800 for the first film’s Capitol citizens alone. That means the rest of the film would easily take on the daunting challenge of an extra thousand to see the completed project.
The fashion design of the film for the Capitol took the form of a vibrant Victorian era, but without any hint of Steampunk. Large ties, ruffles, and silk were accented by the over-the-top hairstyles of the extras. The characters in the districts, on the other hand bore mostly dulled browns and greys.
24 The Smoke Machine
In Mockingjay, there’s a scene with Katniss leading a rebellion through a long tunnel and then it fills with smoke. There are a number of memorable shots, but, unfortunately for the cast, it was an incredibly unpleasant experience.
Sometimes machines can break and that’s exactly what happened to the fog machine.
It ended up leaking and spewing out much more mist than anyone could have anticipated. It got so bad that it sent several actors into a coughing fit. Jennifer Lawrence had such a difficult time breathing that she’s gone on record saying that she thought she was going to lose it. Inhaling a little mist of fog is fine as it is made up of water vapour.
However, too much of anything can lead to less fun issues.
23 Hunger Games In Television
Did you know that The Hunger Games inspired a reality TV show on The CW? It’s true! Called Capture, the show featured twelve teams of two who were taken to a 4,000-acre wilderness to eliminate the other teams.
Don’t worry, by ‘eliminate’, the show meant that they would be dropped from the game. It worked with a concept of Hunter and Prey, with the contestants mostly making up the Prey teams, while a Hunter team was randomly assigned to capture them.
If it sounds like a logistical problem, you’re not alone! The show was canceled after the first season, with only 10 episodes to its name. There isn’t honestly much else to say, but the obvious inspiration from The Hunger Games meant that the only real draw to watch the show was because you were a fan of the novels.
22 Fierce Competitors
Liam Hemsworth and Jennifer Lawrence were known to enjoy having fun on set. For the scenes where they had to kiss, they decided that it would be a good bit of fun to see how much they could gross each other out. To do this, both actors did their best to make their breaths as smelly and bad as possible for those scenes.
They definitely didn’t make it easy for each other, especially with breaths that tasted like tuna fish and garlic.
There is a sensible side to doing this! If this were a scene that they’re both not thrilled about doing, the idea of grossing each other out would work to their advantage in a playful way to heighten their on-set camaraderie. It also reveals how good of a performer they really are as neither one misses a beat in those scenes.
21 The Sacred Rocks
While shooting Catching Fire on the Hawaiian coast, Jennifer Lawrence made a big mistake. While wearing a wetsuit, she developed a nasty itch on her backside and decided to use a nearby rock to help her scratch her hard-to-reach itch.
Unfortunately for her, that wasn’t just any rock: it was a sacred stoned on Hallowed Hawaiian ground.
By scratching her backside, she dislodged the rock —really a boulder— and it tumbled into a ravine. This action deeply offended the locals. It is amazing that no one on the crew mentioned the boulder to Lawrence ahead of time. This is typically something that the film’s locations manager should be on top of and alert the rest of the crew to. This is to ensure that everyone is aware of and respectful of the space, so that nothing bad happens.
20 Heated Extras
In The Hunger Games, there are few days more dreaded than that of The Reaping, the ceremony in which the Capitol forces each district to choose two tributes —at random— to compete in the "Hunger Games" ceremony. The Reaping requires all the residents of the district to gather and watch.
In real life, the shooting of The Reaping was extremely hot and unpleasant for all of the extras who were in the scene.
Being an extra often means you don’t have a decent space to retreat to with amenities like AC, like the majority of the cast. Because the Reaping scene was so long, the extras would have been outside for hours at a time and probably over a couple of days. Feeling bad, Jennifer Lawrence offered autographs to anyone who asked.
There are a number of famous movie accidents, but the one that stands out the most in The Hunger Games films was when Jennifer Lawrence lost her hearing for 6 days. During the cornucopia scene in Catching Fire, Lawrence dove into the water and a jet blasted into her ear.
The blast caused a puncture in her eardrum that led to a complication.
To make matters worse, she delayed seeking help from a physician and her hearing was affected for months afterward. This is a good lesson to everyone who has an issue with their ears or hearing: seek out the help because you never know how long recovery will take.
One can only imagine how much of an issue it was to continue shooting an action movie with reduced hearing, especially with such as physical role as Lawrence’s.
18 Always Be Careful With Books
Typically, when controversy begins to swirl around a production, they gain greater traction within the literary community. Part of that is because everyone wants to know for themselves how interesting the story is. Since the books have been available to purchase, they have had numerous people attempt to ban the trilogy.
It is understandable that some parents and teachers may believe that the novel is too intense for young readers, but that was just the tipping point.
After Hollywood picked them up, the novels were criticized further for their religious viewpoints and for their anti-ethnic and anti-family sentiments. They were even said to promote dangerous views. Fortunately, the books were never fully banned and, if anything, all the kerfuffle surrounding the books only popularized the novels in preparation of the films’ release.
17 A Little Accident
As there is potential on any film set, accidents can happen if safety protocols aren’t followed correctly. Accidents can also happen even if safety protocols are followed to the letter. When making an action-packed film, it makes sense that there may be a few on-set injuries. Without realizing it at first, Liam Hemsworth acquired a stress fracture on his ankle while shooting in Berlin.
As is the nature of stress fractures, it is difficult to narrow down what Hemsworth was doing at the time.
What was confirmed is that, regardless of his injury, Hemsworth continued on, never missing a day of filming or delaying the production in any way. Despite this, working while with a stress fracture can be extremely painful and is in no way recommended to keep on keeping on.
16 President Snow's Choice
President Snow is regularly and consistently seen looking rather red around the mouth. Though never explained in the films, the books provide a grim explanation: it’s the effect of a dangerous substance. Snow would share this substance with anyone who he saw as a threat to his power, and would even go so far as to take it himself to throw any suspicion off.
Of course, he would ingest an antidote, but the substance would leave sores in his mouth that would cause him regular discomfort. That’s why he would cough so frequently. Even the white rose he wears on his lapel is ultimately to mask the scent of his problem. President Snow exudes a high ‘creepy factor’ that is impossible to ignore. Donald Sutherland’s chilling performance also adds to the unpleasant nature of the character.
15 Unpaid Marketing
Did you know that the film studios allowed unpaid fans of the books to run the online viral marketing for the first film? It’s true! One of the volunteers, Sarah Fe originally signed up to join the viral marketing campaign to promote The Hunger Games, but she never imagined she’d help run the campaign.
Sarah Fe was only 14 at the time when she became a recruiter for the campaign.
Fe revealed in an article with the Daily Dot that she spent about 70% of her time on the campaign. Despite the time it took away from their lives, the recruiters were very proud to have been able to be a part of the hype train for the then upcoming films. They were all promised uniforms from the film as a free incentive and when the original article was published, they had still yet to receive them.
14 The On-Set Swear Jar
During the filming of the first Hunger Games film, there was an on-set swear jar that was introduced. The concept of a swear-jar is simple: every time you swear, you pay a small fee (usually 25 cents) into the jar. This was done as a way to ensure that the cast and crew would keep themselves in check during production.
When this happens, usually all proceeds go towards a charitable organization.
It may come as no surprise that the swear-jar was filled by the end of the production. Film sets can be intense with a lot of pressure so it’s understandable that there would be a lot of potential swearing. Of course, Jennifer Lawrence was notorious for swearing on set. At the end of the production, Lawrence contributed to no less than half the funds inside the jar.
13 Removed From International Posters
When Mockingjay – Part II was released, there was a widespread international marketing campaign not unlike the previous films. Curiously, the posters featuring Jennifer Lawrence in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak were edited in a very specific and irregular way. The posters were meant to feature a Mockingjay on fire in the background with Lawrence in the foreground dawning red combat armour and priming an arrow.
However, in these cities, the image of Lawrence is entirely absent.
The fiery Mockingjay is the main focus. Lawrence’s removal from the marketing in these cities was done due to concerns that Orthodox Jewish groups would vandalize the posters, which is common in those cities. Apparently, clients and film studios would prefer not to take the chance of vandalism and so the decision was made.
12 The Depths Of The Sewers
The term ‘film realism’ is regularly thrown around when discussing the use of practical effects and computer-generated images. Most films are shot on a soundstage where the elements can be fully controlled.
Unfortunately for the cast of Mockingjay Part II, the sewer scenes are another matter entirely. Taking three weeks to shoot, it was decided that these claustrophobic scenes would be shot in a real sewer. With a strong smell of unmentionables and a completely unsanitary environment, it’s a wonder why this decision was made in the first place.
The real kicker, though, was the fact that a sewer set was also built. So, if the set was built, then why on Earth would they have even bothered to go to the real location in the first place?
11 It’s Not Just Fish…
How far would you go to maintain professionalism in your performance? That can be a tough question to ask for actors, but it they ever have to do something they can’t normally deal with, it pushes their limits and makes them better actors. That’s exactly what happened in the second Hunger Games film.
There is a scene in Catching Fire in which Jennifer Lawrence and Sam Claflin are eating fish together.
Unfortunately for both of them, they have a really low tolerance for seafood and the fact that the fish was a little raw did not help matters along. For the actors with a low fish-tolerance, it would have been like eating something really unpleasant. The fact that they were able to do it and keep it together in the scene is a sign of their professionalism and dedication to the scene.
10 Josh Hutcherson’s Problem
The set of The Hunger Games was a great place for Jennifer Lawrence to give her co-star Josh Hutcherson a concussion. The intense world of Panem in The Hunger Games may not have been the best backdrop for these two daredevils to inhabit.
Typically, actors will communicate with each other a bit on set to discuss their lines or how the blocking of the scene will go with the director.
Now, it’s not common practice for actors to play fight with one another on set, but they were nevertheless enjoying a friendly match of shadow boxing between scenes when the unthinkable happened. Lawrence kicked Hutcherson in the head, which was later diagnosed as a concussion.
Although definitely an accident, it’s still a very major issue.
9 The Elevator Slip-Up
Of all the characters Katniss encounters in Catching Fire, none is more immediately intimidating than Johanna Mason. When they first meet, Mason actually removes her entire outfit in front of Katniss as a way to assert herself as the intimidating person she is.
Curiously, this scene was shot inside of a real and fully operational hotel elevator. During one take, a crewmember hit the wrong button and the door opened to a floor they weren’t supposed to stop at. At least one guest waiting for the elevator got a surprise view of actress Jena Malone they weren’t expecting.
This would have been thoroughly embarrassing for all parties involved. It’s a sure bet that a studio will think twice before shooting a scene like that in a hotel elevator again.
8 Fight For Your Role
As it turns out, veteran actor Donald Sutherland was very keen on acquiring the role of President Snow in the Hunger Games novels. He was so interested, in fact, that he wrote a five-page letter to the film’s producers that listed all of the reasons why he would be the perfect person for the role.
His argument was an easy sell to the producers as he was already high on their list of candidates for the role of Snow.
Sutherland was drawn to the novel’s parallels to that of the real world, and how Snow was a fascinating study of a character who was comfortable within the power he had created for himself. Critics and audiences were highly complementary to Sutherland for his subtle ruthless portrayal of the enigmatic leader.
7 The Klutz
Unlike his on-screen persona, Finnick Odair, Sam Claflin is a huge klutz in real-life. According to several interviews from the cast of the Hunger Games films, Claflin was deemed very clumsy and proved this day in and day out.
He poked co-star Jennifer Lawrence with his trident during the mud-pit scene and broke his own finger on set. Claflin was quick to say in interviews that he is more clumsy than graceful. Of course, Claflin is an amazing actor as he is able to convince the millions of fans of his fierce skills as a warrior.
No one would ever suspect that he regularly trips over his own feet. Fortunately, the scenes that are used in the film portray Claflin as a confident and playful Odair.
6 Real-World Symbolism
Did you know that The Hunger Games films are directly responsible for a real-world political movement? In 2014, there was a coup in Thailand that resulted in the military roaming the streets to suppress the resistance and arrest the dissenters. Protesters were not easily stopped and they adopted a signal as a rallying signal to their cause.
This rallying signal was none other than the three-fingered salute that Katniss makes throughout the Hunger Games.
The symbol becomes a symbol of the oppressed vs. the oppressors. Despite being detained as a result, it is an amazing example of how these protestors used a modern film symbol in their own search for peace in their land. If ever there was a question if life is influenced by art, this is surely among the strongest examples.
5 Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Lines
When Philip Seymour Hoffman departed shortly before completing his scenes in the film, the studio had a difficult decision to make: either re-create the esteemed actor with Computer Generated motion capture, or remove him from the film entirely.
Fortunately, there was another option that ended up being the quick fix. All of Hoffman’s un-filmed lines for Plutarch were traded off to other actors. One such case is a scene in which Haymitch reads Katniss a letter from Plutarch.
Because of the close bond they have in the story and Plutarch’s political and influential position, this letter reading makes sense in the context of the film and still keeps the spirit of Hoffman’s character alive in the film. It is always bad when actors depart, but it is amazing that the rest of the cast were able to pick up the pieces and keep the integrity of Hoffman’s final role intact.
4 The Cut Greens
Movie studios will spend millions of dollars making ultra elaborate sets for movies that don’t even get used in the final cut of the film. Sadly, The Hunger Games films are no different. For Mockingjay Part I, a massive greenhouse set was built for scenes of President Snow to be in.
Unfortunately, those scenes were cut from the final film as it was deemed out of place in that particular story.
However, Mockingjay Part II does have Katniss confront Snow in his greenhouse, so it did eventually make it into the final film. With that said, the greenhouse and plants that appear in the final film would easily be several millions of dollars for the short amount of time that it is shown on screen.
3 The ‘Hanging Tree’
Remember that song “The Hanging Tree” that became popular after Mockingjay Part I? Jennifer Lawrence sang that song and it is considered a very human moment and a good part of the films. Curiously, it is also one of Lawrence’s hated moments of working on the series. She has gone on record a number of times saying that singing is not one of her strong suits and she gets very anxious about performing in that way at all.
Lawrence is even not happy about bringing the song up in interviews.
One really has to wonder what kind of bonus she got for agreeing to do that song, especially given her complaints lobbied against having to do it in the first place. Despite her personal feelings on the performance, it is regarded as the single most memorable part of the film from both fans and critics.
2 The Foxface Issue
This fan theory is one of the most problematic and most interesting in the series. During the first Hunger Games, Katniss discovers the remains of one of the competitors – nicknamed Foxface – who succumbed to eating some special berries.
This scene is important as it allows Katniss to discover the berries and use them to cheat the games at the very end, but there is another side to this scene.
Earlier in the film, we see Foxface studying all the berries and pointing out which ones are, in fact, dangerous. This means she likely knew what the berries would do. Finding the berries and eating them would mean that she wouldn't have to live in a world in which she would be oppressed along with her community.
1 Battle Royale Original
Many filmgoers were quick to point out that the story of The Hunger Games is not wholly unique. The idea of junior high schoolers being forced into a fight to the end by their government was first introduced in the novel and subsequent film Battle Royale.
The film was banned in many countries when it first released, but saw a resurgence in popularity when The Hunger Games was released.
Despite the success of The Hunger Games, many still consider it to be a rip-off of the original Battle Royale. Curiously, Battle Royale has a new meaning as a multiplayer game-type thanks to the success of games like Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite.
Like all the properties before them, there can only be one victor per match.