Inspired to speak up for women

Inspired to speak up for women
Actress Jennifer Lawrence.

The first thing we hear is her voice.

And we're not just talking about what happens in the movie itself, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2, the final instalment of the wildly popular film franchise which opens here on Nov 19.

We're at the European press conference held at Hotel de Rome in Berlin, one of the two European cities featured in many of the sequel's climactic battle scenes.

Along with Paris, the architecture of the German city serves as an excellent stand-in for the decadent Capitol, the source of all strife for the enslaved citizens of the fictional Panem and our heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), the reluctant poster girl who evolves into a leader.

Before any of the cast members emerge, a door opens and an invisible yet distinctive voice rallies the others to "just walk out and find our names and sit down".

It is both the voice of Katniss, and yet recognisable as Lawrence's own.

It's slightly throaty, warm and with a mischievous undercurrent of humour that Katniss never gets to display.

With Katniss' home, District 12, bombed into oblivion in Mockingjay - Part 1 and Panem embroiled in the pain of civil war, there is no room for laughter in Katniss' world.

Not so for Lawrence, 25, currently the highest paid actress in Hollywood.

She is a woman who is both unafraid to laugh at herself after famously tripping at the 2013 Oscars while accepting her Best Actress award for Silver Linings Playbook, and unafraid to stand up for herself and other actresses, recently writing an open letter titled Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co-Stars? on Lenny newsletter about gender pay gap in the film industry, which ignited an ongoing national conversation.

Has playing Katniss inspired her to take a stand in her own life on this? She answers without mentioning hot-button words like equality or feminism.

"I don't see how I couldn't be inspired by this character. I was so inspired by her when I read the books - it's the reason I wanted to play her."

She adds: "So I think it would be impossible to go four years with this character and not be inspired by her."


Even without a specific discussion on feminism, the issue of politics dominates. After all, The Hunger Games franchise is about the devastating effects of a totalitarian government.

In Mockingjay - Part 2 in particular, "we see the consequences of war", says 23-year-old US actor Josh Hutcherson, who plays Peeta Mellark, Katniss' ally and love interest who was tortured and brainwashed by President Snow (Donald Sutherland) into believing that Katniss is his enemy.

Despite playing the role of the corrupt despotic ruler of Panem who becomes Katniss' personal enemy, Sutherland is energised by the positive political action that can be "evoked and provoked" in the younger generation by films like The Hunger Games.

"This final movie was why I wanted to make these movies," says the 80-year-old Canadian veteran.

"(US director) Stanley Kubrick's (1957 anti-war) film Paths Of Glory politicised me in the 1950s.

"We must fix climate change and the refugee crisis or we're all dead," he states bluntly.

Although the fictional Panem is embroiled in a terrible war and tension rises between characters as the violence escalates, the cast grows ever closer during the making of these four films, especially in the final chapter.

Hutcherson says The Hunger Games has turned them into a real-life family. His character's rivalry with Liam Hemsworth's Gale Hawthorne, Katniss' childhood friend and other love interest who becomes a rebel soldier, is only on-screen.

The easy camaraderie between the lead actors is apparent as they share jokes.

"I got to work with a few of my best friends on this," says 25-year-old Australian hunk Hemsworth. "Francis (Lawrence) is one of my favourite directors and it was such a powerful project."

Challenging moments bonded them too. After extended filming for a particularly difficult fight sequence both underground and in water, Hemsworth adds with a smile: "Three weeks of wet clothes. All we had was each other."

Lawrence said she was particularly inspired when she shared a trailer with Elizabeth Banks, who plays Katniss' glamorous PR rep Effie Trinket, and got to hear her "being a bad a** on the phone".

The 41-year-old US actress, who jokes that she and co-star Woody Harrelson "wanted to make out in the film, as people and as characters", directed this year's hit movie Pitch Perfect 2, and seems to be an excellent proponent of projects full of "girl power".

As the press conference ends, Lawrence gasps that she is "suffocating"in her immaculately fitted white dress, gesturing for Banks to help her, and in true Katniss-Effie spirit, she adjusts Lawrence's buttons.

If films about war can end in both fictional and real friendships, let's all hope for life to truly imitate art.

This article was first published on November 5, 2015.
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