The Hunger Games - Josh Hutcherson
Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) ©2012 Lionsgate

Josh Hutcherson began working as an actor when he was nine years old, and has appeared in such movies as Zathura, Bridge to Terabithia, Little Manhattan and The Kids are All Right.

In his new movie The Hunger Games, based on Suzanne Collins’ popular novel, he portrays Peeta Mellark, who has been chosen from his district to fight in a televised competition between 24 adolescents, where only one will survive.

How familiar were you with the books?

The Hunger Games - Josh Hutcherson
Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) ©2012 Lionsgate

I actually read the books when I heard about making the movies. That’s when it first became of note to me.

I fell in love with the books right away. I read the whole series in about a week, so I was more or less hooked on them like everybody else. It’s an amazing story.

Did you meet and talk with Suzanne Collins?

Yeah, she was at my first audition, which was a bit of shocker to say the least.

To walk in the room and see her sitting there, it was like, ‘Oh, that’s awesome, here’s the character that you wrote and love. Hope you like it.’

It was great having her involved on a lot of levels. For me it was great for the fans to know that she didn’t just hand it off, she was actually a part of it throughout.

When you read the physical description of your character, how daunting was it to be up for the role?

The Hunger Games - Lenny Kravitz, Woody Harrelson and Josh Hutcherson
Cinna (Lenny Kravitz), Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) ©2012 Lionsgate

I had to put about 15 pounds of muscle for the role, so that was slightly daunting. I had about a month to do it, but we did it nevertheless.

I think anytime you take on a character that’s different than who you are it’s a bit daunting, but at the same time as an actor it’s kind of your job to transform and become different characters. So there was a challenge for me but one that I was excited to take on.

Did you go into this with any trepidation knowing people already have an image of what your character should be like?

The Hunger Games - Poster; Josh Hutcherson
Character poster; Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) ©2012 Lionsgate

The reason why Gary (Ross) is the one who directed this movie, the reason why Lionsgate is doing this movie is because they had the vision that Suzanne believed in the most, and having Suzanne involved in the whole process gave me a sense of calm with the fans.

Them knowing that the writer of the books was actually a producer and writer on the script helped a lot.

But you can’t please everybody. I’m just doing the best version of the character that I think possible.

How would you fare if you were in the Hunger Games?

I’d do okay. I love hiking and camping in the wilderness, I’m very comfortable in that sense.

I think to me when it came down to the face to face conflict with another person, that’s where it would be a bit tough, just because I don’t know if I’ve got the ability take someone else’s life. That would be the big challenge.

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.