BEVERLY HILLS — Gary Ross has not directed a lot of movies. True, he's got a pile of produced scripts on his résumé, and was Oscar-nominated for writing Big and Dave, but The Hunger Games, based on the Suzanne Collins novel about a dystopia in which young people are sacrificed in futuristic gladiatorial contests, is only the third film he's helmed (after Pleasantville and Seabiscuit). Still, not so shabby considering the fact that the film has been tracked to open bigger than Twilight. His Hollywood cohort, from producers to actors, aren't surprised that this relatively inexperienced director will showcase what may be one of the biggest franchises in Hollywood history. He learned a lot hanging around the sets of Big and Dave. And he has an affinity for actors, having trained as one with Stella Adler. But mostly, making big movie franchises is in his blood: his father, Arthur Ross, wrote the scripts for Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Creature Walks Among Us.
THE HUNGER GAMES IS THE HOTTEST PROPERTY IN HOLLYWOOD. HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED? I heard that they were making this movie, and my agent said, "Why don't you read the book?" My kids had read it, and I remembered them being engrossed in it. So I sat down at 10 o'clock one night and started to read, and by 1 o'clock I finished the book and said, I'm in. I was completely engaged in the narrative and [the heroine] Katniss, and the situation was so wonderfully different and off-kilter. And I knew instantly how I wanted to do it. I could immediately see the movie.
DID YOU KNOW THEN THAT IT HAD THIS HUGE APPEAL? WHY IS IT SUCH A SENSATION? The book has a lot on its mind. I thought it was interesting in terms of what it said about how we may devolve as a culture. About the excesses of this culture, about the one percent — how they've become grotesque in their indulgences, and how they were using modern media as an instrument of political control. Spectacle as an instrument of political control. You know that Roman line, "Give them bread and circuses." So this is their circus. But at the same time, you have this character story, which is this girl discovering and fighting to preserve her own humanity, and, "Even if I die I'm not gonna let them turn me into the beast that they want me to be." That act of simple defiance is the thing that sparks revolution. I think this is a really resonant and relevant and very timely story.
ARE YOU WORRIED THAT THE 30 MILLION PEOPLE WHO HAVE BOUGHT THE BOOKS ARE ALSO VISUALIZING THIS AS A MOVIE? That's a great point. There's 30 million movies out there. A lot of people say, "Oh my God, what are the fans gonna expect?" But what's nice is that you see all those images harmonizing into one now. People have been exposed to this material. Fans know who we've cast, they've seen the trailer, they know what it's gonna look like. So these things tend to coalesce.
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