'The Hunger Games': Woody Harrelson plays Haymitch with humor
When it comes to Suzanne Collins' "The Hunger Games," few characters are as darkly comic as Haymitch Abernathy, the jaded, seen-too-much type who once won the macabre "hunger games" competition and reluctantly guides Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark in their own bid for survival.
There are several ways to go with a wizened mentor: You could play washed-up for drama or for laughs. Woody Harrelson, who incarnates Abernathy in Gary Ross' upcoming film adaptation, said he pushed in the direction of laughs as often as possible.
"It was my objective to give the character as much comedy as I could without it seeming not to fit," Harrelson told 24 Frames. "I tried to take a certain comedic aspect and give a sense, through that, that he's been through a lot and is anesthetizing himself as a result of that."
Harrelson said that, even when he was playing Haymitch straight, he tried to put a more original twist on the character, particularly when it came to his look. "I didn't want it to feel like just because he's an alcoholic that he would look just like any bum on the street. So there are things that go against your expectation of what a washed-up guy would look like," he said, somewhat cryptically.
The film, which stars Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, Liam Hemsworth as her hunting partner/love interest Gale Hawthorne and Joshua Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark, her fellow competitor, is in post-production now. It's scheduled for a March 23 release. Some fans might worry that Collins' moody tone won’t survive the transfer to the screen, especially as the movie is repositioned as an all-ages crowd-pleaser. But Harrelson said that fans shouldn't fret.
"The essence of the book is going to be in the film," Harrelson said, adding, "It's something we've never seen before. We have the best wardrobe, the best costume people, the best makeup people. There's a level of commitment to innovation that [filmgoers] have never seen. I think they're going to be very pleasantly surprised by it."
— Steven Zeitchik
Photo: Jennifer Lawrence on the set of "The Hunger Games." Credit: Murray Close/Lionsgate.