‘Hunger Games’: Woody Harrelson on Haymitch and film’s ‘mind-blowing’ sets

Jan. 10, 2012 | 10:47 a.m.
woody harrelson Hunger Games: Woody Harrelson on Haymitch and films mind blowing sets

Woody Harrelson at AFI Fest in Los Angeles (Christopher Polk/Getty Images)

Ask a fan of “The Hunger Games” to describe the character of Haymitch and they usually start with the words “alcoholic” or “drunk.” That actually presented a challenge to Woody Harrelson, who said he didn’t want to slip into “Barfly” cliches with his portrayal of Haymitch Abernathy in the upcoming Hollywood adaptation of the Suzanne Collins sci-fi novel.

“He’s got a drinking problem and he’s got some issues and he’s damaged, but I didn’t want to do it totally like your typical version of an alcoholic in a movie,” Harrelson said Monday. “So I tried to keep him a little put-together. I dressed him up from what you would expect, too. That was one of my things I wanted — to make him, particularly in the Capitol, a bit of a snazzy dresser — or at least a dresser with his own style.”

In the grim future world of “The Hunger Games,” Haymitch is the sour and besotted mentor to Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), two young people who must fight to the death in a televised, government-sponsored tournament  of blood. Haymitch is a former champion in the contest but, in the years since his victory, his demons have chased him into the bottom of a bottle.

hunger games Hunger Games: Woody Harrelson on Haymitch and films mind blowing sets

Lenny Kravitz portrays Cinna, Woody Harrelson portrays Haymitch Abernathy and Josh Hutcherson portrays Peeta Mellark in a scene from "The Hunger Games." (Lionsgate)

Cynical and slippery, the character is a fan-favorite among readers but those fans will see a slightly different Haymitch on the silver screen when the Gary Ross-directed adaptation arrives in theaters on March 23.

In the books, for instance, Haymitch is described as a paunchy, gone-to-seed middle-aged man with short, dark, curly hair, but Harrelson’s version looks more like Kurt Cobain’s  fashion-conscious uncle. For the 50-year-old Harrelson, meanwhile, the Haymitch character might deliver a career-first; despite this era of ubiquitous sequels, the actor has never played the same character in two films. That will change if all goes as Lionsgate hopes and a four-film franchise can be made out of the three “Hunger Games” novels.

Harrelson said there’s plenty on the page for the films to mine.

“It’s good writing and it just keeps you on the edge,” Harrelson said. “And making [the movie] was a fun experience with just really cool people. I was really impressed by everybody that was associated with it. The look of everything is amazing too. The wardrobe is incredible and the makeup, the [stuff] they came up with is mind-blowing. The imagination behind the hair and the makeup and set decoration, it was just really impressive. It’s the work of brilliant people.”

Harrelson lives in Hawaii but was back in Los Angeles on Monday to do publicity for his new film “Rampart” and also a bit of ADR work for “The Hunger Games.”

“I only saw one scene — that’s all they had me in to do, just loop [the sound for] one scene — and that scene looked great,” Harrelson said. “I don’t know how the whole movie is going to turn out but it’s Gary Ross so I’m sure it’s going to turn out great.”

— Geoff Boucher


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30 Responses to ‘Hunger Games’: Woody Harrelson on Haymitch and film’s ‘mind-blowing’ sets

  1. annamorphos says:

    I really want to see the midnight showing of The Hunger Games, but I'm worried it'll be like the Twilight midnight showings with people screaming through the entire thing. I know the books are different, and the fan bases are different, but I can't help it. I don't want to pay $10+ for a movie ticket just to hear people scream "Team Peeta" or some b.s. like that.

    • Guest says:

      Your best bet is an Arclight Theater (which costs more) where ushers are actually making sure that people are not out of control.

    • Annabeth says:

      I get your concern, and I have never been to a Twilight midnight premier, but I can imagine what they would be like, but I have been to a Harry Potter midnight premier, and it was a really awesome experience, people were pretty crazy during the previews but when the movie came on, everyone shut up and watched and laughed when funny and what not. I hope that Hunger Games Fans are more like that, there for the movie, not just because they think one of the characters is hot.

  2. Suua P. says:

    I can't wait, The movie is gonna be a blast! I'm a real fan of The Hunger Games and a real fan of Katniss Everdeen!

  3. aaronbab says:

    No. He only ADR'd one scene. He is in more than that but they didnt have audio issues in those areas most likely.

  4. Sarah says:

    Wait! He's only in one scene?!!!!! No! He is my FAVORITE character!!!

  5. Kmb says:

    To be honest, he’s what I’m most worried about in this movie. I’m still not sold on him as Haymitch, and his strange haircut and nonchalant attitude aren’t doing much to quell my fears (pun intended haha). Hopefully, he’ll prove me wrong.

    • JimBo says:

      Can't believe they gave him the part. Fans really should be rebelling.

      The perfect person for Haymitch is Ray Winstone.

      He's the kinda actor that could maybe even wring an Oscar from a part like this.

    • Michelle says:

      He was awesome as Haymitch. Loved the humor that he threw in. I don't think anyone else would have been better at playing this part.

  6. guest says:

    so wicked excited! bought the book for my daughter-she told me to read it, read all three in 5 days and immediately started at the begining again. best books i ever read> not sure how theyre gonna make 4 movies though, 2 from mockingjay? first one might be a little dull?

  7. mmogamesite says:

    I cannot wait, when will be coming out? I am a big fan of The Hunger Games …

  8. mmmm says:

    chronic alcoholics don't wear ties. especially not in 2012

    • Lesley says:

      You're right. This is the one anomaly. Everything else in the Hunger Games, especially fashion, is in perfect synchronization with the real America in 2012. But that tie, that's going to confuse everyone.

    • Natalie Walsh says:

      But The Hunger Games isn't set in 2012 America, it's set in Panem, which is geographically America, but culture wise and society wise, it's totally different. Also it'snot set in 2012, it's set some point in the undetermined future. But I agree that Haymitch wouldn't wear a tie unless forced by Effie.

  9. GubGib says:

    I'm personally in love with Haymitch, I mean, despite the fact He's kinda an alcoholic He's the perfect man. I can't wait for the movie!

  10. YodaTheMetalJedi says:

    Four films out of three books? I know that happened with Harry Potter and Twilight because the final books were so long, but Mockingjay isn't any longer than the other two. There's no way they can get two films out of Mockingjay–there isn't enough plot to justify two movies. It's perfectly formatted as a trilogy.

  11. BenderRodriguez says:

    I dig his Kato Kaelin wig.

  12. Anon says:

    Never played the same character in two films? Um…Tennessee from Zombieland 1+2 ? The second one should be in the can before THG's sequel even finishes principal photography.

  13. domcosfromoz says:

    When I first learned Woody Harrelson was playing Haymitch I was very anti the idea but decided to give him the benefit of the doubt but after reading this interview I think that's way more then he deserves. I've got no respect at all for the idea of Haymitch as a 'snazzy dresser' – it's just so un-Haymitch. I agree that Haymitch shouldn't just be played as a stereotypical drunk as he is so much more than that. But having got that part right how can he be so wrong on the appearance thing. The fact that Haymitch doesn't care how he looks, doesn't care about Capital mores and doesn't care how the world perceives him is highly indicative of his real character and, in its own way, significant to the story as a whole. Woody either hasn't read the books, didn't really get the character, or just doesn't care. Man, the hair is bad enough but teaming it with 'snazzy' clothes is an insult to the fans and given that we're the reason a movie is even being made that's just plain rude.

  14. loveHughJ says:

    Not sure I like the LOOK of Haymitch, but I like Woody Harrelson as the actor. guess we'll see how it goes. really excited for Cinna though, I think he's going to be amazing. read the book 6 times, so my expectations are pretty high

  15. 1dancelover says:

    I’m literally the biggest fan ever!!! I have read the books soooo many times it’s not even funny. Okay so Harrelson isn’t that bad c’mon guys let’s give him a chance. Now none of us have seen the movies so we can’t judge YET. If they mess up the movie I will admit I will be a bit disappointed. I remember reading it last year and telling my friend they should totally make a movie out of this and they are! I’m REALLY excited my mom is telling me to calm down lol. But let’s cheer for the hunger games!!! :D

  16. freshmeat says:

    I have been looking for midnight tickets….anyone know where/ when i can get them?

  17. Amy says:

    Um, has Woody Harrelson been in any really, really good movies? He was in a ton of flops in the '80s..there are much better choices out there. He must have a REALLY good agent.

  18. mehrsa says:

    i like the book the hunger games i read the book and i saw the movie

  19. hyenne says:

    I think that they are not dressing Hamitch right and that he is much more than an alcoholic.

  20. Bedora says:

    The idea that Haymitch could and/or would pay attention to how he dressed undermines the whole premise of the books: the hunger games are sick and everyone who participate is damaged if not ruined by them. We meet Haymitch as ruined man committing suicide by alcohol. He gets pulled together (a little) by the realization that this pair of children might have a chance to survive. The man has no vanity; he is determinedly not taking care of himself. Harrelson has missed the subtlties and it makes me worry about the film–if they pretty it up enough, the viewers will become just like the sicko bloodthirsty voyeurs of the Capitol.

  21. Emily :) says:

    I don't know why people get really,really crazy about a movie. Yeah, the Hunger Games is the best ever but still, people calm down and stop making everyone so irretated at you keep it to your self! Geez!!!

  22. D. Rowe says:

    Haymitch – he was perfect. He got it that he needed to clean up his act in order to get SPONSORS for his potential winners. He came to admire both his tributes and realized they had a chance. I thought Woody Harrelson was very good! Loved the entire movie – the concept of the sheeple in the city – oblvious, or pretending to be – to the suffering elsewhere, the absolute sick evil at the top, that part was as compelling as the love triangle and courage of Katniss. Really looking forward to the sequel! Well, done, enjoyed every minute!

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