Happy Hunger Games: May You Find These 25 Franchise Secrets to Be Ever In Your Favor

Jennifer Lawrence turns 31 on August 15 and we're celebrating her birthday by revealing which co-star she kissed off-screen, who almost landed the role of Katniss and more.

By Tierney Bricker Aug 15, 2021 7:00 AMTags
Watch: Happy Birthday Jennifer Lawrence!: Live From E! Rewind

This girl is on fire. 

That girl, of course, being Jennifer Lawrence, who turns 31 on August 15. And, we're celebrating the milestone by looking back at one of her most iconic roles: Katniss Everdeen.

Lawrence landed one of the most sought-after roles in Hollywood when she was cast as the lead in The Hunger Games, the 2012 film adaptation of Suzanne Collins' best-selling novel. And from that point on, J-Law became one of the most beloved, buzzed-about and bankable celebrities, with the four films in the franchise collectively grossing almost $2 billion worldwide. We guess you could say the odds were definitely in her favor.

But did you know three other actresses made it to the final round of casting? Or that Lawrence once admitted to making out with one of her Hunger Games leading men off-screen? Let the Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) vs. Gale (Liam Hemsworth) battle ignite all over again.

Jennifer Lawrence Through the Years

In honor of Lawrence's birthday, we're revealing 25 fun facts about The Hunger Games franchise...

1. After becoming "completely obsessed" with the series when she read the books, producer Nina Jacobson engaged in "a dogged pursuit" of Suzanne Collins in order to secure the rights in 2009, she later told The Hollywood Reporter.

Because she didn't have a studio deal at the time, Jacobson explained to the outlet, "I became attached to it with a handshake, and then we took it out to the town together." Lionsgate ultimately volunteered as the distributor. 

2. In 2010, the script made The Black List, an annual round-up of the most notable un-produced screenplays in Hollywood. 

3. The Hunger Games broke Fandango.com's record for sales on the first day a film's tickets become available back in 2012, surpassing The Twilight Saga: Eclipse's previous number and accounting for 83 percent of the site's sales that day. 

4. Before the ultimate tribute for Katniss was selected, the final decision came down to several actresses: Jennifer Lawrence, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, and Emily Browning.

5. Other stars who later revealed they had auditioned for the sought-after role included Lily Collins, Shailene Woodley, Chloe Moretz, Emma Roberts and Brie Larson.

6. Because she was a natural blonde, Lawrence dyed her hair for the role, with the film's color experts going through an intense process to find the perfect shade.

 "I rented $30,000 of hair of all different shades of brown, from light brown to brown with a little bit of red in it," head hair designer Linda Flowers told BellaSugar. "It made Jennifer comfortable that we weren't going to experiment with her color."

7. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, author Suzanne Collins expressed how taken she was with Josh Hutcherson as Peeta, Katniss' sweet co-Tribute. "If Josh had been bright purple and had six foot wings and gave that audition, I'd have been like 'Cast him! We can work around the wings!'" she said. "He was that good."

8. Alexander Ludwig tested opposite Lawrence to play Peeta, and while he didn't land the part, he impressed producers enough to win the role of Cato, the antagonistic District 2 Tribute.

9. The other actors brought in to screen test with the female lead before Hutcherson was chosen included Hunter Parrish, Lucas Till, and Evan Peters.

10. Prior to landing the part of Katniss' longtime best friend Gale, Liam Hemsworth was best known for starring opposite his then-girlfriend Miley Cyrus in The Last Song, and was up for the lead role in Marvel's Thor, ultimately losing out to his older brother Chris Hemsworth.

"Casting Hunger Games was like fitting pieces of an epic puzzle together and Liam as Gale was one of those perfectly matching pieces," producer Jon Kilik told Emmanuel Levy of the casting decision. "He's got such a strong physical presence, and a kind of natural heroic quality, that really embodies who Gale is in the book."

11. The other actors that auditioned with Lawrence to play Gale included David Henrie, Robbie Amell, and Drew Roy.

12. During her 2015 appearance on Watch What Happens Live, J-Law admitted she had kissed one of her leading man when cameras weren't rolling.

"It has recently been rumored that you and Liam Hemsworth had some PDA At the Waverly inn. Have you two ever kissed when the cameras weren't rolling?," Andy Cohen asked Lawrence while playing Plead the Fifth. Her response: "Liam and I grew up together. Liam's real hot. What would you have done? Yeah, I have. Then when Cohen said he'd pick Gale over Peeta any day, Jennifer responded, "I did, at one point."

13. After his split from Cyrus, Hemsworth revealed Lawrence helped him during the difficult time.

"Being around someone like Jen, who is so honest and laughs all day long, I am forced to be in the right now," the Aussie actor told Cosmopolitan in 2014. "I'm much happier…I'm more comfortable in my own skin than I've ever been."

14. In Catching Fire, the styling team used more than 350 wigs and required 40 hairstylists and 20 interns to get everyone ready for filming, per Cosmopolitan. Meanwhile, the costume department had to outfit over 500 extras for the scenes in the Capitol. 

15. While filming the sequel, Lawrence got a terrible ear infection, with Linda Flowers telling Cosmo, "It's hard to avoid that kind of thing when the weather is cold and you're in the water for the majority of the day."

16. For Effie Trinkett, Elizabeth Banks' over-the-top and colorful escort, costume designer Trish Summerville revealed to Vanity Fair that one designer proved most appropriate.

"McQueen was so generous with the pieces that they let us borrow," she said. "We mainly used them on Effie, because it was very fitting for her. The silhouettes and the shapes worked really well for her character.

17. Effie's infamous "That is mahogany!" line in Catching Fire was improvised by Banks. As was the kiss between Effie and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) in Mockingjay—Part 2, which was not in the book or the script. 

"We planned that moment. Woody and I went into that moment, that wasn't written, we improv'd that," Banks told The Huffington Post. "We decided to do it, and the director was like, 'I love it. Let's try it again.'"

18. Given her elaborate costumes, Banks required assistance to go to the bathroom. "The biggest problem was I couldn't go to the bathroom. I had like, ladies in waiting," she revealed on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in 2012. "They would hand me the toilet paper, they would have to unzip."

19. Aside from the main trio, the most coveted role in the franchise was arguably Finnick Odair, with many high-profile actors in the running for the Catching Fire role. Before Sam Claflin ultimately nabbed it, Garrett Hedlund, Armie Hammer and Taylor Kitsch were reportedly in the mix

20. At one point, reports surfaced that Robert Pattinson was in talks to play Finnick, though he later shot down the rumors in the most Robert Pattinson way.

"I woke up this morning and saw all these things about me being cast in The Hunger Games. I was kind of curious for a second," he told USA Today. "So I called my agent. My agent was like, 'No...no one's going to offer you that part.'"

21. Given his physical description in the books—muscular, athletic and handsome—Claflin underwent four months of training to play Finnick.

"From the moment I set foot in Atlanta, they had me at the gym, working out twice a day," he told Teen Vogue. "As for my diet, I think I've eaten more chickens than there are in the world. [Laughs] I would eat chicken and asparagus for lunch and dinner, and for breakfast I'd have an omelet and oatmeal. And I had that every day for four months."

22. While he was initially attached to direct the sequel, Gary Ross exited the franchise in April 2012, citing the compact schedule as a deciding factor.

"As a writer and a director, I simply don't have the time I need to write and prep the movie I would have wanted to make because of the fixed and tight production schedule," he said in a statement. Francis Lawrence would be hired to direct the rest of the films.

23. Lawrence's real nephews had small but pivotal roles in the final film's epilogue.

"They played my children in the scene that we shot so it was an amazing closure to this character that I've loved for so many years to have my family there, my blood family, I got to say good-bye to both," the star told Vanity Fair

24. Lawrence earned a spot on the Billboard Hot 100 with her performance of "The Hanging Tree" in Mockingjay—Part 1.

25. Taylor Swift co-wrote two songs, "Safe & Sound" and "Eyes Open," for the films, and the superstar told Rolling Stone, "It's pretty intense writing about my own life, my own struggles. It was almost like a vacation to get to write from someone else's perspective."

This story was originally published on Saturday, August 15, 2020 at 3 a.m. PT.

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