They sat down wth Josh Hutcherson, the 18-year-old actor whom director Gary Ross fought hard to cast as the deeply decent Peeta Mellark, at a cozy diner in Asheville, N.C., where The Hunger Games shoot was mid-way through filming. His hair was dyed blonde; his newly pumped-up biceps could believably belong to that of a baker’s son. And while Hutcherson understands fans’ hand-wringing online, he’s here to assure you that Lawrence will not in fact tower over him on screen. “Jennifer’s not two feet taller than me!” he says with his easy laugh. “If anything, maybe she’s a half inch taller.” And Ross assures devotees of the books that 21-year-old Liam Hemsworth, who’ll play Katniss’ righteous childhood confidante Gale, is more than just some Australian hottie who starred in Miley Cyrus’ last movie. “On first glance he’s such a hunk that it’s easy to just sort of ascribe a hunk-like simplicity to him,” says the director. “But this is a phenomenally subtle actor.”
Although Peeta and Gale circle each other warily throughout the series, it turns out that Hutcherson and Hemsworth bonded hard during their six weeks together on set. So much so that Hutcherson brought Hemsworth along on a weekend visit to his hometown in Kentucky to relax with his family and sample his grandmother’s famous fried chicken. “I think it’s going to blow people’s minds when they see that Peeta and Gale are actually best friends in real life,” says Hutcherson.
So, what do you think of Liam Hemsworth as Gale and Josh Hutcherson as Peeta? Please tell me in the comments.
For more on The Hunger Games, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands July 29. http://popwatch.ew.com/2011/07/27/hunger-games-first-look-peeta-gale-exclusive/