It wouldn’t be the most anticipated film series since the Twilight if mayhem didn’t ensue at the Los Angeles mall tour stop for The Hunger Games, which was held at the Westfield Century City Mall on Saturday. Fans lined up on a bridge across from the mall as early as 8 p.m. the night before, with the majority of the 1,000 fans let in staking their claim on the cold cement around 4 a.m. just to get a chance to meet, or get a glimpse of Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth.
“We got here at 4 a.m. and there were approximately 40 people already here. One person told us that they’ve been here since 8 p.m. last night,” 16-year-old fan Alexis Sunderland from Palmdale, Calif., said while waiting in line to have Lawrence (Katniss Everdeen), Hutcherson (Peeta Mellark), and Hemsworth (Gale Hawthorne) sign her poster outside of the Microsoft store. Only a lucky 100 fans nabbed the coveted wristbands for the meet-and-greet part of the event, while others were simply allowed to the outdoor stage where the cast Q&A would be held a little before 6 p.m.
“It was chaos,” added Sunderland, who stocked up on food and drinks to get ready for the long, cold line outside. “When I got there I was No. 49 in line, but ended up No. 64 because people were cutting and getting into arguments. It was very cold and people were upset to not make the top 100. Once everyone got [wristbands], it calmed down.”
One fan apparently even faked an injury to cut in line. “There was one girl cutting the line because she had a nose bleed,” said Candice Reel, 17, of Palmdale, Calif.
“I think she faked it. Who does that? That was the craziest thing I saw,” added Megan Brady, 16, of Ventura, Calif.
“It was a battle to keep my position in line,” said Christine Smith, 16, of Ventura, Calif., who nabbed wristband No. 58. “It’s worth it. They are the best books I’ve read and the movie is going to be phenomenal. I just love the actors. It’s better than Twilight.”
Event organizers took care of the crowd with hot chocolate for the cold morning hours and then with cold water and granola bars when the midday sun got up to about 80 degrees.
Girls were in tears upon exiting the Microsoft store where the three stars signed autographs. “I touched Liam!” screamed one wet-faced young girl as she clutched her freshly signed Hunger Games poster. The hype-man for the event, KIIS-FM DJ Manny on the Streets, even commented, “I have never seen so many people cry in my entire life.” The DJ helped the crowd keep their mind off the long wait by playing trivia with them and giving away Hunger Game merchandise, such as a fleece blanket, flip-flops, t-shirts, posters, backpacks, and even an HP laptop courtesy of Microsoft. The winner of the laptop, however, tried to trade in the pricey prize for a chance to meet the stars. It was a no-go.
After the meet-and-greet, fans gathered at the outdoor stage set up in the mall’s courtyard for the Q&A portion of the event. The crowd — some of whom came from as far away as Mexico, Utah, and Montana — consisted of lots of cool girls in black jeggings, shaggy-haired boys in black skinny jeans, and both sexes in braces with colored rubber bands. A few even had orange colored bands to match the movie’s poster. One dedicated fan-girl walked by covered in Mocking Jay pins.
Going by the homemade signs, Hutcherson, or maybe just his character Peeta Mellerk, is the clear fan favorite. Among the more creative signage were: “We Loaf Peeta,” “You Make My Heart Go Peeta-Patter,” and “I Want Some Peeta Bread.” The crowd even started chanting, “Peeta! Peeta! Peeta!” and the occasional squeal, “Take your shirt off, Josh!” was heard as well.
The cast took the stage to answer some silly fan questions, starting with: “If you were in the Hunger Games, what would you bring as a token?” Lawrence would bring her Leo necklace she was wearing. Hutcherson could barely get his answer out amidst the screaming girls in the crowd. His answer? A bone from his grandmother’s amazing fried chicken. The crowd was too loud to even hear Hemsworth’s reply.
No movie spoilers on this stage, but Hutcherson revealed that Lawrence gave him a concussion during filming because she kicked him in the head. “I kicked him in the head, but he put a mutilated dummy on my toilet,” she responded, referring to an on-set prank between the two.
“Jennifer keeps you on your toes at all times,” joked Hemsworth. “You never really know if she’s going to kick you in the head or do something unexpected.”
Of the fight scenes, Hutcherson said his character gets his leg hurt early on in the movie, but it was Lawrence who “became a total badass,” to which Lawrence responded, “I had three-hours of badass training a day.” And, though they love their respective characters, Lawrence answered that if she could be any other character in the movie, she would be “Wes Bentley’s beard.” (He portrays Head Gamemaker Seneca Crane.) But, on playing the lead role of Katniss, she added, “She is somebody that I admire. She’s a futuristic Joan of Arc. She’s a warrior for the people. There’s not really anything that I don’t like about this character.”
Though only 100 fans of the 1,000-plus gathered got to meet the cast and the Q&A only lasted 19 minutes, fans didn’t seem to mind. “It was definitely worth the wait,” Janna Johnson, 17, of La Canada, Calif., said. “The stars were all very nice and grateful for our praise, and it was a dream come true to meet Josh Hutcherson. He is just as charming in person, and even though we weren’t allowed to hug them he gave me a great handshake. He will be the perfect Peeta Mellark.”