By Lanford Beard
Updated March 13, 2012 at 04:01 PM EDT
Eric Charbonneau/Getty Images
  • Movie

Other than the atypical black carpet, last night’s Hunger Games film premiere at L.A.’s Nokia Theatre was a very by-the-book affair. No, it wasn’t boring. With Oscar nominees Jennifer Lawrence, Stanley Tucci, and Woody Harrelson, rising stars Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth, plus the sparkling Elizabeth Banks and Wes Bentley walking the sleek carpet — not to mention hordes of screaming, sign-wielding fans — the premiere was an extraordinary, this-is-really-real moment. It was also a chance to pay homage to author Suzanne Collins, whose thrilling mix of action and emotion elevated a young adult novel to a global phenomenon.

Banks, who plays ultra-perky escort Effie Trinket, summed it up best: “For me, the biggest star here is Suzanne Collins who wrote the books. She is the creator of this entire universe and the reason for all this pandemonium. I’m totally going to geek out around her and I’m excited for her to be feeling all of this.” What else did the stars have to say about Panem, and which character is Hemworth’s surprise favorite? Find out below.

“You can just feel the passion of the fans. It is tangible,” noted Wes Bentley, a.k.a. Head Gamemaker Seneca Crane. “I’m a fan of the books, too, so I know [the fans are] not just here to see some pretty faces. They’re here because they were moved by the book and want to be moved by the movie too.”

Director Gary Ross said he “was drawn in immediately” by the young adult trilogy and “had a huge emotional response to the [series] the minute I read it. I was knocked out by it. I was dying to make it. I knew there was so much potential to be a great film adaptation.”

British import Toby Jones, who has another huge fantasy franchise under his belt (ahem, Harry Potter), plays Games‘ announcer Claudius Templesmith. “I realized it was going to be huge when I told my daughter, ‘I think you’ll enjoy these,’ and I gave her the books,” he explained. “She ate all three books in four days. She literally just ate them. Clearly this writer is tapped in to the minds and hearts of young readers. But I enjoyed it as well so I thought, ‘This isn’t just for kids’ — in the [same] way that I know many adults loved Harry Potter.”

“This is not my first rodeo,” said Tucci. “I have been to many premieres. It’s not just a film premiere. It is a phenomenon and that’s what makes this feel very different. But the thing is, it is also a great movie and I’m excited for people to stop talking about it and speculating and finally get to see it.”

(Reporting by Carrie Bell)

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The Hunger Games

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  • PG-13
  • Gary Ross