'Hunger Games': Bringing Effie Trinket to life
Hunger Games super fans, you've met your match. Elizabeth Banks, who plays bubbly Capitol minion Effie Trinket, the woman charged with shepherding Katniss and Peeta from District 12 into the Games, can meet your passion head-on. "I was a really early adopter of The Hunger Games," she tells EW of her long-term love affair with Suzanne Collins' best-selling YA trilogy. "I'd read a book called The Maze Runner that's similarly themed and I loved it. And this friend in publishing said 'Well then you'll probably really love The Hunger Games.' Which I devoured. Then immediately had to read Catching Fire, and then I was on the wait list on Amazon for Mockingjay."
It was Banks who first reached out through a mutual friend to director Gary Ross, whom she'd worked with on Seabiscuit. "I love Effie Trinket," she said. "So tell Gary that if he's talking to Lionsgate about the movie that I want to do it.'" When Ross invited her to his office to talk about the role, she came prepared with a fully fleshed-out vision for Effie. "I always saw her as a very three-dimensional, very unique character," she said. "Even in the book she can be written off as sort of comic relief.""But what I love about Effie," Banks continues, "is she's this great representative of the Capitol and all the Capitol stands for. She drank the Kool-Aid. So essentially she's a villain — a really fun villain, but a villain nonetheless. The challenges for me were how to make her theatrical and larger than life but also fit into the tone of this movie, which is very serious. How do we make decisions where she can be overly effusive and positive about everything but at the same time be telegraphing to you that this is a horrible thing that's happening? She's not unknowing. Once Gary knew that I wasn't going to come in and do a funny voice and make jokes, that I took this world as seriously as a fan should, frankly, then he was like 'Okay, well I'd love for you to do it.'"
Ah, the voice! It positively trills and clangs in Collins' pages, like a creepy pop song being played as the Titanic goes down. "The voice took a long time for me," says Banks. "Suzanne Collins talks about the Capitol accent the whole time and I just wanted to make sure I honored that without doing something too silly. And I'm really happy with where we ended up. I sent Gary a lot of recorded samples of myself — everything from super British to super Southern to impressions of Christine Baranski. Ultimately I looked at movies from the '30s and '40s and theatricality was at its height in the movies of the '30s and '40s. I looked to the Philadelphia Story, Katharine Hepburn, and Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame."
Next came crafting Effie's thoroughly unique appearance. "There was two days in the trailer of putting the look together," describes Banks. "The hair's pink. Is it dark pink, light pink? What's the shape of it, what's the texture? What's the shape of her generally: Is she big, is she small? Super white skin and then not white skin, a lot of color, no color. And the jumping off point was Joel Grey in Cabaret. And what that meant to us partially is that you feel like Effie's striving for her ideal, her vision of perfection, but she's missing it."
As these last few days of wait tick by before the March 23 premiere, Banks assures fans that they'll be pleased by everyone's sincere attempts to do Collins' world justice. "It's everything that the books are," she says of the film. "It's the essence of the book and that's the best you can do."