By Adam B. Vary
Updated March 20, 2012 at 12:00 PM EDT
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The Hunger Games

  • Movie

Prior to 2011, Alexander Ludwig was best known as the somewhat skinny kid with supernatural abilities at the center of both the 2009 Dwayne Johnson family flick Race to Witch Mountain and the 2007 fantasy film The Seeker: The Dark is Rising.

But to take on the role of the ruthless Cato — the deadliest tribute and rival to Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) in The Hunger Games — Ludwig says he put on roughly to 30 to 40 pounds, filling out the now 19-year-old Canadian actor into quite the imposing presence. In person, though, he still exudes a youthful squirminess, an inability to sit still for more than a few seconds, that renders his outsize bulk more sweet than scary. Check out our interview below:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When did you first know that there was an opportunity to be a part of this movie?

ALEXANDER LUDWIG: I heard about the film a lot earlier than most. I had a meeting with one of the studio execs. I had a dinner with them at the Beverly Hills Hotel, I think, maybe a year before they were going to make it. And she told me about the books and that they were thinking about doing a movie. I read the book and immediately fell in love with it. I just dedicated my summer to just physically and mentally getting into the role.

Did you know you’d be playing Cato right away?

Originally, it was between me, Josh, and another guy for Peeta. And then when Gary called me and asked me would I like to play the role of Cato, I just jumped on the opportunity. Because I’ve never really played a bad guy, and I just thought it would be really, really fun, to just dive into the whole twisted psychotic-ness of it.

How much training time did you have between when you officially got the role and then started shooting?

About two weeks. But I had been training a lot before.

Just on your own?


What did you do?

Definitely I wanted Cato to have as much of a physical presence as he did a mental one on the screen. So I had to put on something around 30 to 40 pounds for the role. I’m still working really hard to get back to normal. It’s so much easier just to eat and workout than not eat and workout like crazy. It’s definitely tough, but it’s at least what I thought the character demanded, so I thought it was important.

Did you have a sense of how big this film was going to be?

Definitely not when I first heard about it. I think when it really hit me was when I came back to Vancouver for Thanksgiving, and there was press and fans outside the airport. That was the first thing. You expect that in L.A., but not really at home. That kind of smacked me in the face, like, God, this thing’s real. Which I’m excited about!

NEXT: Ludwig on tough workouts and what’s next for him

Cato is part of a foursome of “Career” Tributes that are especially chummy. How did all the tributes get to know each other and build that camaraderie?

I’m really happy you picked up on that, because that’s something we really wanted to come across. We thought that added to the sick and twisted-ness of it all, that they’re actually enjoying this. “This is fun!” And the reason that it is sick and twisted but at the same time you can understand, is that, that’s all they know. The careers were brought up to do this. Whereas everyone else is just kind of thrown into this so they know what they’re coming up against.

The camaraderie was something that just came naturally. You’re thrown into the middle of North Carolina, and you’re kind of in this bubble. And you’re spending almost every day with everybody.

It’s almost like camp.

Yeah, exactly! It’s like camp, but in nicer hotels. We did a lot of group workouts to build up that kind of camaraderie as well.

What kind of workouts?

Army workouts. We’d go to this warehouse where the studio was. We’d come in our gym clothes and have to flip tires and climb ropes and do these crazy workouts together and have races. Everyone knew each other pretty well.

You’d just turned 19 before shooting began, so you’re pretty close to Cato’s actual age. What do you make of all this, of taking the idea of a reality TV show and pushing it to this extreme of kids killing kids?

It’s definitely not something you see every day, and that’s definitely shocking. But it is not by any means this bloodbath. It really is about connection between characters and a really touching story. Of course there’s violence in it; there has to be. But I think the way it was translated was very much less about the violent parts, and more about the humanity [of the characters] and the indecency of this totalitarian government.

So what’s next for you?

I’m releasing a single. It’s called “Live it Up.” It was based on my Euro trip. I only write my own music. I don’t let other people write it at all. So I’ve been working on that a lot. There’s three singles coming out. The producer of The Fray who did their double-platinum album How to Save a Life, I’m working with him, he’s producing me. Then I want to go back to work and start acting again.

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Read more:

How ‘Hunger Games’ Wes Bentley brought himself back from the brink

‘Hunger Games’: 11-year-old Willow Shields talks playing Prim (and looking forward to her first midnight movie)

How ‘Hunger Games’ star Elizabeth Banks brought Effie Trinket to life. (Katharine Hepburn helped.)

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The Hunger Games

  • Movie
  • PG-13