Gary Ross said he cast you because he was so impressed by your work in "Precious," which was your first acting role. Besides my huge cameo in "Zoolander," yeah. (Laughs)
That must have been really flattering. Super. Super.
How did he sell you on the part? Basically, he called me and said, "I saw you in 'Precious.'" I'm in the Bahamas making a new album and the thing is, I didn't know what "Hunger Games" was. So I was like, "Wow, you're offering me this movie and I have no idea what you're talking about." So I downloaded the book, because there are no bookstores where I live -- I'm on a small island with a town of about 400 people -- and read the book. The story just captured me. I had been working all day and night in the studio and I go to bed kind of early there -- because I kind of start going with nature, walking up really early because it's in the middle of nowhere. I was really tired, but each chapter, I was like, "Shit! I can't put this thing down!" And so I called him back the next day and I said, "I'll be there. I'd love to make this film."
How much of a say did you have in creating Cinna's look? He's so much less flamboyant than anyone else in the Capitol. Which I thought was so cool, because you would assume he would be, being a stylist. First thing I said to Gary when I showed up to the set, I said, "How far do you want to take this?" And we both talked about it and I said that I'd been thinking about Tom Ford and Yves Saint Laurent, guys who are clearly genius designers, and who make very colorful, beautiful clothing, but they're more pulled together, they're more classic and simple. As opposed to being a John Galliano, say. It was a good contrast to Elizabeth [Banks]'s character and the other people in the Capitol. Wes [Bentley] has this beard and Stanley Tucci's over the top. And then Cinna's kind of a little more laidback. I thought it was a good choice.
You weren't jealous of Wes's crazy beard? I was jealous. Everybody was, like, so funky. But dressing down, for me, is like dressing up. It was like, "Wow, this is different."
The flames Cinna designs for Katniss are pretty rock 'n roll. That was great. I had no idea what that was going to look like. We were on set and I'm lighting these things that aren't lighting. And I was like, "How are you going to make the fire?" And Gary said, "Don't worry. We got it, it's going to be great." And I thought it was done really well.
Your daughter Zoe became good friends with Jennifer Lawrence while making "X-Men: First Class." Is that one of the reasons you wanted to do the film? I didn't know she was in it until I said yes. So I said yes and then I said to Gary, "By the way, who else is in the movie?" And he told me that Katniss is Jennifer Lawrence. And I said, "Jennifer Lawrence? She was just at my house cooking bacon and eggs two months ago." Gary said, "Really?" And I said, "Yeah, she's friends with my daughter. She comes over, she's like family." And that he liked, because he knew that we had this bond already. So that just added to the scenario.
Cinna's a little bit of a revolutionary. Yeah. You can tell, he's there in the Capitol and he's doing his job, and he's part of the system, but you can tell when things jump off, he's going to be there. He's just trying to keep everything cool, but he can't say too much or get too involved emotionally, because every year he sees these kids come and go. But the first thing Cinna says to Katniss is "that's the bravest thing I've ever seen." He was just taken by her. She's from District 12. Whack. Poor. Weak. She's not supposed to win and he sees something within her. And he's trying to help build her and also create the best costumes that he can so that people will like her and she'll get sponsors. It's because people like you, they're impressed with you -- "Oh, she's got great costumes." "She's so spunky." And he's trying to tell her, "This isn't superficial. You've got to make people like you. Don't think that that's not important."
How would Cinna do in the Games? I think he would take a lot of the same strategy Katniss took. Run the other way. Collect your game. Collect your strategy.
What do you think the message of the book is? There's so many things. Yes, it's supposed to be the future, but you look at the whole reality television thing, violence, oppressive governments. We're seeing people start to rise up and take it into their own hands and iReport everything. You've got the 99 percent versus the 1 percent, and you've got the Districts versus the Capitol, so it's really right now. We just don't have a show yet where people kill each other. Thank God, right? And hope we never go that way. It already happened thousands of years ago and how are we going to keep quenching the thirst of this desire to see all this reality? We can go on YouTube now and see people being executed. How many years before it becomes entertainment? Hopefully never.
Do you watch any reality TV yourself? I don't really watch TV, I watch films, but sometimes when I'm on the tour bus, after a show I'm amped up, so I'll get back in my bedroom on the bus and I'll channel surf, just to bring my brain back to a neutral position. And sometimes I'll stop and say, "What the ...? Really?" And it captures me, but not because I want to see it, but because I can't believe this is fucking on television. Like, there's a show for this? They have a show for everything. Last night I was channel surfing and there was a show on jail and inmates and showing how they do things, like one guy was making liquor. And they let him make it, as long as it would be destroyed after all. Pawn Shops. There's a show about pawn shops! It's just amazing.