The cultural frenzy over Hunger Games, opening on Friday, is hitting new heights.
Hunger Games star Elizabeth Banks -- fresh off the film's European press tour -- was the special guest at last night’s Slate.com Culture Gabfest, a podcast now up on the site. The March 20 event was presented in partnership with Zocalo Public Square and held at the Petersen Car Museum on Wilshire Blvd.
After lively discussions between three dazzlingly smart, facile and amusing Slate editors (Julia Turner, Dana Stevens, Stephen Metcalf) about the controversy over Mike Daisey's Apple computer expose on NPR, proven to be filled with lies, and the merits of the manic pixie girlfriend feminine archetype symbolized by Zoey Deschanel on The New Girl, Banks was brought onstage to answer questions about her hotly anticipated new Lionsgate film.
Banks, who plays the eccentric Effie Trinket in Games, talked about her deep love for the novel by Suzanne Collins, that follows Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), a 16-year-old girl living in a dystopian futuristic North America called Panem.
Turns out she and her husband’s (Max Handelman) production company (Brownstone Productions) had been eyeing a book called Maze Runner, which is also about adolescents in a dystopian future world with young people forced to compete for their lives, with a underlying critique of reality TV shows. But she considers Games to be superior in terms of the writing and the pace.
About her character: "She’s the villain and she’s a PR maven. She definitely drank the Kool-Aid. Her job is to lead young people to their death but she has a great outlook about it.”
On Effie's look: "The director talked about Joel Grey in Cabaret.” And she also mentioned the 15th century influences of Marie Antoinette’s hair (albeit pink) mixed with Japanese Kabuki masks.
On the challenges of being a scrutinized Hollywood actress: “I always shave my legs before leaving the house. And that’s why I’m wearing leather pants tonight. I don’t want to read about this on the Internet.”
One of Banks’ favorite characters in the book was left out of the movie: the District 12 mayor's daughter, Madge Undersee, who gives Katniss a pin that she wears in the games.
Asked what age is suitable to see the film: “Well, the movie is rated PG-13. So I have to say the appropriate age would be 13. But horrible things are happening in the world all around us – look at the Congo – and this is only a movie.”
Banks also recommended one of her favorite hangouts, Meltdown Comics, a store on Sunset Blvd. and encouraged the Slate audience to read more graphic novels, a genre she feels doesn't get enough respect.
Finally, someone asked the inevitable love triangle-Games question: Is she Team Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) or Team Gale (Liam Hemsworth)? Banks replied, “Definitely Team Peeta. There’s just something about the way he loves Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) so deeply."