Jena Malone on Becoming Johanna Mason

Photo by Jena Malone

Photo by Jena Malone

“She has this intensity. She can walk into a room and stare you to death.”

That’s how actress Jena Malone describes her character, Johanna Mason, in her next film, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the sequel to last year’s The Hunger Games. Johanna is the victor of a previous Hunger Games, and she — along with Katniss Everdeen — is going back into the arena for the 75th Hunger Games. Johanna won her contest by pretending to be no threat to the more powerful players, who considered her weak and vulnerable. And when the others dropped their guard, that’s when Johanna attacked — with axes!

Anyone who knows me knows I’m the furthest thing from fashionable and do not make a habit of perusing beauty magazine websites — but when Jena is involved I make exceptions. And I’m glad I did, because Vogue Daily has an interesting interview with Jena about transforming herself — physically as well as mentally —  into Johanna for Catching Fire. (She also goes on at length about her beauty regime, but you’ll have to go to the website for all that if you’re interested.)

Here are the highlights, from vogue.com:

Your role in The Hunger Games sounds physically tough. How did you get ready for the part? 
Luckily, I did [an action] film called Sucker Punch a few years ago, which taught me what I could achieve in a gym. I lifted 235 pounds in preparation for that movie and my whole body transformed. The same stunt team—they’re called 87Eleven—got me in shape for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. We focused on martial arts–type training for the role of Johanna, which helped with stamina and endurance. I also did strength training with Patrick Murphy, who is kind of like a body sculptor. I trained five days a week for two months before we started filming, and then I kept it up during the months of shooting.

What changed the most? 
My posture. And my mood. Sometimes you just need to get sweaty in a gym and feel pain in your body like you’ve never felt before, and then learn how to rise above it. That was important, because the hardest thing about being Johanna was finding a way to carry her energy in my body for sixteen hours a day. She has this anger that is always bubbling at the surface.

johannahrJohanna is rumored to make a striking above-the-neck transformation in the movie, too. Tell us about it. 
If you Google the name Johanna Mason, there are 7,000-plus fan drawings of what she looks like, what people want her to look like, what her parents look like! It was crazy bringing this iconic character to life. I think we were all a little intimidated. For her first look in the Capitol, she is wearing this long black ponytail with red tips that goes down to her waist, and eyelashes that go on forever. Her look is really about her eyes. So it was about finding the wildest fake lashes from Germany or Japan. We only had a few sets of them, and I had to be really careful taking them on and off. It took about two-and-a-half hours to get makeup-ready each day. Later, in the Arena, she’s stripped down, sweaty, and sexy, which took about forty minutes. We spent almost three weeks trying to figure out Johanna’s hair [for those scenes]. We cut it, we put things in it, we cut it again, and we tried a wig. One day, I just got in there with some scissors and I cut it my own hair. I said, ‘Ok, this is what she would have done.’ It was a bit terrifying.

It appears that Jena is going to look just as fierce throughout the movie as she does in the Quarter Quell promotional poster. I really am looking forward to seeing Jena more than Jennifer Lawrence when the movie is released.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire opens Nov. 22.

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