I recently got the chance to talk to Steve Coulter about his role in ‘The Hunger Games’. Here, Steve talks about what it was like working with the cast and crew on-set and how he got into acting in the first place…
Hey Steve. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film, ‘The Hunger Games’.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
Basically, the film takes place in a postapocalyptic North America where people live in 12 “Districts”, ruled over by a rather ruthless Capitol. Each year, in order to remind the Districts of an unsuccessful rebellion years before, two teenagers from each District are brought to the Capitol to compete in the Hunger Games, a battle to the death with only one winner.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
The Games are controlled from the Game Center, and I play one of the Techs who create and manipulate the different things that happen in the arena (sending fireballs, creating mutant monsters, crashing trees), which the competitors have to deal with.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
Originally I auditioned on tape, then I was called up to Asheville, North Carolina to meet with the director, Gary Ross. I wanted to have fun (and also get the role), so I took my laptop in with me, to use as the “console”. I’d rigged it with several sound effects to simulate fireballs being launched, explosions, etc. Reminded me of when I was eleven or so, and me and my best friend would record battle sounds on a little cassette recorder. After I finished, the director smiled and said, “You wanna be in my movie?”
How would you say this film is different and unique? It’s a bit like ‘Battle Royale’ meets ‘Tron’, isn’t it?
Perhaps more like ‘Battle Royale’ meets ‘Lord Of The Flies’. It’s very similar thematically to ‘Battle Royale’. Especially in terms of an event designed to terrorize and oppress citizens in order to discourage rebellion. It’s perhaps not as dark, as the Hunger Games are designed to also give the citizens some hope, as the winner’s District is showered with gifts and food as a reward. I know the author was somewhat inspired to write the book after seeing the glut of reality television, so there’s a good bit of social commentary on that rather disturbing aspect of today’s society.
The film stars Stanley Tucci, Wes Bentley, Jennifer Lawrence, Willow Shields, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks and Josh Hutcherson – with Gary Ross onboard as directors – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set? Any good anecdotes?
All my scenes were in the Game Center, working at a huge bank of consoles and screens and holograms. The trick was, none of that was there yet, but would be created months later by the Visual Effects department. I was given a rather thick instruction booklet as to what the effects would look like, so as to guide the actions I would make on the console. I had fairly strict physical parameters with which to work in. All a good bit of fun, though. I had a good bit of contact with Wes Bentley, who plays my boss in the film. He plays a rather cold and sinister character in the film, but off-camera, he was the sweetest guy, and we talked about kids a lot (he has a new baby). On a film set, background actors (extras) are sometimes treated as second class citizens, and the Game Center had about thirty or so background players. As a principal actor, they’re always asking us if we’d like some water or something. I felt sorry for the background folks, so I would kind of take orders for water, and “black market” it to them (no, I didn’t charge them!). I think the folks bringing me water wondered why I went through so much water every day.
Let’s talk a bit about you Steve. What made you want to get into the industry in the first place?
I’ve just always loved to pretend stuff, ever since I was little. I played a lot of sports growing up, but my favourite thing to do was pretend…war, cowboys and Indians, anything. I even used to pretend that I wasn’t my parents’ real child, but that I’d been adopted as an orphan, and I was their bodyguard. I started doing plays when I was about 15 or so. I was always very shy, but onstage I felt free. It was a great way to meet girls, too. I studied at a conservatory, then moved to New York. I’ve been making a living at this for about 20 years now. But it’s still pretend to me.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get into the industry?
Like any craft, you have to study and work at it. A lot of young people decide ”I want to be an actor”, not realizing how hard it is, especially if you want to work on the stage. I’d recommend getting into plays, take classes. But take classes from working actors and directors, individuals who make a living in the business.
You’ve been in a number of different films and TV projects – which actors/actresses have been your favourites to work with so far?
One of my very favourite people to work with was Kevin Costner. One of the classiest guys I’ve ever met, and I’ve never seen someone more prepared. Billy Bob Thornton was a lot of fun to work with. Also extremely prepared, but with a huge sense of humour. Both of those guys have a lot of fun doing what they’re doing. I recently did a film, called ‘Flight’, with Denzel Washington. Working with him was like going back to acting school. Probably the most intense actor I’ve ever worked with. But also very klind…we had a long talk in the men’s room one day after shooting. Burt Reynolds was the funnest and silliest to work with…he liked to play practical jokes on me and would greet me on the set each day with “so, they brought you back again today, you (expletive deleted)?”
What is currently on your I-Pod?
Great question! Let’s see…Ray LaMontagne, Bruce Springsteen (just went to see him live), Adele, John Prine, Paolo Nutini, and the comedian Patton Oswalt.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things could you not live without?
My dog Lucy, my girlfriend, and some chocolate chip cookies.
What is your favourite word?
Oh dear. I’m afraid it’s “f***”.
What’s coming up for you in 2012?
Currently shooting ‘Adult Children Of Divorce’ with Jane Lynch from ‘Glee’ and also Amy Poehler. I play Jessica Alba’s boyfriend, and she dumps me for Adam Scott. Then I’m shooting ‘The Warren Files’ with James Wan, who created the ‘Saw’ franchise. Other movies being released this year that I did are ‘Arthur Newman Golf Pro’ where I play a guy who’s identity is stolen by Colin Firth, ‘Jayne Mansfield’s Car’ opposite Robert Duvall, ‘The Odd Life Of Timothy Green’ with Jennifer Garner, and ‘What To Expect When You’re Expecting’ with Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Lopez. Hoping to spend a good bit of time this summer with my daughter, Emma, who will be finishing her first year of acting school. I’ve missed her a lot!
Thanks for the interview!