‘The Hunger Games’: Donald Sutherland on the Moment He Realized the Books Were Popular

Though The Hunger Games movies captivated audiences around the globe, it was the books that first ensnared millions of people. Written by the talented Suzanne Collins, “The Hunger Games”, “Catching Fire”, and “Mockingjay” became international bestsellers long before Lionsgate turned them into a successful film franchise. And while most of the cast were extremely familiar with the books before the ever auditioned for their role, not everyone knew just how popular they were.

The Hunger Games books Josh Hutcherson, Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, and Donald Sutherland
Josh Hutcherson, Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, and Donald Sutherland | James Devaney/Getty Images

One person who was in the dark about how beloved The Hunger Games books were was Donald Sutherland. Sutherland, of course, plays the seemingly indomitable Coriolanus Snow, who is President of all of Panem. Sutherland’s Snow is a particularly fascinating villain. Though he’s brutal in his actions, he’s somehow always gentle in his delivery. The result is a bone-chilling antagonist who inspires fear with every word.

Donald Sutherland reflects on reading ‘The Hunger Games’ script for the first time

So just how did Sutherland join the cast of The Hunger Games? The talented actor, unlike many of his co-stars, actually read the movie script prior to the books. In an interview with Collider, he revealed that when he finished reading the script he felt his heart start. “I read The Hunger Games and I couldn’t believe it actually could be true, so I pushed it away. I sat back and said to my wife, ‘I think I’ve just read something that could change everything,'” Sutherland shared.

But, even though Sutherland himself was captivated by The Hunger Games script, he had no idea that the rest of the world had the same affinity for the books. In fact, he didn’t realize how large the fan base was until a visit to his dermatologist office. When Sutherland revealed that he’d just finished filming, the response was overwhelming.

Sutherland had no idea how popular the books were when he joined the cast as President Snow

“I knew nothing about the books or the fascination with them. I only discovered that, in the dermatologist office,” Sutherland shared. “At my age, you get barnacles taken off your head. They’re not actual barnacles, but my wretched dermatologist calls them that. She said, ‘What are you doing?,’ and I said, ‘I’ve just finished shooting The Hunger Games.’ I got maybe the ‘m’ of The Hunger Games out, and the office was suddenly filled with people jumping up and down in hysteria, and those were adults. So, I figured it out then.”

After Sutherland’s visit to the dermatologist office, he had a newfound appreciation for The Hunger Games books. However, he notes that many of the scenes in the movies where he got to shine weren’t actually written into the books. It was actually Gary Ross, who directed the first film, who wrote some of Sutherland’s most memorable scenes. One such scene was the conversation between Seneca Crane and President Snow where Snow talks about hope and fear.

One of Snow’s most iconic scenes in ‘The Hunger Games’ wasn’t in the books

“So, he went away and then came back with a couple of scenes of such economy of language and such specificity,” Sutherland revealed about the director of The Hunger Games. “He said, ‘I think what we have to talk about is hope and fear.’ Those scenes are not in the book. He wrote them, and Suzanne Collins loves them. It so perfectly defined what an administrator or bureaucrat, like Coriolanus Snow, has to do. How do you keep that underclass under control? You offer them a little hope.”


‘The Hunger Games’: Elizabeth Banks Recalls Effie’s Infamous Nails; ‘I Literally Didn’t Function’

It’s amazing what both Ross and Sutherland were able to bring to The Hunger Games. Ultimately, they helped to create a film that was loved by those who’d read the books as well as those who were experiencing the world of Panem for the very first time.