‘Hunger Games’ star on ‘Colombiana’ and life on the set

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Like a lot of 12-year-old girls, Amandla Stenberg considers herself a big fan of Suzanne Collins’ ‘The Hunger Games’ books. But that’s where the similarities to average preteen life end.

Stenberg has spent her last few months playing two pivotal athletic film roles --as the reluctant participant in a violent arena game in next year’s ‘Hunger Games’ adaptation and as the younger incarnation of Zoe Saldana’s avenging heroine in the thriller ‘Colombiana,’ which hit theaters in August.


For ‘Colombiana,’ in which her character escapes from the thugs who murdered her parents, Stenberg traveled to Mexico, Chicago and New Orleans and acquired some new skills, studying with David Belle, the founder of the climbing-and-jumping-based training known as Parkour.

‘We worked on Parkour, running, jumping, climbing ... and he’s the creator of Parkour, so I was really honored,’ Stenberg said. ‘I [also] had to use my jumping skills to soar through the trees. I did some training for ‘Hunger Games,’ but not as much as the other characters who really had some big physical demands. I did some running and flips and some tumbling, and that was really fun.’

On the North Carolina set of ‘The Hunger Games,’ Stenberg said she has bonded with the other members of the ensemble cast led by Jennifer Lawrence as heroine Katniss Everdeen. She compared the feeling of working there to a sleepover.

‘On ‘Colombiana,’ it was pretty much me for a lot of the time, so it was like a family and I became very close to the crew,’ she said. ‘And on ‘Hunger Games,’ we are such a big cast, and we all became a family as well. We always hung out together. It was like a big camp, and I became friends with cast members like Jackie Emerson who plays Foxface and Dayo Okeniyi who plays Thresh -- and now I have really good friends.’

At the tender age of 3, Stenberg asked her mother if she could get an agent. Still, when she first auditioned for the role of Rue, the youngest player in ‘The Hunger Games’ and known for her sweet singing voice and a knack for working with herbs, she said she was very nervous. ‘I was a ginormous fan, and Rue was my favorite character! I remember thinking that I was so excited to see ‘The Hunger Games’ in March. I wasn’t thinking at all that I would be one of the main cast members.’

To prepare for the part -- which requires her to spend a lot of time in the trees, hiding out from the older, stronger players of the fight-to-the-death game -- Stenberg took a more Method approach. ‘My mom took some of my clothes and rolled them in the backyard with some dirt and some grass, and put leaves and twigs in my hair to try to make it look like I had been in the woods for a few weeks,’ she said. ‘So when I met with Gary [Ross, the director], he said that he was very impressed that I had my own makeup and hair department.’

Stenberg, who also plays violin, guitar and drums, is mum on what she’s going out for right now, but has definite ideas on her future. In terms of film, she said she likes ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and period pieces, and is eager to head to Europe to tackle even larger roles.

‘I hope to be doing some movies where I get to be a lead, and I really want to travel to Paris,’ she said. ‘And I want to play someone who is in the fashion industry ‘cause I really like fashion too!’

‘The Hunger Games’ opens in theaters in March.


Movie review: ‘Colombiana’

‘Hunger Games’ could be a game-changer for Lions Gate

‘The Hunger Games’ footage: forest, fireballs and braids

-- Jevon Phillips

Upper photo: Jesse Borrego, left, and Amandla Stenberg in ‘Colombiana.’ Credit: Columbia Pictures

Lower photo: Amandla Stenberg Credit: Cat Ward