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At the dark heart of Capitol power lies Panem’s dictator, President Coriolanus Snow, the architect of the nation’s oppressive rule and the man who senses the danger in Katniss becoming a heroic underdog in the Games.
Director Gary Ross felt early on that a veteran actor like Donald Sutherland would give the character the weight and depth needed to make him real. “You have to have a real gravitas,” notes the writer/director. “Donald Sutherland is someone who was able to bring a tremendous amount to President Snow in just a few key scenes.”
Sutherland says that Ross was the draw for him. “He’s a brilliant writer,” comments the actor. “The script was really compelling and I thought it could be significant in reaching young people. It was beautiful to work with him and to watch him work and be inspired by him.”
While President Snow has control over all of Panem, the darkly creative genius behind the 74 Hunger Games is Seneca Crane, the appointed Gamemaker who has the power of life and death over the 24 young Tributes. He is portrayed by Wes Bentley, who Gary Ross has been a fan of ever since his acclaimed role in ‘American Beauty’.
“I thought Wes could create something so interesting with this character,” says Ross. “Seneca is someone who is drunk on his own youth, ambition and success and Wes reveals how that becomes self-propelling.”
Bentley found Seneca surprisingly intricate. “In talking to Gary, I realized he’s not quite the cynical bad guy,” he muses. “He’s more a product of the Capitol’s corrupted culture. He’s not conniving to be a terrible human being. He’s really a tech wizard and a showman who’s trying to make his mark yet he’s not really paying attention to the consequences of his work.”
Rounding out the Capitol’s most prominent denizens are Oscar-nominee Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman, the journalist turned probing official interviewer for the Games and British actor Toby Jones as Claudius Templesmith, the Hunger Games’ legendary television host. Says Jacobson of Tucci’s role: “When I saw Stanley in his blue wig being so funny and extreme in a kind of ‘Cabaret’ way, it was all so wrong and yet so right for the character.”