Alexander Ludwig: Meeting The Hunger Games Villain

At the Vancouver premiere of The Hunger Games movie, local actor Alexander Ludwig talks about his experience on set and what it's like playing the guy everybody hates

Credit: Kristen Hilderman

Alexander Ludwig, who plays the fierce and imposing Cato, was looking much friendlier at the Vancouver premiere of The Hunger Games

Vancouverite Alexander Ludwig stars as the villain in 2012’s popular teen-movie franchise The Hunger Games

In a movie where every character has the potential to play the role of villain, Vancouver’s own Alexander Ludwig has the task of being the most lethal guy on screen. Ludwig plays the steely and intimidating Cato in The Hunger Games, the film adaptation of Suzanne Collins’s first novel from her hugely popular young adult series.

No stranger to young adult films, Ludwig starred alongside Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in Race to Witch Mountain, and played the young lead in 2007’s The Seeker: The Dark is Rising.

What he brings to the screen in The Hunger Games, however, is a far cry from his previous roles. “I had to put on just under 40 lbs,” says Ludwig. “I wanted Cato to have as much of a physical presence as he does a mental one.”

In the dystopian future where The Hunger Games takes place, 24 children and teenagers are sent to fight in an annual televised game of survival; last one alive wins. Cato — more of a full-grown man than teenager — is the games’ strongest contender and, ostensibly, the only thing standing between Katniss, the film’s heroine, and her family back home.

“At first, I didn’t know how it was going to be received in the public,” says Ludwig about playing the antagonist,  “but it’s been really phenomenal. Everyone’s been so supportive and really amazing.” If the gaggle of swooning teens at the movie’s Vancouver premiere is any testament, fans aren’t fazed by the knife-wielding, bad-boy role.

Life on The Hunger Games Set

Despite the dark subject matter, Ludwig insists it was always fun behind the scenes working with such a young and talented cast. “We had such a light vibe on set, and everyone became a really close family.”

Not only did he work with rising stars like Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson, but also — and most notably — with the inimitable Stanley Tucci.

“The second I had scenes with Stanley Tucci I was learning stuff from him — just seeing how he responded to stuff,” says Ludwig. “He was so open to letting me in and letting me ask questions.”

By the film’s final scenes, it’s clear Ludwig learned a thing or two from his veteran co-star. The film takes several liberties in its adaptation of the novel, including giving a blood-soaked Cato a trembling speech on the emotional and mental manipulation of the games.

With such a stellar cast and a built-in fan base from the novels, The Hunger Games is primed to be the next big box office smash. 

The Hunger Games hits theatres Friday, March 23, 2012.