One of the things we loved about The Hunger Games movie was getting to see pieces of the story that were outside of Katniss’ point of view, and therefore not included in the book. One of those additions was the Game Center and the technicians working behind the scenes to control the Hunger Games.
We had the chance to interview Steve Coulter, who played Game Center Tech #1 in the movie (you can find him listed in Lionsgate’s production notes and on IMDb). He’s been working in the film and TV industry for more than 20 years, spending time as Tyler Perry’s head writer and acting in dozens of movies including this year’s Arthur Newman Golf Pro (with Colin Firth and Emily Blunt, plus Phillip Troy Linger who played Mr. Everdeen in The Hunger Games) and What to Expect When You’re Expecting.
But this is the first time he’s appeared in a film that became the #1 movie in the world, earning $214 million worldwide opening weekend!
Here’s what Steve had to say about being cast as Game Center Tech #1, working in the green screen Tech Center, working with Wes Bentley and Donald Sutherland, and being a part of scenes that weren’t in the book.
Q: Did you have any lines in The Hunger Games? Which scenes can fans see you in? [keep an eye out for him next time you see the movie!]
Steve: Yes, did a good bit of talkin’. Some scenes were cut, but that happens in most films. Let’s see, fans will first see me right after the Hovercraft takes off, taking Katniss to the arena. Also, right after the “wall of flame” is created to get Katniss moving toward the other Tributes, Seneca asks me to create a tree. You’ll spot me several times after that, particularly reacting to the kiss in the cave.
Q: How was the audition process for this particular role?
Steve: I went to a callback for the role in Asheville, NC, to meet with the director, Gary Ross. For the audition, they had us do a scene where we’re creating fireballs to hurl at Katniss. Well, one of the reasons I became an actor was, quite simply … I like to pretend stuff. So I set up my laptop with different sound effects (explosions, etc.) and went in using it as my “console.” I wanted to have fun with it. One of the producers read the scene with me, and when he asked me to launch a fireball, just pressed a key and had a pretty cool “whoosh” then “ka-boom” sound. Felt like I was 11 years old again. After I finished, Gary smiled, leaned back and smiled and opened his arms and said. “You wanna come be in my movie?”
Q: Since everything was so secretive in the beginning, were you aware you were auditioning for The Hunger Games?
Steve: It was extremely secretive. When I was first asked to audition, I was told it was for a film called “Artemis,” and that’s the code word they used for the entire shoot. Thought it was just another sci-fi movie. But then the casting director told me that it was The Hunger Games. That got me excited, and after reading the first two books (in about a week), I really wanted to be in the film. We never got to see a complete script, and were only given the pages we were going to shoot each day on set.
Q: What was it like working in a green screen environment where everything is computer generated besides the other actors? What was actually in the “control room”? What was direction like?
Steve: This was my first experience working with green screen. You had to imagine absolutely everything. All our consoles were green, the hologram in the middle of the room was just marked with tennis balls on different sized dowels, and the screens that we look up at were just dozens of “x’s” marked on the walls. The Visual Effects people gave me a workbook that showed the mock-ups of what all the effects would eventually look like. Had to study the book to know what kinds of hand movements to use to make certain things happen. They would tell us exactly how high we could place our hands, etc. They had really worked very hard on every single detail, which shows in the film. Gary’s direction was very specific. It’s always great to work with a director who knows exactly what he wants. At times, they’d have 3 cameras operating for a particular shot, so everything had to be timed out perfectly.
Q: Was there ever any concern among the “Game Center Techs” that fans would be unhappy with the added scenes, since we never see the Game Center in the book?
Steve: The feeling was that it would actually add to the story. Gary was very particular in what he chose to add that wasn’t in the book. I think the contrast with how hi-tech the Game Center was, compared to the harshness of the forest scenes, helped show how controlled and manipulated the Games were, which serves the story very well, I think.
Q: How was working with Wes Bentley, and did you have any interactions with the other major cast members?
Steve: The first scene shot was actually the last scene in the film, with Donald Sutherland, where President Snow watches from the balcony in the Gamecenter, then storms up the steps. He was a real gentleman. Wes was very friendly and talked alot about his new baby … not at all sinister like his character. Poor guy had to walk around with that crazy beard all the time … that wasn’t an effect by hair and makeup.
Q: Any chance you’ll be back for Catching Fire or will we see a new staff of Gamecenter techs?
Steve: You’ll have to ask Gary! Hopefully, we weren’t forced to eat a bowl of berries…
Thanks so much to Steve for talking with us! We’d love to see him back for Catching Fire.