August 18, 2012

INTERVIEW: Dayo Okeniyi (Thresh) reveals that there is a Deleted District 11 Reaping Scene

FearNet had a Q&A with Dayo Okeniyi recently where he revealed that they actually shot a District 11 Reaping Scene, but it unfortunately didn't make it into the final cut of the movie (nor is it on the DVD extras - bummer!). He also talked about combat scenes choreography, being part of The Hunger Games phenomenon and so much more.

Gary shot a pretty lean movie but did you have any scenes that didn’t make it into the final cut? 
All the scenes I shot made it into the movie except we actually shot a Reaping scene for District 11 which was really cool. We had a guest director, Steven Soderbergh, who came in and oversaw that. It was cool to get a chance to work with him because he’s a director I’ve admired for years. It was a cool scene because it was all of District 11 and we had our mentor come out and reap us. It was a very sad scene. And the extras were incredible, the unsung heroes of movies because they create an environment for you. I’d look into the eyes of these people who were supposed to be your best friends, your neighbors, your co-workers and they would feed you that feeling of loss when you get reaped. Hopefully, if they do a 20th anniversary edition of The Hunger Games they can include that in the DVD someday.

Were you hyper prepared for the [audition] read? 
It was super secretive. I couldn’t tell anybody about, not even my parents. I went in and read and it was just one page. I tell you, my roommate and I went to the same college together and is also an actor so he was the only person I told and we must have read that one page 50 to 100 times. It was like five lines but I practiced it in every possible way. So I felt very confident going into the audition. Also my managers sent me in because they know Debra Zane very well and they just wanted to see how I did in the room. But it led to me getting the role and I’m very aware that it doesn’t happen for people like that. I kind of have survivor’s guilt. [Laugh]
The books are written from Katniss’ POV, so we don’t get much back story on any of the Tributes. Did Gary provide a back story or encourage you to create one so you could connect to your character? 
Gary was surprisingly very freeing for a young actor like myself. He gave us space to do whatever we wanted to do, of course being adamant we follow canon, the story. He put creating a back story in our hands. There were a lot of great young actors in this movie, and a lot of first-time actors which was a great way for us to bond. He trusted us and let us create what we wanted to create. When we came on set, he tweaked us a little, but he trusted us.
The cornucopia sequence that officially starts the arena games was one of the most intense sequences of the whole film as all 24 kids just rush each other in a bloodbath. How did that sequence come together? 
We really tried to keep it light on set because you didn’t want a bunch of depressed kids walking around. There was a lot joking around and goofing around between takes. The cool thing is that all of the kids and stunt people they got to play these Tributes were amazing actors and were very good at “turning it on” right before a take. The truth is these kids were incredible and able to turn it on at the flip of a switch. Plus we are all fans of the books too and we all knew what these scenes had to feel like. Having that preparation and reading the books years ago and coming was almost like muscle memory; your heart and your mind knew what to feel in the moment. I loved the way Gary cut it together. It was a cacophony of violence but at the same time you’re really in the head of Katniss seeing it from the corner of her eyes. She’s not a spectator.
The film doesn’t glamorize the violence which makes it more horrific to watch the death scenes. What was Gary’s mandate about the combat scenes? 
In the scene between Thresh and Clove (Isabelle Fuhrman), it’s a very quick scene. It’s not very choreographed because Gary wanted it to look dirty. He didn’t want it to look like a Japanese movie where the fighting is like a dance. He wanted it to look rough and you feel like the characters in those scenes are reacting from passion rather than calculating assassins. We were tied in very well to these character’s heads and I think it translated well.
When you watched the final film, what scene really got to you? 
Honestly, with a character like [District 2 Career] Cato (Alexander Ludwig) it’s scary easy to make that character a cookie-cutter, bad guy archetype. The scene at the end where he says, “I’m already finished anyway,” to humanize that character to me was gold. A villain isn’t really a villain until you see some bit of humanity in him. You can look at a demon or something that is pure evil and watch them commit atrocities and you don’t feel anything because it’s not human. But to see a human being do things like that hits close to home. Seeing Cato humanized like that, it really makes you feel like if I grew up like that, would I be like that? When I saw that it made me think back on everything Cato had done leading up to that moment. Even though he’s got a twisted, psychotic purpose, it is a purpose and you somewhat empathize with him. That was amazing filmmaking to me and moments like that gave me chills.
Read more at FeatNet 


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