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Hunger Games set to break Twilight record in new teen frenzy

IT hasn't hit cinemas here yet but already The Hunger Games has been creating a frenzy.

If you're not among the 30 million people who have read Suzanne Collins' trilogy, here's what you should know:

It has sold more than Stephenie Meyer's Twilight books had before they were filmed.

The big screen adaptation of part one was recently voted the most anticipated film of 2012 in a poll by MTV.

The film, in which teenage characters fight one another in a televised battle to the death, is now poised for a record opening at the box office.

Distributors made last-minute cuts in order to secure a more lucrative classification. They included "digitally removing blood splashes from wounds and weapons" and editing four scenes deemed too violent for younger viewers.

In the US, analysts expect the film to overtake the first Twilight instalment with one of the biggest debuts of all-time. It has already set a record for first-day advance ticket sales and could become the biggest ever March opener.

The Hunger Games is set in a dystopian North America in which 24 teenagers are selected to take part in a macabre contest that leaves only one victor standing.


Collins drew on Greek mythology and Roman gladiatorial battles for her ideas, as well as the modern obsession with reality television.

Jennifer Lawrence is the feisty heroine Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old who volunteers to enter the games in her younger sister's place.

Lawrence was Oscar-nominated for her role in Winter's Bone, the 2010 independent drama, but The Hunger Games is her highest profile film.

"It's called The Hunger Games, but I was constantly eating," the 21-year-old says in a throaty Kentucky drawl.

"I play a warrior. I can't be skinny. You know, Kate Moss running at you with a bow and arrow isn't scary."

Lawrence - whose boyfriend is actor Nicholas Hoult (Skins, About a Boy) - was a fan of The Hunger Games trilogy before she'd heard of the film.

"I read all three in four days," she says, testifying to their addictiveness.

The hype has grown so frantic that Lawrence is scheduled to begin shooting book two, Catching Fire, this summer. Mockingjay will follow in 2013.

The story is set in a post-apocalyptic US which is divided into 12 districts.


Its totalitarian government requires each district to give up an adolescent boy and girl - called 'tributes' - to take part in the annual Hunger Games, in which they fight each other to the death on live TV.

The tributes are given survival training, so it's not over too quickly, and stylists, so they look good while killing each other.

"I don't read it as that much of a science-fiction story," says Lawrence. "Gladiators used to fight in an arena for entertainment. Humanity has watched other humans die as entertainment before. It can happen again."

Suzanne Collins came up with the idea while channel-surfing one night. She found herself flicking between reality-television shows and coverage of the Iraq war.

"The lines began to blur in this very unsettling way," she said.

The film's cast also includes Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz and Stanley Tucci.

Lawrence left home at 14 after being spotted by a model scout during a weekend in New York. She did a few modelling jobs - including a campaign for Abercrombie & Fitch - and auditioned for film and television roles before landing a part on The Bill Engvall Show.

The year after, she was cast in her first film role in The Poker House.


Her next film is The Silver Linings Playbook, starring Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper as a man who has "just got out of a mental institution where he was sent because he almost beat a man to death for having an affair with his wife".

Lawrence plays "a recovering sex addict and the two of us form this explosive pair".

She'll be seen opposite Cooper again in Serena, an adaptation of Ron Rash's novel set in 1929 Carolina.

And there is the rest of The Hunger Games trilogy, already talked about as the franchise to fill the hole left by Harry Potter and the Twilight series.

She tells me that hanging in her parents' home is a framed photograph of the moment she found out about her Oscar nomination for Winter's Bone.

"My mum has her arms up in the air, my dad's hugging me, my brother's clapping - everybody's happy. Except me. I just look aghast. They've jokingly labelled it 'The worst moment of Jennifer's life."

Chances are, there will be another picture on that wall before long.

And maybe second time around, she'll remember to smile.

The Hunger Games is released here on March 23