"Hunger Games" Josh Hutcherson On Sacrificing It All For Love

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Josh Hutcherson YourTango Exclusive

He was always a driven actor, even in the years before he could drive. 

Josh Hutcherson leans against the balcony in his suite at the Kahala Hotel on Waikiki Beach in Hawaii, sips some guava juice and tells you this story.

"I got my hands on a phone book at age nine and looked up local acting agents," the 19-year-old Kentucky native says with a smile. "Then I called one up and said, 'Hi, my name is Josh and I'm going to be a movie star.'"

"Later, I told my parents and they said, 'I guess we better get on this acting thing. We better do it – or you will just do it without us.' From the age of four, I always loved the entertainment industry. I'm the kid who was always putting on a show."

He is a refreshing movie star with his windblown hair and sweet smile. His  Journey 2 co-star Vanessa Hudgens says, "Josh is so carefree in real life. I know there are so many young actors in this business who really care about what other people think. They morph themselves into something they're not. Josh is very true to himself. He doesn't care if someone sees him being very silly. He's crazy…just like me. And frankly, it's nice to have someone who can be a movie star and a spaz at the same time."

"I'm sorry," Hutcherson says. "I love the work and I just can't take the rest of it that seriously."

Hutcherson is poised for major stardom in The Hunger Games. He plays Peeta, the baker with the heart of gold who's taken from his home in District 12 and sent to play "The Hunger Games" to fight to survive. Peeta must also deal with his crush on Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and has to decide what he will sacrifice in the name of love. 

Related: A-List Links: "Hunger Games" Is Like Kim Kardashian's Divorce?
 

Josh, what do you make of this tormented love that Peeta has for Katniss? She doesn't even know he's alive in the beginning of the film.
Peeta is just the nice guy. He's a baker who has always been in love with Katniss, but like a lot of guys in real life, he's just too shy to tell her. Or, he thinks that she won't love him. He's thrown into "The Hunger Games" where there can only be one survivor. Will he allow his love Katniss to die, so he can survive? What I loved about Peeta is that he strongly believes in this idea of not being a part of some government's game. He's even okay with the fact that he probably won't make it out of the games. He loves Katniss enough that he wants to give her the best chance.
 
Do you understand that kind of sacrifice?
That's what you do when you love someone.
 
How did you prepare for filming for months in the woods of North Carolina? You spend the majority of the film running through them and hiding out.
It's funny because my co-star Liam Hemsworth went on a diet because he's stuck back in District 12, where food is scarce. As for me, I had to eat a lot to stay in good physical shape for the actual games. It was actually pretty tough. I was on a high protein diet of chicken and eggs. I had to work out to put on 15 pounds for the role. 

Related: Is Miley Cyrus Still Sexting Liam Hemsworth?

Are you ready for your life to change in a major way once this film comes out?
It's weird. As an actor, your goal is to be successful and have a lot of people love your work. When it happens in such a major way, your life does change and you lose your anonymity. That's something as an actor you want to happen whether it's over the course of 20 years or in a few years. This is happening quickly. I just always take it day-by-day. I love what I do and I'm willing to sacrifice everything to do it.

There were some rumblings online about your casting as Peeta – did you ever read any of the tweets or postings?
I never went online. The only time I ever hear about this stuff is when people at interviews bring it up. Everyone has an opinion. You can read one hundred things and 99 will be good. The only thing you take away from it is the one bad thing – you want to fix it or change it. There is no use in reading that stuff.

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Didn't you fight hard for the role of Peeta?
With Hunger Games, I actually said out loud, "If I don't get this role, I don't know what I'm going to do." Obviously, I was going to keep acting. But with Hunger Games and the role of Peeta, I never read a role on the page where I felt that connection. I knew I was right for that role – more right than I had ever been for a role in my entire life. I said to myself, "If you don't get it then you're just a bad actor." That's how I felt in my soul. There was that deep of a connection.

Related: Vanessa Hudgens Declares 'I'm Just Friends' With Josh Hutcherson

On a personal level, how do you identify with Peeta?
This character is like me in that he believes that no matter what circumstances you're in, you have to remain true to yourself as a person. He also has a self-deprecating sense of humor and likes to communicate with the people in his life. I'm a people person. That's very much who I am. 

Can we bug you for anything regarding your personal life?
(Laughing) Just like in the movie, I know that women always have the upper hand. Yep, us guys are putty.