Arts & Entertainment

Catching Fire: The Man Behind Bloodthirsty Brutus

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All photos courtesy of imdb.com

The role of a bloodthirsty bad guy was made for actor Bruno Gunn. To kick off the March 7 DVD release of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the actor, who plays Hunger Games competitor Brutus, sat down for an exclusive interview with The Phoenix.

In person, Gunn was less intimidating than the ruthless trained-to-kill competitor from District 2 he plays. But the muscular actor is still not the kind of guy you’d be eager to face in the Hunger Games arena. Apart from having a similar name to his film character, Gunn said he also shares Brutus’s physical strength and competitiveness.

“I never felt more connected to a character. By nature, Brutus is a competitive warrior. And me, I’m a competitive guy. I definitely was attracted to that part of him,” Gunn said. “And he’s a physical character so that was another thing I really related to. I’m that guy.”

In fact, Gunn had been training in the gym when he received the call about auditioning for the role of Brutus. Since he had not yet read the Hunger Games books, he immediately began researching the role to develop his own take on the character.

Two weeks later, Gunn was racing through an airport terminal when his agent called to deliver the thrilling news that he was catching more than a flight: He was catching fire as Brutus. Despite the massive fan base and hype surrounding the first film, Gunn was undaunted. After all, a man of Gunn’s physique has little to fear.

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“I’ve been [acting] a long time, so I was on board. It wasn’t so much intimidating as inspiring,” he said. “Everybody was doing their best work: You get on set with this amazing all-star cast and you sit back like, ‘I want to do that.’”

The star-studded cast, including Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen and Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark, inspired Gunn to build upon his own acting techniques. The atmosphere on set, he said, was the perfect balance of serious acting and lighthearted friendships.

“It was a combination of both and I think that’s what made it such a great environment to be in. Everyone was open and inviting. A lot of joking around, but then it was serious. Those are the best two ingredients you can have to create good work,” Gunn said.

One of Gunn’s favorite moments during filming was lingering on set to admire the work of Stanley Tucci, who plays flashy Hunger Games announcer Caesar Flickerman.

“I’m a fan of his work; he’s a consummate pro. He was one of the people who, for me, was really inspiring to watch. But everybody — Elizabeth [Banks], Josh [Hutcherson], Jennifer [Lawrence] — they’re all just really talented.”

Talent aside, filming scenes in Hawaii — what Gunn calls the “womb of Mother Nature” — did have its challenges. In the humid heart of the jungle, the actors had to climb vines, boulders and muddy ravines.

But Gunn relished in using the minimal characterization given in the book to create a backstory for Brutus. Known for his brute strength, privileged life close to The Capitol and previous Hunger Games victory, the character eagerly volunteers for the 75th annual Hunger Games.

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Gunn justified Brutus’s thirst for blood by imagining the character’s family and inventing reasons for his allegiance to the oppressive Capitol of Panem. Gunn also imagined that Brutus held an unyielding grudge against Katniss for rejecting his alliance.

Playing such a cruel character was no concern for Gunn. He said he was glad to take on such a role, citing his own villainous inspirations as Russell Crowe and Kate Beckinsale for her role in Underworld.

“Who doesn’t love the bad guy?” Gunn said, smiling. “We love bad guys! I embrace the bad guy in him. It’s fun — you get to go around and be the bad guy and get away with it.”

Even playing a vicious role, the charming Gunn is well-received by fans. But he said that their acceptance isn’t what makes his fans special — it’s their passion for reading. To maintain a strong connection, Gunn runs his own Twitter account (@brunogunn) and encourages fans to follow him.

Comparing the Catching Fire book to its screenplay version, Gunn was impressed by the similarities. He said the film’s close interpretation was like reading the book all over again. But the release of Catching Fire offers features that the book does not — exclusive commentary and deleted scenes.

Despite his bad guy persona in Catching Fire, fans should not be quick to pin Gunn into sinister roles. He is currently filming for the indie comedy Barely Lethal alongside Samuel L. Jackson and Jessica Alba. Gunn has also appeared in the movie Bad Teacher and television shows The Office and True Blood.

Mockingjay: Part I, the next installment of the Hunger Games series, will hit theatres in November 2014. Until then, fans can watch their favorite scenes from the 75th annual Hunger Games with Catching Fire on Blu-Ray and DVD.

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