The scene outside the Nokia Theatre on Monday night (Monday 12) was unlike anything MTV News has seen since last November, when a certain penultimate franchise film about golden-eyed vampires debuted at the same location. Hundreds of fans lined up over the weekend, the press lines swelled, and yet the man at the center of the action appeared admirably carefree about the whole experience.
"The pressure is kind of off in a way," "Hunger Games" director Gary Ross told MTV News. "I mean, it's finished."
Sure, but some might say it's now that the hard work (or the boring slog) kicks into high gear, as the "Hunger Games" press tour speeds forward. Perhaps, though, talk that his film is tracking to debut bigger than that last "Twilight" movie (with box-office grosses possibly as high as $100 million) has helped ease Ross' burden. Or maybe it has something to do with the star of his film, Jennifer Lawrence.
"I'd never seen an audition that good. Ever," he told us on the evening's thematically appropriate black carpet. "I saw someone who I knew I was going to be watching for decades. Literally, I had the kind of moment where I stepped out and thought, 'OK, this is the beginning of a great acting career. Forget about my audition.' That's honestly how I felt.' She stunned me with the emotional depth of the audition."
For perspective, this is the guy who cast Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon in "Pleasantville." For Lawrence, the audition scene in question was when her character, Katniss Everdeen, says goodbye to her young sister before heading off to fight in the kill-or-be-killed tournament known as the Hunger Games. The Oscar-nominated actress' performance left Ross "wrecked," as he put it.
After that point, the decision to cast her was a simple one. And thus far, the reaction has been phenomenal. "We have shown it to a lot of the fan sites, and their reaction has been really gratifying because these are the diehard fans of the book," Ross added.
Check out everything we've got on "Hunger Games."