Growing up with The Hunger Games

From AP

After the awards and accolades for their performances in the Hunger Games films, the trio of talented young stars has gained something even more valuable

From AP |

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The characters of The Hunger Games series are in a love triangle - but does real life imitate art?

Sitting down to interview Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth, stars of the mega-blockbuster Hunger Games series, feels a bit like hanging out with three siblings.

While Hutcherson ponders a question, Lawrence and Hemsworth are surreptitiously playing a game of hand-slap, Lawrence pulling her hand free just in time.

When one of the guys says reflectively, "Maybe I was just an idiot," Lawrence pipes up: "Yes, you ARE an idiot!" There are giggles, and a totally inside joke involving the phrase "My ears hurt," spoken in baby voice. (Don't ask.)

"I met my best friends in the world on this movie," Lawrence says, turning serious, of Hutcherson and Hemsworth. "We love each other. They're as close to me as my family, and in some ways they ARE my family."

Lawrence is known for being honest, so when she talks about her co-stars, it sounds refreshingly unlike canned Hollywood-speak, in which everyone professes how it was SO great working with everyone else.

In fact, she says, just the night before, the trio attended a dinner - exhausted - and ate silently, like families sometimes do.

"People were thinking, they must not really like each other," she says. Chuckles Hutcherson: "Yeah, they're thinking it's all an act!" Adds Hemsworth: "You've got to be really close to not talk at all."

"We all have the actor thing in common where we left home very early - I left home when I was 14," Lawrence says.

"And our lives changed together in a way that nobody else in the whole world understands."

The 24-year-old Oscar winner explains how, over the past several years, she, Hutcherson and Hemsworth (22 and 24 respectively) grew up together on set and became famous together.

In the first Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta Mellark (Hutcherson) are both thrust into dizzying fame when they're chosen to represent District 12 in the fight-to-the-death spectacle forced on them by the Capitol.

In Mockingjay, along with Gale (Hemsworth), they each play a role in the rebellion spreading through the country of Panem.

But Lawrence is quick to point out that although her own rise to fame was as quick as Katniss', her real life is very different.

"[Katniss] led a rebellion that changed the world, and I'm just an actor telling people I need more lipstick or whatever," Lawrence says. "We all had an idea of how big this was going to be, which is why I took a few days before I said yes, and really thought about what I wanted. Saying yes to this was going to completely change my life."

Hutcherson says he was oblivious. "I had to say I didn't expect any of it," he says of sudden stardom.

"You're not as paranoid and neurotic as me," Lawrence quips.

Lawrence, who has spoken bluntly and forcefully about privacy concerns, feels her co-stars need to be more security-conscious.

"I recently changed my number and texted them, 'Hi boys,' and they answered back, blah blah, and didn't even ask a security question!"' she says, in mock disapproval.

"But I knew it was you," protests Hemsworth. "Nobody else would text us, 'Hi, boys!"'

Each actor, asked their biggest takeaway from the Hunger Games experience, mentions the same things: exposure, job opportunities, and especially friendship.

"Just having them in my life is one of the greatest gifts I've ever been given," Lawrence says.

"I couldn't have said it better myself," says Hutcherson.

"I know," replies Lawrence. "That's why I went first!"