Speaking speedily in a way only a nineteen-year-old is capable of, Josh Hutcherson comes across as jovial, astute, earnest, and not much different than most people his age. In honor of the DVD and Blu-ray release of "The Hunger Games" this weekend, Hutcherson spoke to Yahoo! Movies, opening up about his approach to the fame that has come with playing District 12's Peeta Mellark in the blockbuster fantasy film.
"I was really nervous about it to be honest," Hutcherson said about embarking on the film franchise, based on a trilogy of best-selling books by Suzanne Collins. "It's crazy because living up to 'The Hunger Games' coming out, everybody was talking about how it's going to change everything, your whole life -- it's going to be so different," he explained. "I like my life! I didn't want that to happen and it didn't... I'm still me and I'm still doing my normal things that I have always done."
[Yahoo! Movies Giveaway: 'The Hunger Games' Blu-ray and Autographed Poster]
Hutcherson is now a bona fide heartthrob whose Facebook fan page has earned more than 1.5 million "likes," not to mention more than one million followers on Twitter. And he admits those numbers started spiking with the release of "The Hunger Games," which has earned $684.5 million worldwide and is so far the second-most successful film of 2012. ("The Avengers" is No. 1.) "'Hunger Games' fans are ravenous and extremely passionate. They're the absolute best," he said.
While Hutcherson says everything has been going smoothly for him post-"Games," there was one jarring fan experience he opened the door to -- literally. "I had a couple of fans who showed at my doorstep in Kentucky," he said, adding that they arrived the day after Christmas last year. "They just wanted to meet me and say 'hi.' They were freaking out and crying. They drove eight hours on the chance that I might be home... That was intense. I was like, 'Whoa! This is my home in Kentucky. Why are you here?' It was crazy. There are some crazy fans out there."
Hutcherson, his cast mates -- including Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence -- writer/director Gary Ross and some of the crew contribute video diaries in what amounts to three hours of bonus content offered in "The Hunger Games" DVD and Blu-ray, out this weekend. "[It is] a very up-close and personal look into what it was like throughout the entire process, from start to finish of turning the book into a movie," Hutcherson said, being coy about further details. (The film is also available for digital download August 18.)
The sequel "Catching Fire" is set to start filming in mere weeks, and Hutcherson is pumped: "I'm so excited it's finally here, the time to start making it is finally here. I can't wait to get shooting." Given that a script didn't exist just a few short months ago, it's hard to believe everything is, in fact, prepped. But it is, according to Hutcherson: "I do have a script in hand and it's awesome. I love it so much," Hutcherson confirmed, revealing that he met with newly-installed director Francis Lawrence ("I Am Legend," 2007, "Water for Elephants," 2011) to discuss the film's vision. "We talked about how important it was to really make the movie version of the book and that was Francis's goal from day one -- and the script definitely portrays that. It's a very true-to-the-book rendition of the movie."
The physicality required to play Peeta is still as rigorous for the sequel. "I've been working out a lot, getting back in the right shape for the role -- because this last year, I sort of split my time and enjoyed myself -- so I've been paying for that for the last month-and-a-half or so, getting back into the gym and eating healthy," Hutcherson said.
When it comes to the ensuing love triangle depicted in "Catching Fire" between Peeta, Katniss (Lawrence) and Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Hutcherson happily anticipates the challenge: "It's such a tough position that I know Peeta is put in where he is in absolute love with this girl and she acts like she's in love with him, but he knows that she isn't -- and that is heartbreaking. As an actor, it's something that I'm really excited play because it's such a a conflicting emotion... It's a very conflicting, confusing kind of thing and I can't wait to play it out. It's really, really intense and exciting, I think."
In both "Hunger Games" and "Catching Fire," Katniss, the heroine, comes to Peeta's rescue -- and that's just fine with Hutcherson. "Peeta is a little bit of a wrong place, wrong time kind of guy and he kind of gets hurt a little bit," Hutcherson says with a laugh. "I think that it's good to have a female hero who can step up because that's real. It's not always the girl that gets hurt in the story and the man has to protect her. That's not how it works. So it's cool to have a different take on that."
Hutcherson appears to be well aware that the sky is the limit: "It's been an amazing ride and it's only just beginning, so it's very, very exciting."
Watch 'The Hunger Games' Blu-ray Features