"The Hunger Games" Archery Training: How Jennifer Lawrence Stepped into Katniss' Boots

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Gary Ross directs this sci-fi/action epic based on Suzanne Collins' novel of the same name. Set in a futuristic American landscape, Jennifer Lawrence is Katniss Everdeen, the main character of the story. As a young girl living in a dystopian future, Everdeen replaces her sister in a survival contest that will save her community if she can make it until the end. Also starring Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Toby Jones and Elizabeth Banks.
Photo Credit: Lionsgate
August 13th, 2012

"The Hunger Games" Archery Training: How Jennifer Lawrence Stepped into Katniss' Boots

-- In "The Hunger Games," the heroine, Katniss Everdeen, is renowned for her archery skills honed through a lifetime of hunting wild game for survival. Any actress who would play Katniss, therefore, would have to learn archery to play the role convincingly. Jennifer Lawrence had the privilege of training under five-time Olympic competitor Khatuna Lorig. Lawrence had only a year to learn how to bring Katniss' skills to life on the silver screen, and based on critical reception of the film, the results of her practice paid off well. They followed a specific practice regimen.

At first, Lorig and Lawrence spent the first part of practice ensuring that Lawrence's posture was correct, not just for technical prowess, but also in the eyes of professional archers who could be a potential audience for the film. This would increase the immersion in the film because archers who spot technical errors could lose their suspension of disbelief. They shot only twenty arrows per practice session in the early phase of training. Gradually, they began increasing the number of arrows until they used fifty per session. Lawrence had time for fifteen archery practice lessons, because she had to balance it with her other obligations during the film shooting.

Another consideration that the two had to take during training was cinematography. Lawrence had to stand and move in such a way that the camera would often capture her face or dominant, or right, side.

The basics of archery training for Lawrence included posture, proper grip on the bow, and the proper orientation. They spent time making sure she was standing perfectly straight with the bow aligned vertically and drilled that position until Lawrence could assume it at a moment's notice. During the Hunger Games, Katniss would be fighting for her life against 23 other competitors, called "tributes." To portray this role, Lawrence would therefore have no time to stand still and aim her shots carefully, taking the time to get into a proper shooting stance. In addition, they worked with moving targets, gradually increasing the speed at which the targets moved.

As Lawrence improved her skill at hitting moving targets, it would minimize the number of arrows and film takes used to get scenes right.

She also learned to hit targets that were farther away. One scene in the film features Katniss at a feast shooting an apple out of a pig's mouth from across the room. She does this in the book to impress the judges, who determine the likelihood of each tribute's survival to gain them potential sponsors, or people who can send gifts to the tributes when they are in the field. The approximate shooting distance for such a feat in actual archery practice is 80 yards.

Lawrence practiced her shooting both on a professional archery range and in the woodland environments of the film. This was to tailor her skills to outdoor locales and the associated hazards, such as rough ground, wind, and trees. Learning to shoot an arrow at a stationary target in ideal conditions would not adequately prepare Lawrence to step into Katniss' shoes. Therefore, they had to make the training as authentic to the role as possible.

Although Lorig uses a special bow during the Olympics, she had to train Lawrence how to hold and use a basic wooden bow with no sights or other aids. This is considered the best way to start archery training because the archer has to use his or her own skills to hit the target. In the books, Katniss had to make her hunting bow and arrows out of the limited materials she had available. In the Hunger Games, she picks up an archery set at the Cornucopia, the initial food and supply drop when the Games start. The skills she learned translated easily, because the Gamemakers, or the creators of the arena, keep the weapons as simple as possible.

Lawrence has demonstrated her archery skills on several TV shows and exhibitions since "The Hunger Games" debuted in theaters. Some people have noted that Lawrence stands and fires her bow like a professional target shooter as opposed to someone who uses the skill to hunt for survival. This is to be expected because Lorig herself is a professional archer and would teach Lawrence to act in the same manner she herself was taught. Despite this, fans and critics tend to agree that Jennifer Lawrence, through her training under Khatuna Lorig, brought life to Katniss Everdeen in "The Hunger Games."