Liam Hemsworth on His Hunger Games Prep: "My Goal Was To Not Get Fat"

Crédit photo: Photo credit: Murray Close Liam Hemsworth on His Hunger Games Prep:

LOS ANGELES - Liam Hemsworth continues to prove he's more than just that handsome dude dating pop star Miley Cyrus.

The Australian recently wrapped his lead role in Sylvester Stallone's The Expendables 2, and he's one of the attractions in the highly anticipated sci-fi film, The Hunger Games, which opens Friday.

In the post-apocalyptic movie based on Suzanne Collins' first of three popular young-adult books, Hemsworth plays the introspective Gale Hawthorne. He's the one who tries to convince his friend Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) to run away with him before her live-on-TVdeath match.

Katniss has found herself in the predicament after volunteering to replace her sister in a competition created for the entertainment of the Capitol's ruling class, in which teens must battle to the death.

While most of the film shows Katniss fighting for her life, along with sidekick Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), it is Hemsworth's Gale who hints at what the future will bring.

"Gale and Katniss are basically an escape for each other in this horrible world they're living in," says Hemsworth at a Beverly Hills hotel. "They both provide for their families, and are strong personalities, but Gale is really against what the games stand for."

Hemsworth's Gale has a more active role in the subsequent Collins novels, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, and should be a main player in the films, too. He has a great deal less to do in The Hunger Games.

"But Liam has a quiet strength that we needed in The Hunger Games," says director Gary Ross.

For now, the 22-year-old is happy to be a part of the introductory film, which is on track to replace the Twilight movies when that franchise concludes with the release of Breaking Dawn - Part 2 in theatres next fall.

Indeed, the filming of Catching Fire is already tentatively set for the fall, with The Hunger Games poised to break box-office records.

That means both Lawrence and Hutcherson will resume the intensive training they underwent for The Hunger Games. Hemsworth, on the other hand, needs to do something completely different for his role.

"My goal was to not get fat," jokes Hemsworth, who dropped 15 pounds for the "starved look" he needed in The Hunger Games.

It didn't take him long to fill out his six-foot-three frame while filming The Expendables 2, mostly in Bulgaria. But adjusting to working alongside iconic action stars he admires was another matter.

The movie co-stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Jason Statham, Chuck Norris, Jet Li and Stallone, who co-wrote the script for the sequel, which is set for an August release.

"Just another day at the office," says a smiling Hemsworth, downplaying his stargazing while shooting The Expendables 2.

He did pull himself together enough to play a mercenary caught in a double cross. In retrospect, he has nothing but great things to say about his famous co-stars.

"They're incredible guys," he says. "And Stallone is one of the smartest people I've met. He just gets the business."

In fact, Hemsworth was supposed to be in the first Expendables, even before he met Miley Cyrus during filming of 2010's The Last Song and landed the part of Gale in The Hunger Games. "The Expendables didn't end up happening, but (Stallone) brought me back for this one."

Many more moviemakers have him on their hire list. Next month, he'll start filming the action drama, Empire State, with Dwayne Johnson. He's also playing Ali Baba in the fantasy adventure directed by Chuck Russell, Arabian Nights.

It seems as if he's positioning himself as the next young action star, but the actor denies it.

"I look for scripts that I relate to in some way, and that I think are interesting and I haven't done before," he says. "I want to work with great directors, and great actors, and that's regardless of how big the project is."

So Hemsworth's career has worked out just fine since he left Melbourne, and his early days on Aussie TV shows, including parts on the kids' series The Elephant Princess and Satisfaction. He also managed roles in Home and Away and McLeod's Daughters, before his recurring role as the paraplegic Josh on the popular soap Neighbours made him a mini-celebrity Down Under.

His success provided the motivation to head for Hollywood in 2009. At first, it was disappointing. But he says he recovered from losing out on the Thor role to his older brother Chris (who will return as Thor in the all-star superhero flick, The Avengers, opening May 4).

"I think brothers have a competitive nature, and we do, but it's not a bad thing," says Hemsworth. "It pushes us both to be better, and I'm lucky enough to have someone who's been through a lot, so he can guide me in the right direction."

The Hunger Games opens Friday, March 23.

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