The Hunger Games’ Annie Cresta – Stef Dawson at MCM London Comic Con

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Stef Dawson, who plays Annie Cresta in The Hunger Games film series, had a chance to talk to attendees about her role at MCM London Comic Con. To a loudly applauding crowd, she graced the stage and settled in for questions from host Stuart Claw.

Her part in the adaptations of Suzanne Collins’ young adult novels is her first major film role. When asked what her experience of filming had been like and what she had especially enjoyed, she replied, “It was the best thing that ever happened to me, to work with such amazing people and to tell the story like that. It’s incredible. Suzanne’s stories mean so much to me and to so many people. So doing something with such a voice, is a dream come true.” Effusing about being immersed in the world of The Hunger Games, she said, “Just being in that world is incredible. I love that world and what the film is about and its characters. But also just having a blast with the coolest bunch of people – everyone is really down to earth and genuine.”

the-hunger-games-mockingjay-poster-katniss-jennifer-lawrence-fullQuestions from the audience were then taken, the first of which was about the actor who plays her on-screen love, Sam Claflin, “How was it working with Sam Claflin? Did you have a screen test with him?” one audience member asked.

“No!” Stef exclaimed, “Sam actually found me on Twitter first. He reached out to me and said ‘Welcome to the family!’ And that was really sweet of him. By the time of the Catching Fire premiere, I was confused by why I hadn’t met him! So I was looking for him everywhere at there. And we hit it off straight away. He’s one of those people that are just so warm and welcoming. He’s incredible to work with so I’m very lucky.”

The next question asked Stef what it was like to work with one of the biggest names in the film industry at the moment, Jennifer Lawrence, and if she had a favourite co-star. She groaned in despair, “Picking my favourite? That’s like picking one of your kids. That’s a tough one. Jennifer is such a good chick, very friendly and a phenomenal actress to watch and to work with. It’s hard to say who’s my favourite because they’re all such characters. But I have to say that I got along well with Woody [Harrelson], he’s a real character, always had this cheeky little glint in his eye. They’re all just a bunch of really sweethearts.”

With a $250 million budget for both Mockingjay Part 1 and Part 2, the film sets were always going to be a spectacular feat to design and build. As we’ve seen from the first two offerings from The Hunger Games franchise, there are impressive landscapes and entire cities created to really give life to the books. “The District 13 part was quite incredible,” said Stef, “And it’s a part I really enjoyed – that was very pretty cool.”

However, you’d be forgiven for having not heard of Stef Dawson before. Her filmography so far is packed with roles in short films. When asked if she’d been in any other films, she laughed and replied, “Yes, I have. I’ve been in some movies back in Australia, which probably not a lot of people here have seen. And I’ve been in a couple of films over here. I’ve just finished two films in New York.”

When asked if any funny bloopers happened on set, Stef giggled, lamenting that she wasn’t allowed to give anything away just yet. But with a cheeky grin, she concluded that she would talk about bloopers endlessly after the film comes out.

The character of Annie Cresta suffers greatly both in and out of the the Hunger Games arena with the effects taking their toll on her mental stability, and Stef was asked if it had been hard for her to play a character who is ‘crazy’, from a book that she is so passionate about. She paused for a moment and responded, “For me, there was a part of that that was effortlessly easy. She’s quite a broken doll, that’s been through war so that’s always hard to really be open and transport people to those places. That’s always the thing with wanting to do a great job. The thing is that everyone’s gone through some stuff in their life. I have as well. You kinda just draw on things that you’ve gone through. And she’s not ‘loopy’ crazy, she’s been quite broken by the effects of war. I entered it that way.”

hunger-gamesThe tone lightened then with the next round of questions, where Stef was asked if she thought she would get far in the Hunger Games if it was real. She flexed her biceps and replied, “I would get pretty far, just sayin’! I’m really short but I’m kinda tough. People think I’m really not but I am.”

When asked what character she would play if she wasn’t Annie, she replied matter-of-factly, “Haymitch”, to a hearty chuckle from the audience. “I think I’d make a great drunken, long-haired… Yep, Haymitch.” Stef was also asked who out of the people she’d worked with on the films she would you choose to be her allies in Games. She replied with the obvious choice, “Well, probably the Mockingjay. That’d be a safe bet!”

Questions turned to Stef’s acting influences next, and to her first time meeting Suzanne Collins. Being an Australian, Stef grew up with and was inspired by Cate Blanchett. “She’s such a chameleon, I’ve always loved her” she said. Describing her first meeting with Suzanne Collins, she said that there seemed to be “…something quite familiar about her. I just loved her straight away, she’s a really sweet lady. I felt so glad to give a voice to one of her characters. It was such a thrill and I felt really humbled by it.” She went on to say that it was “…such an honour to get a part” in the series as she’s been a fan of the books for so long.

The last questions from the audience asked about how Stef prepared for the role and what the most challenging part of the filming process had been. She thoughtfully replied that she had remained true to the books, fully immersing herself in the character as she was written. She also mused, “Everyone’s lost someone in their life, so try to shine a light and focus on things. With any character who’s been through a lot of stuff, you have to be really open and let yourself go. That’s always a bit tricky as we spend so long as people trying to keep our shit together. And we have to allow space for these characters to come out.”

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 opens in UK cinemas on 21 November.

Photo by Morenike Adebayo.

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