Before Katniss took up bow and arrow, director Gary Ross struggled to get Woody Harrelson to play the part. Although Suzanne Collins’ book series was extremely successful, Harrelson showed some reluctance to join the project.
“I turned down Hunger Games twice,” Harrelson admitted in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “I had no idea it was going to be this big, but I didn’t think it was a good part. I was wrong.” Although Harrelson didn’t particularly like what the role of Haymitch offered, he was soon proven wrong. Across the four films in the franchise, Haymitch has an incredible arc, beginning with pushing absolutely everyone away and ending as one of Katniss’ only emotional touchstones. Both share extreme emotional anguish and a passionate desire to protect Peeta at all costs. Haymitch is a lynchpin of the series and a force that brings many of the characters together.
Luckily for Hunger Games fans at large, Harrelson finally reconsidered after a personal call from director Gary Ross. Ross became invested in the project after his children read the books and knew Harrelson was the right choice, Ross told The Hollywood Reporter in an email. Interestingly, both Harrelson and Haymitch initially refuse to step into the roles they were meant to play – but as audiences know, The Hunger Games would later become more important than either first thought.