LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks jumped at the chance to take supporting roles in "The Hunger Games," a film about children who are forced to compete in a live televised death match in the not-too-distance future.
Why? They were moved by Suzanne Collins' book series and the script that the author helped co-write for the movie, opening in theaters Friday.
"We all agree the book is such a page turner and it's just the storytelling," Banks said in a recent interview.
"You know there are oppressive governments all over the world. We have this class warfare happening between the 1 percent and the 99 percent," she said. "We've got rebellious teenagers who are finally standing up for something. I think that everything that's going on (in the film) resonates in today's world and with today's audiences."
Harrelson plays Haymitch Abernathy, a mentor to "Hunger Games" contestants Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). Haymitch is eccentric, crass and drinks too much, but knows how the games work.
Harrelson said his only issue with the film, and what he and director Gary Ross talked about a lot, was the degree to which Haymitch would be drunk "because I'm always one who likes to go over the top and luckily he pulled me back."
The film's seasoned performers are big supporters of star Jennifer Lawrence.
Donald Sutherland, who plays President Snow, said the "Winter's Bone" Oscar nominee should change her name to Jennifer Lawrence Olivier after the late actor Laurence Olivier.
He said his favorite scene involving Lawrence is when her Katniss character bonds with a younger "Games" contestant named Rue.
"It's lucky I didn't storm the screen, you know? It was so moving, she did it so beautifully. What a wonderful actor she is."
Harrelson called Lawrence's performance "perfect," and said "the sky's the limit for her."
"I don't know what will happen for her career, but I can't imagine that it won't go for another 80 years," he said.
The actors understand the success of "The Hunger Games" will likely mean more films in the franchise, and they are OK with that.
"It's horrible to have future work," joked Lenny Kravitz, who plays a stylist in the movie.
"Or to know a paycheck is coming," added Banks.
Alicia Rancilio covers entertainment for The Associated Press. Follow her at http://www.twitter.com/aliciar