In "The Hunger Games,"actress Leven Rambin plays a teenage girl who has trained since childhood to fight to the death in a post-apocalyptic arena. To embody the role, Rambin, 21, had to look the part of the young warrior and also be able to wield weapons convincingly — her character, Glimmer, is versed in sword fighting and archery.
Rambin talked with us about going beyond her physical comfort zone to prepare for the part, learning to fight in the wilderness and discovering what she's really capable of.
You had to get in excellent physical shape for "The Hunger Games." How long did you train, and what did you do?
I had about two months to prepare for the fight sequences and physically train. I did lots of spinning, probably an hour and a half a day. I also did boot-camp-style exercises — rolling kettle bells and balls that weighed 30 pounds across the room, using ropes, and rolling tires around, military style.
Every other day, on the days that we weren't training, I would go hiking or running around Los Angeles, by myself or with my friends. I also did some sprinting — I was pushing myself. Dieting was also a big part of it, so no dairy and no carbohydrates whatsoever.
How did you learn the specific fighting skills, like sword fighting and archery?
I trained different muscles of my body, like my shoulder muscles and back muscles, for long periods of time. I had to thrash the weapons around like I knew what I was doing, and it was pretty difficult to get my muscles to memorize and acclimate to the different maneuvers. It hurt in places I never knew I had.
I trained in fight choreography and on camera with swords and weapons for about two hours a day, tossing them around like I was a skilled fighter. I was doing that whenever I was not doing the other training, whenever I could.
At the end, did you feel like you knew what you were doing?
I did, actually. The trainers were very thorough, and I'm pretty athletic. I enjoyed archery especially.
Before filming, you worked out in a studio in Los Angeles, but you shot the movie in the wilderness of North Carolina. Was it harder to do some of the moves outside?
It was different to be on grass and not to be comforted by padding. During filming, we also didn't have padding under our outfits, which were pretty flimsy, so it was a little bit difficult getting used to that. It was also really hot out there, and it would rain and stuff, so we had to deal with the elements. But it was more natural and organic.
What was your pre-"Hunger Games" fitness routine like, and do you think you'll incorporate your new training techniques into it?
I was sort of just a casual exerciser. I would exercise all the time, but I would never push myself outside of my comfort zone. This showed me how far my body could go if I was willing to push it.
I also definitely learned what works for me, what results I can see and what I like to do, so now that I'm doing another film I want to get back into that shape. I've already gotten back into the mind set of, "It's not the question of whether I'm going to work out, but how long I'm going to work out today." It's about disciplining myself and remembering how much I can handle, and not giving up.