- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 20, 2012

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Move over Edward Cullen and Jacob Black, there’s a new love triangle causing spirited debate and girls to swoon.

In “The Hunger Games” movie out Friday, fans tend to have a strong opinion about whether the story’s protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, should be paired with her best friend Gale Hawthorne or her fellow “Games” contender, Peeta Mellark.

In real life, 19-year-old Josh Hutcherson, who plays Mellark, isn’t picking sides.

Instead he joked he’s backing a romance between Katniss, portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence, and her often-inebriated “Hunger Games” mentor, Haymitch, played by Woody Harrelson.

“Team Haymitch…Yeah, he’s the man,” Hutcherson laughed.

Woody (Harrelson) just knocks it out of the park (in the movie) so … Haymitch should win the heart of Katniss. Weirder things have happened.”

If you’re one of the few who don’t know the plot of “The Hunger Games,” kids are forced to enter a lottery where the chosen must compete in a live, televised fight to the death. The story is from a book series by Suzanne Collins who co-wrote the screenplay and is one of the film’s producers.

“Having Suzanne Collins involved, gave myself as a fan _ and other fans of the book _ a sort of confidence to know she wasn’t just handing it off and saying you know, `OK, do whatever you want with it.’ I think that having her involved gave a certain sort of security.”

To prepare for his role, Hutcherson had to bulk up. He stepped up his workouts and changed his diet. He said the training wasn’t a problem but the eating wasn’t as enjoyable as it may seem.

“A lot more heavy lifting and a lot more like eating high protein stuff, like very low carbs which is not very fun. I like eating carbs much more than I like eating protein things,” he explained.

Hutcherson said it’s a “big relief” to have the film come out after “buildup” over each actor cast and “hype around every photo that was released.”

Now he’s ready for the fans to see the final product.

“We can finally give people what they’ve been wanting for a long time,” he said, “and for me, you know, it’s very satisfying. I’m very proud.”

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