The Hunger Games Archery Training Left Jennifer Lawrence's Body Changed Forever

While the exact origin of the trend cannot necessarily be pinpointed, something calcified in the popular consciousness with the release of Gary Ross' 2012 film "The Hunger Games." It seemed that archery was the hippest way for an action heroine to defend themselves. 

In "The Hunger Games," Jennifer Lawrence plays Katniss Everdeen, an impoverished teenager living in a dystopian future carefully segregated by class. Katniss enlists in the titular Games, a televised fight to the death. Luckily, Katniss is skilled with a bow and is be able to defend herself from other teen attackers. Katniss became part of a cadre of pop culture archers that included Neytiri from "Avatar," Merida in "Brave," Mulan in "Mulan," Hanna in "Hanna," Ygritte in "Game of Thrones," Eva Green's character in "The Golden Compass," Bae Doona's character in "The Host," the 2005 version of Guinevere, and Hawkeye from "The Avengers." Also, one might loop in the archer elf Legolas in the "Lord of the Rings" movies, and whichever version of Robin Hood you prefer. 

While one may only theorize why archery became such a popular movie activity, it was certainly embraced by audiences, and "badass archer" briefly became a dominant cinematic archetype. Some studies even pointed to the "Hunger Games" movies as being directly responsible for young women taking archery lessons in real life. 

On a 2015 episode of NPR's "Fresh Air," interviewer Terry Gross asked Jennifer Lawrence about archery and its prominence in the "Hunger Games" movies. Lawrence revealed that her archery training for the films was extensive, to the point where her entire physique changed. Indeed, as the film's continued, she required costume alterations to accommodate her musculature. 

Khatuna Lorig

To learn archery for "The Hunger Games," Lawrence had to privilege of studying under Olympian athlete Khatuna Lorig, a Georgian-born athlete who competed for the United States in the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona. She won the bronze medal that year. Holding dual citizenship, Lorig also competed for Georgia in the 1996, 2000, 2008, and 2012 Olympic Games. She would continue to win medals at other world tournaments for years, having most recently won a gold and a silver at the Pan American Games in 2019. 

As a teacher, Lorig was effective at instructing Lawrence on how to operate a recurve bow (that is: the type of bow that curves away from the archer when the bowstring is removed). Lawrence was given a crash course, and Lorig was hard on her student. Regardless, Lawrence says she found the experience positive, even if one of her arms, it seems, became longer as a result. She said: 

"I really, really enjoyed archery. I had an amazing instructor, Khatuna. She was Georgian. She was an excellent instructor — very, very strict. If I had bad form, she would pinch my ear. She didn't really put up with anything. It totally changed my body. It was so crazy, when I went back for the fitting for the second movie for 'Catching Fire,' my shoulders were two inches broader and my right arm is one inch longer than my left arm, permanently, I guess. But I really enjoy it." 

Lawrence also admitted on "Fresh Air" that a blockbuster like "The Hunger Games" wasn't on her radar as an actress, more often opting for smaller, indie dramas. Katniss was a big shift for her, but a big one. Lawrence holds the Guinness World Record for highest grossing action heroine.