Exclusive Q&A: Eugenie Bondurant Takes On Tigris In ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2’
At 6’1, Eugenie Bondurant knew she might not get traditional film roles. Luckily, the model-turned-actress who walked New York and Paris runways wasn’t seeking the “traditional” parts. She wanted the outsider with a story, the underdog with a desire to overcome adversity, or the character with the audacity to look different than everybody else.
Her streak continues in the final installment of the popular book and film series The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2, opening in theaters today. Bondurant plays Tigris, a former Capitol stylist who transformed herself to look like a tiger — even down to the whiskers. After President Snow (Donald Sutherland) exiled her from the Hunger Games for looking too different, Tigris opened up a shop selling fur-lined underwear and clothes. Her defiance against the Capitol continues when she aids Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and the other rebels by hiding them in a secret compartment of her store. Transforming them to look like Capitol citizens, she helps them avoid detection for their plan to kill President Snow.
In an exclusive interview with GALO, Bondurant shares how she studied cats for the role as Tigris, reveals just how long the makeup process took to look like feline plastic surgery, and says what she thinks about Jennifer Lawrence’s viral essay on making less money than her male co-stars.
GALO: First and foremost, I think we’re all curious to hear about your transformation. How long was the makeup process to look like Tigris? And what did you think of the result?
Eugenie Bondurant: When they first started, it took six and a half hours! Then it was whittled down to four and a half hours. I can’t tell you everything about the process (it’s kind of exciting that I can’t tell you all of it!), but there were a lot of prosthetics involved with tattoos. The artists had to make sure that the prosthetics were done a certain way, and, of course, this all figured into how the hair and makeup would work. I had three people working on me at one time!
GALO: So what did you think about for those four and a half hours?
EB: I went into a meditative state. Or sleeping. It’s what happens when you get picked up at 4 a.m. — you take a little catnap. Around 6 a.m., I think I [wanted] coffee. Then a little later, someone [would] ask, “This is the last time for solid food, do you want anything to eat?” Of course my answer [was] always “yes!” After that, everything I [would] eat [was] through a straw; one of the best was a peanut butter smoothie. One of my favorite things to do [was to] try out the catering on set before I’d [be] in costume; otherwise, I’d have to avoid it like the plague.
But back to the makeup, it is extraordinary. The artistic vision of Glenn Hetrick and Ve Neill is out of this world. It’s because of them that Tigris looks great.
GALO: The Hunger Games is definitely well-regarded for its visual effects. Did you follow the series (either the books or the films) before you got a role in the final movie?
EB: It’s funny you ask that. I teach teenagers, so I knew about The Hunger Games series from them. Before I auditioned, I was just about to pick up the book.
GALO: How long have you been teaching at the Patel Conservatory in Tampa, FL?
EB: Eleven years. I teach on-camera acting, the Meisner Technique and scene study for teens and adults. Before living in Florida, I lived in Los Angeles and taught for about 11 years as well.
GALO: A few weeks ago, you tweeted: “Writing common applications for my senior acting students #iamsoproud #actingstudent #actorslife.” What is the best part about being a teacher?
EB: I just love my students. My teenage students keep me young! We do an hour of improv, which is great to do with teenagers to be able to get them on their feet. I have this one student who I just know is going to be a star. She booked her first film already and while she lives in Florida now, she’s moving to L.A. and joining the Screen Actors Guild.
I love being able to support her and my other students’ goals and objectives. My job is to help them reach that — I’ll give them everything that I know. I’m constantly writing recommendations, and in return I get this joy, this fun. Last year, my class gave me a surprise party. Who gets as lucky as that?
When I’m not teaching or acting, I sing cabaret with my husband [Paul Wilborn]. We also do live radio theater in front of 100+ people.
GALO: Citizens of The Capitol are known to alter their appearances dramatically (over-the-top makeup, unexpected hair colors, loud clothes) as a way to demonstrate their wealth. What do you think about Tigris being the only Capitol citizen exiled by President Snow for being “too altered” to appear on television for the Hunger Games?
EB: I find it very interesting that President Snow didn’t have Tigris killed. As an actress, you question why she was spared because if someone gets altered too much in a world with so many rules, you think she would die. She’s an outcast. Since there isn’t as much of a backstory about her, I kind of came up with a history for her in my mind to bring up that isolation but desire to live and be your own person.
GALO: How did you prepare for your role as Tigris, noting her animalistic qualities?
EB: I worked with Paula, the movie’s choreographer, and we studied cats. The way they move, the way they act when they walk into a room, etc. Since Tigris gets such extensive plastic surgery to look like a tiger, it makes sense that to play this part you need to know a lot about cats.
GALO: Do you think that the way you portrayed Tigris was similar to the character in the book?
EB: I think so! I studied the book quite a lot — I read it three times and took notes so I could get traces of who this woman is. Think about it: what does a cat do for its kittens? It protects them. Her motivations in the book have very catlike characteristics. There’s a parallel theme in the way that Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) tries to protect her family.
GALO: Speaking of Jennifer Lawrence, in October she wrote an essay for Lenny that went viral: “Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co-Stars?” Did you read this essay? Do you believe that there is gender pay inequality in Hollywood?
EB: [Laughs] Oh yeah. I’m just going to leave it at that. But yes, I read her essay and good for her to say it. She’s terrific. Just a really genuine person and so funny.
GALO: I read that you have a career that prompted your New Orleans’ grandmother to ask, “Can’t you play a normal person?” Is it true your grandmother said that? Do you specifically look out for roles that would be considered alternative?
EB: [Laughs] It’s very true! We were sitting down at lunch and I told her that I booked a job as a warrior. I was raised in New Orleans and my grandmother is a very traditional Southern woman. I just couldn’t stop laughing when she asked me that, and I said I’m going to remember this and totally use that line. To be honest, nothing has been normal in my career. I’m 6’1 and angular and I get the fun roles.
GALO: Do you think that being promoted as an androgynous figure has been successful for your career? Do you think the same way about that label now as you did when you started out?
EB: Being considered androgynous has definitely been an asset for me, but I didn’t know I was thought of that way until I started modeling. When I was in college, I was a sorority girl, and after I graduated, I became very ill. That prominent cheekbone look stuck with me and one of the first agencies I went to, [they] said, “I hate to ask you this, but are you a man or a woman?” At that time, I didn’t have hair and was wearing a wig. I just thought to myself, ‘OK, if that’s my niche then I’m going to run with it.’ Since then, I’ve had roles as an alien, dominatrix — the roles that are really fun to play. I’m not going to play the role that’s going to give you warm cookies and I’m OK with that. I enjoy playing the non-traditional roles, there’s more to work with.
GALO: Are there any other current projects of yours we might not know about, or that you’d like our readers to know?
EB: I’m on hold for a project filmed in New Orleans, but the scheduling has changed a couple of times, so we’ll see what happens!
GALO: Thanks Eugenie, we look forward to seeing you in The Hunger Games!
Catch Eugenie Bondurant in “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2,” out in theaters today (November 20)! For more information about Bondurant and her endeavors, you can follow her on Twitter @EugBondurant.