By Katharina Urban-Oberberg
LONDON (Reuters) - The stars of the eagerly anticipated movie "The Hunger Games" said scenes of violence were justified, after British censors agreed to give the film a "12A" rating only after some footage was cut.
Based on the first of three novels by Suzanne Collins, the film is a post-apocalyptic story in which U.S. actress Jennifer Lawrence plays heroine Katniss Everdeen who volunteers to take her sister's place in a televised fight-to-the-death battle.
The hype surrounding its March 23 launch has been compared to the hugely successful "Twilight" vampire movie franchise, and industry experts predict an opening weekend box office tally of up to $100 million in North America alone.
In Britain, distributors agreed to cut seven seconds of footage featuring wounds and bloodied weapons in order to obtain a "12A" rating and draw in a bigger, younger audience.
When asked whether she believed the violence depicted on screen was acceptable, Lawrence said:
"I think so, yes, because it's the violence and the brutality (which) is the heart of the film, because it's what gets the people angry to start an uprising and to start a revolution.
"I do think the violence and brutality is justified, but I understand if everybody has a different standard for ratings," the actress told Reuters on the red carpet at the European premiere of The Hunger Games in London late on Wednesday.
In the United States, the film aimed largely at a teenaged audience received a PG-13 rating "for intense violent thematic material and disturbing images -- all involving teens".
Josh Hutcherson, who plays Peeta Mellark, said he believed director Gary Ross had struck the right balance between staying true to the book and not overdoing the violence.
"I think kids are more mature than they have been over the years and I think ... the whole idea was to make this movie and stay true to the book without alienating audiences.
"So Gary Ross did it in a way where he didn't glorify it (the violence) at all. It's not overly gruesome or brutal but it is part of the story in some way."
British actor Toby Jones, Claudius Templesmith in the film, praised the pacing of The Hunger Games.
"It feels like a sort of adult film in style, it's not that fast editing you see all the time in films that are supposedly for young people," he told Reuters.
"It's much more, it believes that the audience were interested in the characters so it takes its time."
(Additional reporting and writing by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)