As a follow-up to this question about Caesar Flickerman...

Was the character of Plutarch Heavensbee based on any real person?

This time I'm more interested in his film portrayal by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman than in what Suzanne Collins was thinking when she wrote him, although the latter would also be interesting if any evidence exists.
The role of Head Gamemaker, the man in charge of running the Hunger Games (which are, at the end of the day, a television show), involves organising the filming, the positioning of prizes and traps, the timing of events, and the projection of everything to the masses. I always thought this must be quite similar to that of a real-life film director or producer - of whom Hoffman must have met a great many during his long career! I got the impression while watching him that this was a role he knew how to play very well from personal experience. Was there anyone in particular on whom he was modelling his performance?


2 Answers 2


The historical figure Plutarch?

The best I've been able to find is this (non-canonical) speculation from The Panem Companion. Its emphasis is on the origin of his name, but it includes some discussion of his background, career, and role in the story, so I thought it was interesting enough to merit an answer.

"Heavensbee" is a portmanteau and proprietary name. In southern vernacular, the phrase "Heavens be!" is a mild expression of surprise. But the name could also come from a line in the "Life of Pericles" (part of Parallel Lives), written by Heavensbee's namesake, the historical Plutarch:1

Diopeithes introduced a bill that those who did not recognise the gods, or who taught theories of the heavens, be prosecuted.

A Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Platonic philosopher best known for his Parallel Lives and Moralia, the historical Plutarch was born to a Greek family under the name Ploutarchos, and was renamed upon becoming a Roman citizen. This may suggest that the Hunger Games' Plutarch came from somewhere outside the Capitol and took a Capitol name to avoid suspicion as he plotted the Second Rebellion;2 more likely, however, it is the historical Plutarch's work, not his background, that served as the inspiration for the Hunger Games' character.

The historical Plutarch focused most of his adult life on pointing out the moral deficiencies and inadequacies of Roman officials. [...] Plutarch was not concerned with the accurate recording of history so much as the influence of character, good or bad, on the lives and destinies of men.

Similarly, the Hunger Games' Plutarch worked to expose (and depose, in the case of Coriolanus Snow!) corrupt officials. He did this much in the same way the historical Plutarch did: just as Plutarch was interested in preserving and telling people's stories through popular writing (i.e., the Lives), Plutarch Heavensbee is interested in displaying and telling people's stories through reality TV programming (the Games, his proposed singing show).

1 OK, this bit is kinda far-fetched. But read on - the comparison with the historical figure Plutarch does sound interesting!

2 See this question: Where is Plutarch Heavensbee originally from?

  • Just when I think I'm looking at another dreary question attempting to invent trivia, along comes this excellent answer to show me I don't know everything yet.
    – Spencer
    Jan 15, 2022 at 16:20

This is addressed in the special edition of the books that contains the 10th anniversary interview with Suzanne Collins. There is a question regarding what inspired a gladiator-like arena:

SC: A fascination with the gladiator movies of my childhood, particularly Spartacus. Whenever it ran, I'd be glued to the set. My dad would get out Plutarch's Lives and read me passages from "Life of Crassus" since Spartacus, being a slave, didn't rate his own book.


SC: Plutarch is the namesake of the biographer Plutarch, and he's one of the few characters who has a sense of the arch of history. He's never lived in a world without the Hunger Games; it was well established by the time he was born then he rose through the ranks to become Head Gamemaker.

Plutarch's Lives/Parallel Lives and the antique in general are overall mentioned as major sources of inspiration for Collins. I don't think there is any relation between the character and the historical person, other than that the former was named after the latter.

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