Words cannot describe how excited I am to bring you my first post on the Hunger Games – the movie adaptation of one of the greatest book series I’ve ever read. Yeah, that’s a pretty loaded way to start but if you’ve read Suzanne Collins’ trilogy you would understand why I’ve been ranting about it here and on Twitter for the past year. I’ve got an interview coming up with Jodelle Ferland (Bree from The Twilight Saga: Eclipse) this morning and rumour has it she’s auditioned for the role of Katniss Everdeen, so I can’t wait to find out whether that’s actually true or more Hunger Games hysteria. Lord knows she looked fantastic as Katniss when she dressed up as her for Halloween last year, despite later tweeting “Don't take it so seriously ... I'm not trying to say, 'Hey, look at me. I should be Katniss.” In the meantime, until I get to speak with someone who might have actually read the script, here’s my Hunger Games wrap.
Set in a dystopian future over the course of three books, the world’s remaining population live in 12 districts in what used to be North America. All of the districts are controlled by the Capitol, a 1984-esque superpower who defeated the districts in an uprising several decades earlier – including the complete annihilation of District 13 (or so the say). To keep the districts in their place and constantly reminded of the Capitol’s complete power over them, each year two young adults – aged between 13 and 18 – are drawn out of a ballot and forced to compete in the Hunger Games; a Gladiator-esque fight to the death between 24 district tributes which is broadcast throughout the nation of Panem. It’s like Big Brother, but with weapons and things that go `boom’.
Living in the poorest area, District 12, is 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen who is the sole provider for her mother and little sister Prim after her father was “blown to bits” in a mine explosion when she was 11. Katniss has kept the family alive by illegally hunting in the woods surrounding the district with her rebellious best friend Gale and she’s about as handy with a bow and arrow as Legolas. Suffice to say, she’s a badass. Come The Reaping, she volunteers herself for the Hunger Games after Prim’s name is drawn out (scene depicted in fan art above). The other tribute from her district happens to be the baker’s son Peeta, who helped keep her family alive several years ago with a loaf of bread and who, unbeknownst to Katniss, has been in love with her ever since. Anywho, without spoiling the plot further, the pair head off to the Capitol and compete in the Hunger Games with the shaky guidance of their damaged and always drunk mentor Haymitch, who won the Hunger Games for District 12 25-years ago. The outcome of their mission to stay alive continues over the remaining two books, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, but since we’re just talking about the first film I’ll restrict the plot synopsis to that.
(Above): A turning point in the second book, Catching Fire, depicted in more brilliant, atmospheric fan art.
On board to direct is four-time Oscar nominee Gary Ross (Big, Pleasantville, Seabiscuit) and Billy Ray (Shattered Glass, State Of Play, Flightplan) is responsible for the screenplay. A trio of relatively inexperienced producers – Nina Jacobson, Jim Miller, Ali Shearmur – are also on board, but for me Ross and Ray are the most interesting talent here. I have a lot of faith in Ross. He’s a filmmaker who doesn’t just pump out pictures for the sake of it, with 10 years between writing and producing Big to his directorial debut Pleasantville, then another five for Seabiscuit. Although he’s not onboard as a writer or producer with this, like he was with his three previous efforts, it’s clear he has in-depth understanding of what makes a decent script and that will be essential when it comes to making a film adaption on such already well-developed material like the Hunger Games. Ray’s involvement is another point to be excited about because he’s one hell of a screen writer, as we saw with the stellar Flightplan and State Of Play. He’s also responsible for directing one of the best films about journalism ever – Shattered Glass – and he brings knowledge to the table about what will and won’t work from script to screen.
Well, this is the news EVERYONE has been dying to hear in Hollywood and the Hunger Games roles have become some of the mostly hotly contested in recent years, with everyone from MTV to The New Yorker covering the casting developments. Although no final announcements have been made, lord knows they’re coming soon, and here’s the confirmed talent vying for a spot.
She’s the heart of the film, literally. Stuff up the casting of Katniss and you may as well throw the Hunger Games movie in the trash, along with Charlie Sheen’s career. Like a cross between Ellie Linton from the Tomorrow Series and Rose Hathaway from Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series, she’s arguably the greatest literary heroine since Lisbeth Salander. It’s no wonder every actress with a pulse is fighting for the role. Apparently the front runners are Oscar-nominees Jennifer Lawrence and Hailee Stanfield (below), with the former being too old for the character (in my opinion) and the latter being just perfect. Other actresses who have auditioned include Lyndsy Fonseca (maybe), Abigail Breslin (no!), Chloë Moretz (maybe), Emma Roberts (hells yes), Saoirse Ronan (sure), Emily Browning (too porcelain), Jodelle Ferland (hells yes), Malese Jow (hells yes) and Shailene Woodley (hells no). Only time will tell who gets to don Katniss’ signature bow and arrow, in the meantime here’s a Hunger Games fan’s interpretation of the character:
Peeta The cooling waters to Katniss’s fire, the role of Peeta is a fight between Alex Pettyfer (above) and Aussie Liam Hemsworth. Apparently Scream 4’s Nico Tortorella has read for both Peeta and Gale too, but I consider him an outside chance for Peeta. Another Aussie, 20-year-old Lachlan Buchanan is also in the race. Personally, I think either Pettyfer or Hemsworth would be great, but I tend to lean towards Pettyfer simply because of his superior acting chops compared to Hemsworth. But hey, if they go with a dark horse like Buchanan I’d be all for that – he certainly looks the part.
Gale Ah, Gale. The handsome, loyal and fiercely rebellious best friend, the fire to Katniss’s, erm, fire. This is also a two man race, with Thomas McDonnell (above) and Robbie Amell sweating it out for Gale. Sure, Amell is pretty, but I think McDonnell would own this role and I’m not just saying that because he has awesome hair. Physically he embodies everything Gale is described as in the book and put simply, he fits.
Who cares? I mean, really. Okay, maybe the casting of their mentor Haymitch will be interesting (Hugh Laurie is rumoured) but the rest are just background fillers. There’s a tonne of talented actors and actresses out there who would fill the supporting roles so I don’t think it really matters, the focus is on the above trio. You only need the others to do a good job, no big names needed.
Filming is set to get underway in California within the next month, which makes things pretty tight for the crew as Lionsgate have already locked in a March 23, 2012 UK and US release date. No doubt there’s going to be a lot of post-production work needed given the original and colourful description of the Capitol and all the bat-shit craziness that happens in the arena. But with Gayle Busby (300, Legion) and Chris Watts (Where The Wild Things Are, Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, Gattaca and the incredible Watchmen short film Tales Of The Black Freighter) on visual effects duties, I have faith. I’m fascinated to see how this puppy develops and before people write it off as another `young-adult’ squeal-fest let me stop you there; it’s most definitely not another Twilight. One of the reasons I loved the books was its incorporation of genuine, blood splattering, flesh tearing horror, inventive sci-fi, ball-dropping action and a romance that wasn’t by-the-numbers. There are complex themes of loyalty, freedom, justice and responsibility that take it beyond the young-adult fiction pigeon hole and into the realm of something Stephen King can praise.
In the meantime, the rumours surrounding the Hunger Games film are about as ferocious as a career tribute and this is shaping up to be the film hot young actors want to be associated with. Naturally, given the awesomeness of the books, there are a tonne of fan sites dedicated to the latest Hunger Games news. If you want to stay up to date, I’ve done the hard work for you, trawled through them, and these are the best sources for diehards and rookies alike: