I’ve been hearing about ‘The Hunger Games’ for months now, with new cast members appearing in my inbox practically every day. But I’ll confess that I hadn’t heard much about the book trilogy until news of the movie started buzzing around the Web. So it’s high time I delved into it.
What’s the story? Written by Suzanne Collins, this young-adult science fiction series is comprised of three books: ‘The Hunger Games’ (2008), ‘Catching Fire’ (2009), and Mockingjay’ (2010). The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world in the country of Panem, where North America once stood. A powerful government in the central city of Capitol holds the power, and in an annual televised event, chooses one boy and one girl from each district to fight to the death. The event is to demonstrate that not even children are beyond the reach of the government’s power.
What inspired the story? Collins says she got the idea for ‘The Hunger Games‘ by channel surfing, and it makes total sense. On one channel, she saw people competing on a reality show; on another, footage of the Iraq war. The two blended together to form the idea of children fighting each other to the death. The Greek myth of Theseus inspired the character of Katniss, a young girl introduced in the first book. Collins also looked to her father’s service in the Vietnam War for inspiration about fearing the loss of a loved one.
Will it be the next ‘Twilight’ or ‘Harry Potter’? Possibly. With all the buzz surrounding this film, expectations are running high. But with central themes of death and survival and an expected MPAA rating of PG-13, this one isn’t for young kids.
Who’s in it? Casting news started coming out a couple months ago, and as mentioned, every day brings new announcements. Here’s what we know so far:
Jennifer Lawrence: Katniss Everdeen, who upon hearing that her dear 12-year-old sister Prim is picked to fight in the Hunger Games, demands to go instead. She’s incredibly strong, self-reliant and tough. She’ll do anything for those she loves. Lawrence knocked me out as Ree in last year’s runaway hit ‘[amazon_link id=”B003EYVXTG” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Winter’s Bone[/amazon_link].’ See her next as Raven Darkholme/Mystique in ‘X-Men: First Class’ (in theaters June 3, 2011) and Norah in ‘The Beaver’ (May 20, 2011).
Liam Hemsworth: Gale Hawthorne, Katniss’ touchstone in District 12, her faithful friend and hunting partner. In the beginning, he asks her to run away with him so they can escape the cruel whims of the Capital. You’ve seen him as Miley Cyrus’ boyfriend in ‘[amazon_link id=”B003NHRIUW” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]The Last Song[/amazon_link]’ (and in real life, too). Up next, he’ll play Ali Baba in ‘Arabian Nights,’ in theaters in 2013. He’s also the younger brother of Chris Hemsworth, currently in theaters as ‘Thor.’
Josh Hutcherson: Peeta Mellark, the baker’s kind-hearted son, who’s called up along with Katniss to represent District 12 in the Hunger Games. You’ve seen him in multiple kid-flicks and comedies, including ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth,’ ‘Bridge to Terabithia,’ and ‘RV.’ He also played Julianne Moore and Annette Bening’s son in last year’s hit ‘[amazon_link id=”B003L20ICO” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]The Kids Are All Right[/amazon_link].’ Up next, he stars with Vanessa Hudgens in ‘Journey 2: The Mysterious Island,’ in theaters Sept. 23, 2011.
Paula Malcomson: Mrs. Everdeen, a widow and the victim of the totalitarian government. In the first book, she must watch one daughter sacrifice herself for her other child. Malcomson has been in the movie business since the 1990s, with roles in ‘Tombstone,’ ‘The Green Mile’ and ‘Hamlet.’ She also played Amanda Graystone in ‘Caprica’ and Maureen Ashby in ‘Sons of Anarchy.’
Willow Shields: Primrose Everdeen, Katniss’ delicate and much-loved younger sister. When Katniss listens in horror as Prim’s name is called to represent District 12 in the Hunger Games, she immediately demands to go in her place. A relative newcomer to the film industry, Shields has had roles on ‘In Plain Sight’ and the TV movie ‘Beyond the Blackboard.’
Elizabeth Banks: Effie Trinket, the pink-haired, sadistically bubbly escort for District 12 tributes Katniss and Peeta. A bit of a social climber, Trinket is all too excited to be part of the reaping. You’ve seen her in ‘[amazon_link id=”B003L20IGA” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]The Next Three Days[/amazon_link],’ ‘W.,’ and ‘Role Models.’ Up next: ‘Man on a Ledge,’ in theaters Jan. 13, 2012.
Lenny Kravitz: Cinna, a fashion stylist who designs the outfits that Katniss wears when fighting the games. He becomes one of her closest allies. Kravitz is best known as a musician whose tunes have graced the soundtracks of ‘Precious,’ ‘Sex and the City’ and ‘Bruce Almighty.’ See him next on the big screen in ‘Selma’ and ‘The Blind Bastard Club,’ both slated for a 2012 release.
Woody Harrelson: Haymitch Abernathy, the only living resident of District 12 ever to win the to-the-death games. He’s also the mentor to Katniss and Peeta. He starts off the series as a burned-out drunk, but ultimately begins to see Katniss and Peeta as his poverty-stricken district’s best hope for winning the games. You’ve seen him in ‘Cheers,’ of course, as well as a slew of box office and sleeper hits, including ‘Zombieland’ and ‘The Messenger.’ Up next: ‘Zombieland 2,’ in theaters in 2013.
Stanley Tucci: Caesar Flickerman, the smooth-talking interviewer at the annual Hunger Games. Expect his hair, eyelids, and lips to be dyed a powder blue and his suit adorned with a thousand twinkling electric bulbs. It’s Flickerman and his probing questions that introduces Katniss and the other tributes to the Capitol audience. You’ve seen him in about a thousand films, including ‘Burlesque,’ ‘Julie & Julia’ and ‘The Lovely Bones.’ Up next, he plays Abraham Erskine in ‘Captain America: The First Avenger,’ in theaters July 22, 2011.
Wes Bentley: Seneca Crane, the Head Gamemaker at the 74th Annual Hunger Games. He makes a decision at the end of the first book that sets the course for the rest of the trilogy. You’ve seen him in ‘Jonah Hex’ and ‘Ghost Rider.’ Up next: ‘There Be Dragons’ (currently in limited release) and ‘Hidden Moon’ and ‘Hirokin,’ both slated for a 2011 release.
Toby Jones: Claudius Templesmith, arena announcer. He’s the voice of the house elf Dobby in the ‘Harry Potter’ films, and you’ll see him shortly as Arnim Zola in ‘Captain America: The First Avenger.’
Amandla Stenberg: Rue, the 12-year-old District 11 tribute who reminds Katniss of her younger sister, Prim. That association leads Katniss to team up with Rue in an alliance that has a lasting effect on her throughout the trilogy. You’ve seen her in ‘Why Did I Get Married Too?’ Up next, she’ll play young Cataleya Restrepo in ‘Colombiana,’ in theaters Aug. 26, 2011.
Latersha Rose: Portia, Peeta’s stylist. You may have glimpsed her in guest roles on ‘All My Children,’ CSI: Miami’ and ‘Bones.’
Brooke Bundy: Octavia, a member of Katniss’ beloved stylist Cinna’s prep team. As Capitol-dwellers, Octavia and Portia are expected to have garish, heavily stylized looks, from their clothes to their skin dye.
Alexander Ludwig: Cato, the hulking, fiercely competitive piece of work from District 2 who’s perhaps Katniss’ biggest threat in the fight-to-the-death event. You’ve seen him in ‘Race to Witch Mountain’ and ‘The Seeker: The Dark is Rising.’
Isabelle Fuhrman: Clove, the expert knife-thrower from District 2 who takes tremendous glee in killing her competitors. You’ve seen her in ‘Orphan’ and voicing the part of Hatchling Shelly in ‘Sammy’s Adventure: The Secret Passage.’ Up next: ‘Princess,’ in theaters in 2012.
Jackie Emerson: Foxface, the quick and sly tribute from District 5. She’s a clever nemesis who never utters a single word in the book, though she does let loose a mean laugh after the Careers’ food supply is decimated. You’ve heard her voice in 2004’s ‘Father of the Pride’ TV series.
Jack Quaid: Marvel, a strong, ruthless Career Tribute from District 1. He’s trained most of his life for the Games and shows no mercy. In the first book, he’s never mentioned by name; it’s only in ‘Catching Fire’ that we learn it. This is the first feature film for the son of Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid.
Leven Rambin: Glimmer, the tall, beautiful and deadly partner of Marvel, her fellow tribute from District 1. She’s cunning and not above cheating. Rambin played Chloe Hall on ‘One Tree Hill’ and Sloan Riley on ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’
Dayo Okeniyi: Thresh, a powerful, intimidating force from District 11. He proves to be a formidable opponent and a surprise ally for Katniss within the arena. Up next: the horror film ‘Slew Hampshire,’ currently in post-production.
Kalia Prescott: District 3’s female tribute who boasts a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. She has a tearful goodbye scene with her parents and younger siblings before being whisked away to the Hunger Games.
Ian Nelson: District 3’s male tribute who manages to align himself with the Careers, who exploit his skills in technology and electronics.
Imanol Vepez-Frias: District 9’s male tribute who plays a pivotal role in Katniss’ survival.
Donald Sutherland: The veteran actor will play President Snow, the autocratic ruler of the city of Panem who uses the violent games as a way to maintain control. With his broad range of roles — everything from Hawkeye Pierce in the original ‘M*A*S*H’ movie to Mr. Bennet in 2005’s ‘Pride & Prejudice’ — he’s got the chops to pull off this role.
Also in the Cast: Annie Thurman (District 9’s female tribute); Samuel Tan (District 8’s male tribute); Mackenzie Lintz (District 8’s female tribute); Ashton Moio (District 6’s male tribute); Kara Petersen (District 6’s female tribute; the stuntwoman’s work also appears in J.J. Abrams’ upcoming ‘Super 8’); Chris Mark (District 5’s male tribute); Ethan Jamieson (District 4’s male tribute); Tara Macken (District 4’s female tribute); Dakota Hood (District 10’s Tribute Girl); Jeremy Marinas (District 10’s Tribute Boy; upcoming is the ‘Sherlock Holmes’ sequel);
OTHER ‘HUNGER GAMES’ STUFF:
- Director: Gary Ross (‘The Tale of Despereaux,’ ‘Seabiscuit’)
- Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller
- Adapted by: Suzanne Collins and Billy Ray
- Produced by: Nina Jacobson, Robin Bissell, Suzanne Collins, Louise Rosner and jon Kilik
- Distributor: Lionsgate Entertainment
- Production Companies: Color Force, Larger Than Life Productions, Lionsgate
- Budget: $75 million
- Anticipated MPAA Rating: PG-13
- Anticipated Release Date: March 23, 2012
- Current Filming Location: A town in North Carolina
OTHER ‘HUNGER GAMES’ SITES OF INTEREST:
- Scholastic Books
- The Hunger Games Wiki
- The Hunger Games Official Site
- The Hunger Games on Wikipedia
- The Hunger Games Trilogy Fansite
- The Hunger Games on IMDB
Looking forward to ‘The Hunger Games’? Have you read the books? Anyone in the cast you’re particularly excited about?