By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist March 17, 2011 at 1:20AM
The process of casting a high-profile, much sought-after role in a major would-be franchise is a complex one, with the advent of movie blogs such as ourselves. Every stage of the process is now as public as it could be, save some kind of weekly reality show documenting it, and it has the side effect of making the casting process seem endless. It's only six weeks or so since rumors of any kind started flying around regarding Gary Ross' adaptation of immensely popular young adult novel trilogy "The Hunger Games," but it's dominated the news to the extent that we're nothing but delighted that a decision's finally been made on the casting of Katniss, the central role.
The Wrap reports that 20-year-old Oscar-nominated "Winter's Bone" star Jennifer Lawrence has landed the part, to the surprise of absolutely no-one -- the actress was called the front-runner for the part more than two weeks ago, and was again thought to have been close to signing on last week. Nevertheless, other high-profile young actresses, including Hailee Steinfeld, Saoirse Ronan, Abigail Breslin, Chloe Moretz and half-a-dozen others, were also said to be in the race, but Lawrence's deal closed yesterday, and is thought to cover the whole trilogy: "The Hunger Games," "Catching Fire" and "Mockingjay."
Lawrence's star has been on the rise ever since "Winter's Bone" bowed at Sundance last year, with the actress landing roles in Jodie Foster's "The Beaver," Drake Doremus' "Like Crazy" and as the younger version of Mystique in "X-Men: First Class," but this seems like the role destined to cement her place on the A-list. The schedule is thought to still accommodate her recent casting in Oliver Stone's crime flick "Savages," but will, however, presumably rule her out of rival teen bookstore favorite "The Last Apprentice," with Jeff Bridges, which she was also linked to.
We're pretty big fans of Lawrence, not just for her storming performance in "Winter's Bone," but for the witty, self-deprecating way she's handled herself around awards season and the "X-Men" madness; it's clear that she was heading for the stratosphere anyway, but, barring some kind of disaster, this should make her a huge star. We haven't yet consulted our resident "Hunger Games" experts, but it seems like she's a strong fit for the role, although it may prove controversial among fans; Lawrence is a full four years older than the character, and some feel that by aging the character up, it may rob the premise -- involving teens drawn by lottery into gladiatorial battles in a dystopian future -- of its power.
Now, attention turns to the other major roles, most notably the male lead, Peeta Mellark. Names like Alex Pettyfer and Josh Hutcherson have been linked to the role in recent weeks, with E! Online reporting that Hunter Parrish, star of "Weeds" and "It's Complicated" is also in the mix. With the film set to bow a year from now, on March 23rd, 2012, we'd expect the rest of the decisions to follow shortly.