Moving swiftly from indie breakout to star of a major Hollywood franchise, Jennifer Lawrence has landed The Hunger Games.
The trilogy includes Susanne Collins's The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, which were adapted for the screen by State of Play's Billy Ray. Seabiscuit's Gary Ross will direct the first film for producers Nina Jacobson and Jon Kilik and Lionsgate, which has slated a March 23, 2012 release.
How closely the movies follow the books is an ongoing issue for fans. Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy hewed painstakingly close to the original J.R.R. Tolkien books (The Hobbit will continue that tradition), as did the Twilight and Harry Potter series. The worldwide box office for those three go like this: Harry Potter: $6.4 billion (Deathly Hallows Part 2 is the final installment), LOTR: $2.9 billion (The Hobbit Parts 1 and 2 are set for release in 2012 and 2013), Twilight: $1.8 billion (with two-part Breaking Dawn for 2011 and 2012). It's anything but surprising that The Hunger Games is going Hollywood. [Box Office Mojo]
Many more details and polls below:
Among the other actresses Lawrence reportedly beat out are Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, Saoirse Ronan, Chloe Moretz, Lyndsy Fonseca, Saoirse Ronan, Emma Roberts, Kaya Scodelario, Emily Browning and Shailene Woodley. UPDATE: In a statement Collins approves of the casting: “Jennifer’s just an incredible actress. So powerful, vulnerable, beautiful, unforgiving and brave. I never thought we’d find somebody this perfect for the role. And I can’t wait for everyone to see her play it.”
Lawrence's male co-star is still up for grabs, though Alex Pettyfer, Josh Hutcherson and Hunter Parrish have all been rumored. Vote below to name your "Peeta Mellark."
The Hunger Games refers to a futuristic world's annual spectacle in which two children are selected by lottery and forced by the government to fight to the death on TV. A caste system places the uber-rich in the 'Capital,' where they dominate society from within the lap of luxury, whilst the majority of society are impoverished throughout twelve districts kept at a distance from the Capital. Winning the Hunger Games is the only escape out of poverty and hard labor; winning (i.e. killing the opponent) guarantees a life of fame and luxury. Skilled hunter Katniss is neither a killer, nor does she support the inhumane system, but she voluntarily enters the Games to spare her sister, whose name was chosen, because she wants to protect her family.
In Lev Grossman's review of the first book for Time, the story: "inspires in readers a kind of zeal I haven't seen since the early days of Twilight. Stephen King is a major fan. So is Stephenie Meyer." He also says that while there is violence, it's "fairy-tale violence,…not a cheap thrill but a symbol of something deeper." And he praises Collins's writing: "After a life spent in freezing poverty, Katniss experiences pleasure--warmth, food, pretty clothes--with almost unbearable intensity, and that's where Collins' writing comes alive. (Not sex, though. The Hunger Games isn't just chaste, like Twilight; it's oddly non-erotic)." While chaste, EW adds that the Peeta Mellark character is more a rival than romantic interest, and while affection gets in the way of her trying to kill him, he's not necessarily her love interest. Her hunting buddy Gale is apparently the "smoldering" one.
Of the trilogy's violence Grossman writes:
"[the books] expose children to exactly the kind of violence we usually shield them from. But that just goes to show how much adults forget about what it's like to be a child. Kids are physical creatures, and they're not stupid. They know all about violence and power and raw emotions. What's really scary is when adults pretend that such things don't exist."
When we started tracking the project back in August, there was a backlash of fan commentary suggesting a hyper-sensitivity to casting the much-beloved Katniss and the inevitable comparisons to Twilight (apparently the comparison is an insult to Hunger Games devotees, not the other way around). Among the fan comments:
"Katniss has BLACK hair and OLIVE skin. Those girls are all extremely pale and have blonde hair. None of the fans want those girls and it would be wise for Lionsgate to take note of it."
"Katniss is like the complete opposite of Bella. She cares about two guys, but she is more concerned about keeping herself and her family alive and she will use any means to do it."
"Katniss is not the helpless, love crazed girl that is Bella. What Katniss can be related to are traits like sarcastic, angst, logical, mother hen or strong. There is a good size cast in characters that have depth to them, fast pace action of the ‘kill or be killed’ scheme of things, and well, the unstoppable start of rebellion."
"The fans’ top choices are more along the lines of Kaya Scodelario and Malese Jow."
Sorry folks, but we've seen Lawrence transform herself from a leggy blonde babe into a tough rural teen in her Oscar-nominated role in Winter's Bone and she also brings surprising strength and depth to her high school valedictorian in Jodie Foster's The Beaver. Foster says she conjures reservoirs of pain in her acting. Lawrence will transform herself into Katniss and will likely be a believably gritty fighter to the death.
[Photos: Top: Lawrence courtesy of Esquire; Middle: pictured in Winter's Bone]