It's been a while since we've reported on the movie adaptation of The Hunger Games and in the intervening time, there's been a steady drip of casting information. That means catch-up time! Spoilers may follow and remember, contestants: may the odds be ever in your favour.
First of all, a little plot background. The trilogy of YA novels by Suzanne Collins is set in a post-apocalyptic land that “rose out of the ashes” of North America. Its name? Panem. A powerful government sits at its centre and is known as the Capitol. Twelve (once 13) districts surround it, each with a different specialism (coal-mining, fishing etc). One of the many ways in which the Capitol flexes its politcal muscle is through the Hunger Games, an annual, televised fight to the death. Preceding the Games is the reaping, a ceremony held in each district to choose a male and female tribute (competitior). Most people fear this day: every 12-18-year-old's name is placed in a ballot. Additionally, each person's name is added again for each year they're eleigible and they can choose to be entered again, in exchange for a year's ration of grain and oil for one person (known as tessera).
We meet 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen just before the reaping. She lives in District 12 – the district of coal miners – with her mother and 12-year-old sister, Primrose (aka Prim). When not in school, Katniss spends her days with Gale, illegally hunting to feed their starving families. The 74th Hunger Games are just around the corner and Katniss' name has been entered into the ballot twenty times (five as required and the other fifteen as tessera) and as Prim is now 12, her name has been entered once. But against all the odds, Prim's name is called out as the female tribute for District 12. Katniss then volunteers to take her sister's place, refusing to let her face such a fate. The male tribute from District 12 is Peeta Mellark, a baker's son, a boy Katniss knows from school and who once saved her from starvation with a loaf of bread.
Before the Games take place, all twenty-four tributes from Districts 1-12 are taken to the Capitol and paraded in front of its inhabitants. The contestants try to win their favour in the hopes that they might present gifts to them while in the arena (the most likely winners will receive the most gifts when they are in need, giving the betting audience an improved chance of collecting). The tributes from each are also given a small amount of coaching by previous winners of their district. Katniss and Peeta are mentored by the drunken Haymitch Abernathy, the survivor of the 50th Hunger Games. Haymitch decides the best way for them to appeal to the audience is to pose as “star-crossed lovers”; for Peeta this is not necessarily much of a pretence, but for Katniss it's a painful performance – getting close to someone who is very likely to die.
So far 14 of the 24 tributes have been cast, as well as a few supporting characters. Starting with District 1, Jack Quaid will play Marvel, a Career tribute (aka Careerer: a person who sees participating in the Games as an honour and has trained throughout his life, then volunteers to participate). He is described as strong and ruthless. Leven Rambin is Glimmer, the female tribute from District 1. She is another Careerer, tall with flowing blonde hair and emerald eyes.
District 2 tributes Cato and Clove are yet to be cast but they are more Careerers. Cato is described as strong, muscular, nasty, mean and unrelenting. Clove is an expert at knife-throwing and one of Katniss' most dangerous opponents.
Ian Nelson is District 3's male contestant. He shows he's good with electronics, which is related to the profession of his District. Kalia Prescott has been cast as the female tribute of District 3.
Ethan Jamieson and Tara Macken are the tributes for District 4, the fishing district. These are the last pair of Careerers.
District 5 handles breeding and DNA splicing. Its male tribute will be played by Chris Mark and its female by Jacqueline Emerson. The female tribute is nicknamed Foxface by Katniss as she is said to be sly and elusive. She's quick and clever and described as having fire-red hair, amber eyes and sharp, vulpine features.
Ashton Moio and Kara Peterson step into the shoes of the District 6 tributes. (Spoilers follow: if you don't want to know, skip to the next paragraph). The pair will have quite small roles as they along with both tributes from District 7 (currently uncast), District 8 (also uncast), District 9 (uncast) and a number of others fall quickly. District 10's contestant is another that is yet to be cast with the boy noted for being very quiet and having a crippled foot.
The male tribute for District 11, Thresh, will be played by Dayo Okeniyi. He is described as strong and burly but proves himself to have honour and dignity by his actions towards Katniss (we won't spoil it any more for those who haven't read the book). The female tribute, 12-year-old Rue, will be played by Amandla Stenberg. She is described as small but easily underestimated. Rue forms an alliance with Katniss during the Games because she reminded Katniss of her sister Prim.
That leads us to District 12. Taking centre stage as Katniss is Jennifer Lawrence and by her side as Peeta Mellark is Josh Hutcherson. District 12 is split in two, there is a slum known as the Seam and a town where all the merchants live. Those who live in the Seam are described as having olive skin, dark hair and grey eyes due to the amount of years they've spent in the mines; those who live in the town have blonde hair and blue eyes. It will be interesting to see if hair dye and contact lenses are used on these tributes. But either way, The Hunger Games' author, Suzanne Collins seems happy, with this comment on Lawrence's casting: “Jennifer's just an incredible actress. So powerful, vulnerable, beautiful, unforgiving and brave. I never though we'd find somebody this perfect for the role...Katniss requires a young actress with strength, depth, complexity, tenderness and power. There are very few people alive who can bring that to a role. Jen brings it in spades.”
Other roles that have been cast include Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket, the escort of the District 12 tributes. She has pink hair and is quite eccentric, living in the Capitol for most of the year and only travelling when the Hunger Games requires. Paula Malcolmson is to play the mother of Katniss and Prim, born a merchant but moved to the Seam to be with Katniss and Prim's father, whom she loved dearly. After his death, in her grief, she failed to look after her children, meaning that Katniss had to support her family alone. Willow Shields is to play Prim. Quite the opposite of Katniss, Prim is very compassionate and helps her mother attend to sick and wounded miners. And finally Liam Hemsworth is Gale Hawthorne, Katniss' best friend and hunting partner. The last rumours had Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci and John C Reilly all up for potential roles. As always, we'll let you know more when we do.
Taking the director's chair is Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, Pleasantville) who proposes the film will be a PG-13. As the novel is aimed at a 13-plus audience this isn't too surprising. The Hunger Games is set for a March 23, 2012 release. Casting comes via The Hunger Games' Facebook page.