A Little Mockingjay Told Me: Welcome!
Apparently I’m not the only one who can’t get enough of this series, so in honor of the craze that is The Hunger Games book-to-film adaptation, we’re dedicating an entire column to the event, brought to you by yours truly. Welcome to The Hunger Games Countdown!
Every other week (till we get closer to release) we’ll deliver the latest in Hunger Games news, an introspective look at how particular scenes could potentially come to life on the big screen, a taste of what’s happening throughout the realm of Hunger Games fan websites and much more. To kick-start the series, we’re going to take a look back at the history of the big-screen adaptation from the very first announcement proclaiming that The Hunger Games movie was on the way.
But first, for those of you who have yet to read the book (and I maintain there’s no excuse for that), here are The Hunger Games basics …
Hunger Games 101
The story focuses on 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen. Katniss lives with her mother and 12-year-old sister, Prim, in the country of Panem, which once was North America. Now the region is divided into 12 districts and the all-powerful Capitol. While the Capitol is brimming with wealth, the surrounding districts are far less fortunate. Katniss’ district, District 12, is amongst the poorest.
In reality this may mean less food and luxury items, but in Panem, having fewer resources also affects a district’s success in The Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death. Once a year, each district selects two “tributes” during the “reaping.” There must be one male and one female tribute, both between the ages of 12 and 18. In more prosperous districts like 1 and 2, they’ve got the means to breed “careers,” kids raised to compete in the event, whereas in places like District 11 and 12, citizens barely have enough to survive let alone grow tall and strong.
For District 12, the reaping day is a sad one for it’s the day two unwilling kids are shipped off to the Capitol to die. And this year, for the 74th Hunger Games, those two unlucky soles are Katniss and Peeta Mellark, the baker’s son. The two reluctantly board the train to the Capitol alongside their eerily bubbly escort, Effie Trinket, and their perpetually drunk mentor and former Hunger Games survivor, Haymitch Abernathy, and they're sadly forced to leave behind the ones they love – perhaps forever.
Way Back When
You know how every single outlet under the sun covers even the slightest bit of Hunger Games news? Well, back in 2009 when word first got out that Suzanne Collin’s first book in her three-book series was getting the big screen treatment, only a handful of sites picked up the story.
The news hit in March of 2009 before Collins’ second book, Catching Fire, even hit stores. The initial announcement touched on Lionsgate’s collaboration with producer Nina Jacobson and their excitement about becoming part of this franchise. Lionsgate President of Motion Picture Production Alli Shearmur said, “This is exactly the kind of movie I came to Lionsgate to make: youthful, exciting, smart and edgy. We are looking forward to working with Nina and Suzanne to create a movie that satisfies audiences' hunger for high-quality entertainment.”
From there we got the film’s official start date and news of the commencement of the hunt for a director, but still, hype was rather low. Book giveaways, stories about President Obama buying The Hunger Games for his kids and more, but still, the film flew under the radar.
It wasn’t until Chloe Moretz’s name was thrown into the mix that things really started to pick up. After her smashing debut in Kick-Ass, the young actress was all the rage and seemingly perfect for the lead role of Katniss Everdeen, or so some people thought. Next up was the fight to get behind the lens and ultimately Gary Ross(Pleasantville) beat out David Slade, Sam Mendes and more for the right to be called the director of The Hunger Games.
The Casting Craze
After a lengthy lull, wading in casting rumors and speculation, we hit March and the race to cast the film officially began, first filling the lead role of Katniss Everdeen. No, it wasn’t original frontrunner Moretz or even True Grit’s Hailee Steinfeld, but rather Jennifer Lawrence of Winter’s Bone and the upcoming X-Men: First Class. Next up were the boy’s in Katniss’ life, her Hunger Games partner, Peeta, and her hunting partner and best friend, Gale Hawthorne. After a much-debated battle, Josh Hutcherson stole the role of Peeta from Hunter Parrish, Evan Peters, Alexander Ludwig and more while Liam Hemsworth beat out David Henrie and Robbie Amell amongst others for Gale.
We’re in the midst of the tribute casting rampage with only the District 2 and 10 tributes left to go. We’ve got Amandla Stenberg and Dayo Okeniyi as District 11 tributes Rue and Thresh, as well as District 1’s Marvel and Glimmer, Jack Quaid and Leven Rambin. In addition, Ian Nelson and Kalia Prescott snagged the roles of the unnamed District 3 tributes while Ethan Jamieson and Tara Macken will play the ones from District 4. Most recently, we’ve added Chris Mark and Jacqueline Emerson to the roster as the tributes from District 5, an unnamed boy and Emerson as the elusive Foxface. Ashton Moio and Kara Petersen are the tributes from District 6, Sam Ly and Leigha Hancock the tributes from District 7, Samuel Tan and Mackenzie Lintz the tributes from District 8, Imanol Yepez-Frias and Annie Thurman will play the tributes from District 9, and lastly, for now, the tributes from District 10, Jeremy Marinas and Dakota Hood.
In addition, Lionsgate has also confirmed Willow Shields as Katniss’ little sister, Prim, as well as their mother to be played by Paula Malcomson. Then there’s Elizabeth Banks who finally stopped circling and nabbed the role of District 12 escort Effie Trinket while Wes Bentley took the role of Head Gamemaker Seneca Crane. The latest casting confirmation is for Stanley Tucci, who’s claimed the role of Caesar Flickerman, the boisterous albeit comforting host of The Hunger Games.
Additionally, while John C. Reilly was originally mentioned for the role, Woody Harrelson has just signed to play one of the series’ most prominent adult roles, that of the District 12 mentor Haymitch Abernathy. There’s also a rumor surrounding Lenny Kravitz, though the role is unknown at this time. If I had to guess, I’d peg Kravitz for a cameo-sized role, perhaps as another district’s mentor.
Around The Web
Of course before there was the movie, there were the books -- and that means before all of us movie folks went crazy over the potential franchise, Suzanne Collins’ novels had already amassed quite a following. We’ll be working with a number of Hunger Games fan sites on a regular basis to bring you the most introspective material possible, combining our know-how on the filmmaking side with their long-term dedication to the series.
For now, here’s a sampling of some of our new affiliates’ work: Over at Down with the Capitol, I highly recommend checking out their newly launched project in honor of Katniss’ birthday, March 8th. Due to funding troubles, Mrs. B can’t offer to buy the books for her students, so Down with the Capitol is asking fans to contribute to their effort to bring The Hunger Games trilogy to Mrs. B’s classroom. Click here to read all about the initiative.
There’s also an interesting, albeit spoiler packed, article over at Hunger Games Network. Ever since the film version of The Hunger Games was announced, the trilogy has been dubbed the next Twilight. Upon finishing the third book in the series, Mockingjay, the major difference is glaring. The Hunger Games isn’t some silly light young-adult fare in the least; it depicts serious events in a horrifyingly real manner. Of course, I’m dancing around the gist of this article so as not to spoil anything for anyone here, so if you’d like to get to the core of the argument, head on over to Hunger Games Network and check out the whole piece by clicking here.
Now that we’re all caught up on the story as well as the progress of the film, get ready for our next edition (beginning in June) because that’s when we’ll dive into the meatier elements of this production by taking a closer look at each tribute, some of the book’s most pivotal scenes that’ll be vital to nail in the big-screen version, who’s left to be cast and much, much more.