In August of 2010 I posted “Daring to Dream: Casting ‘The Hunger Games’ Movie” on Cinematical. Not a single person I named was cast and I still stand by my choices to the point, but I must concede Gary Ross and Lionsgate did a much better job. However, that’s not stopping me from dream casting the sequel, Catching Fire.
The Hunger Games Vets
Of course there are quite a few characters from round one that will not return, but we’ve got quite the handful that are not only still in the spotlight, but consuming more of it. Catching Fire is Katniss Everdeen's story just like The Hunger Games, so Jennifer Lawrence’s return is top priority. Sure this whole X-Men: First Class 2 thing put a little strain on the Catching Fire production schedule, but Lawrence needs to be front and center and the studio’s got to make that happen in any way it can.
Josh Hutcherson’s Peeta Mellark will be by Katniss’ side for much of the journey yet again, but this time, he’ll have far more competition from her hunting partner and best friend, Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth). Catching Fire spends much more time in District 12 pre-Games and even though Gale spends a great deal of time in the mines, he’s just as much a part of Katniss’ life as ever. As for Katniss’ family, Prim (Willow Shields) still has a rock solid relationship with her sister, but with no scenes as powerful as The Hunger Game’s reaping, she relies more on what she established in the first book in Catching Fire. Katniss’ mother, on the other hand, comes alive. Paula Malcomson spent most of The Hunger Games looking on in silence and being lectured by Katniss, but in Catching Fire, she really has no choice, but to pull herself together and be strong for her family and community.
We should expect even more Haymitch Abernathy this time around as well. While Woody Harrelson’s character was very much involved in every step of the Hunger Games prep process in the first book/film, this time, he’s much more to Katniss and Peeta than a mentor, he’s their neighbor and, more importantly, a true friend. While Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) has grown quite fond of her victors, her mentality is still very much geared towards Capitol approval, so maintaining Katniss and Peeta’s image is of prime importance. Lenny Kravitz’s Cinna has similar goals in mind, but approaches them with Katniss’ best interest in mind, not the Capitols. And, of course, with Cinna comes Katniss’ prep team – Flavius, Venia and Octavia – but while they’ve got a stronger presence in Catching Fire versus The Hunger Games, the fact that the trio was reduced to minimal screen time and dialogue in the first film, leads me to believe Catching Fire won’t be any different.
You think President Snow (Donald Sutherland) bore a sinister weight on Panem in The Hunger Games? Wait until you see the effect he has on Katniss and the entire country in Catching Fire.
Catching Fire Newcomers
And now for what’s sure to make the next month or two quite exciting – casting the new characters in Catching Fire. Will this be the year one of my dream cast members actually gets picked? We’ll have to wait and see.
Spoiler Alert: By reading these character descriptions and seeing who might fit the role, some important points of the ‘Catching Fire’ plot are revealed.
Hazelle Hawthorne: Maura Tierney
Yes, Gale’s mother, Hazelle, is pivotal in Catching Fire in a number of memorable scenes, but none of which effect the trajectory of events, suggesting she, Rory, Vick, and Posy could get cut. However, should Hazelle make it to the big screen, she must somewhat resemble her son, have a degree of warmth and also come across as a particularly strong woman. Unlike Katniss’ mother, when Hazelle’s husband perished in the mining accident, Hazelle held on strong, going to work washing people’s laundry to support her family. Having been ER-addicted for quite some time, it’s clear that Maura Tierney would have no trouble playing the woman in charge, but also highlight Hazelle’s motherly nature.
Plutarch Heavensbee: John Goodman
An age is never specified for Seneca Crane’s replacement, but I always naturally pictured the new Head Gamemakers to be on the older side. President Snow must look more stately than Plutarch Heavensbee, but at the same time, I always suspected his appointment might have been due to the fact that Snow considered Crane to be too young for the gig and without enough respect for the rules of the long-standing tradition. Of course, that’s only speculation, but it’s that thought process that leads me to John Goodman for the role. Clearly, he’s not a thin guy, so that works, but Goodman is also an actor with an endless list of films to his name, many of which are quite good and feature strong performances. Ability isn’t the issue here; it’ll just come down to who Suzanne Collins and director Francis Lawrence envision Plutarch to be.
Beetee: Robin Williams
Perhaps it’s because I’ve got a little tech nerd in me, but should I live in Panem, I always imagined I’d hail from District 3. Naturally, that developed into a particular appreciation for Beetee. He’s reaped for the 75th Hunger Games and, considering he’s from a non-Career district, is older and isn’t as robust as the competition, Beetee isn’t the ideal ally – except to Katniss. I’ll admit, I had my eye on Michael Emerson for the role, but considering E! Online beat me to it, I’m going to throw another name in the ring, Robin Williams. A mere glance at his resume proves he’s capable of just about anything, and it’s that vast repertoire that suggests Williams could be a convincing inventor and also someone you can trust.
Wiress: Fairuza Balk
Yet again, I must admit I passed on Helena Bonham Carter due to the E! Online posting, but it forced me to consider other options and that led me to the ultimate in crazy, Fairuza Balk. Funny thing, I recently watched Return to Oz for the first time and it’s clear Balk was being groomed as the cute girl-next-door type. Obviously something changed along the way. Anyway, Wiress is a little off her mind to say the least, which Balk should have no trouble portraying in a realistic fashion, but Balk can’t go all Nancy Downs with the character, so will need to channel her inner Dorothy to give Wiress a softer side.
Brutus: John Cena
Alexander Ludwig pulled off the whole hulking career thing pretty well, but in a field of past victors, the District 2 tributes are going to need to be big – professional wrestling big. John Cena is one of quite a few wrestlers to make the transition to the big screen and you know what? He’s not all that bad. He's a little young for the role and the guy certainly doesn’t have an Academy Award in his future, but he can carry a scene and considering it’s more about Brutus’ presence than anything, Cena should have no trouble with this one.
Enobaria: Gina Carano
I know I said District 2 tributes have to be professional wrestling big, but American Gladiators big counts too, right? Haywire may not have earned much of an audience, but it did put Carano on the map as someone who can beat up guys like Channing Tatum. As a little bonus, Carano has a bit of a resemblance to District 2’s 74th Hunger Games tribute Clove. The two really look like they come from the same region.
Cashmere: Amber Heard
Speaking of 75th Hunger Games tributes that resemble their 74th Hunger Games counterparts, how about Amber Heard for Cashmere? Heard’s got a lengthy resume and while all the films on that list might not be the greatest, in terms of delivering as an actress, she’s got a pretty solid track record. While she may not have the physical presence of someone like Carino, Heard most certainly could pass as a physical threat.
Gloss: Alex Pettyfer
Matching looks is more important than ever for Gloss and Cashmere not only because they’re both from District 1, but because they’re brother and sister. You wanted Alex Pettyfer? Now you’ve got him. Pettyfer is certainly no Peeta, but his particularly defined facial features give him a rather harsh look, something that’s quite appropriate for a Career. But, of course, he’s also incredibly good-looking, which seems to be the case with all District 1 residents, something that goes nicely with names like Marvel, Glimmer, Cashmere and Gloss.
Chaff: Nonso Anozie
Nonso Anozie is officially one of my new favorite actors. I’m a Game of Thrones addict; can you tell? So far, so good for Anozie as Xaro Xhoan Daxos and the guy gave a rather tacit yet memorable performance in The Grey. But why Anozie for Chaff? Chaff may be from District 11, but just like Thresh, he’s still a potential contender. He’s got just one hand, but the guy’s a sturdy six-feet tall. However, considering he’s one of Haymitch’s very few friends, he’s also got to have an amicable personality and, sure enough, when he plants a big fat kiss on Katniss’ lips, it proves he is - the an extreme.
Mags: Linda Hunt
Mags, Finnick’s co-tribute from District 4, does get some time in the spotlight, so acting chops are a must, but it’s her looks that are really going to sell the part. Finnick spends a good portion of the Games carrying Mags on his back. When thinking of actresses in their 70s or 80s, my mind automatically goes to the incredible Maggie Smith, but Maggie Smith on the back of a strong 20-something seems a little silly. Next up is Ellen Albertini Dow, but considering she’s hit 93, the physicality involved might be a bit out of her range. Linda Hunt, on the other hand, could be a good option. She’s 67, only 4’9” and, based on her work on NCIS: Los Angeles, seems incredibly capable of handling the part, both giving off a somewhat frail appearance, but still giving off the impression that she once had the ability to win the Hunger Games.
Johanna Mason: Brie Larson
I’m sure Kristen Bell would be fine in the role, but 31 just doesn’t equal late teens/early 20s and Johanna Mason has to bear a likeness to Katniss age-wise. Johanna is tough and snarky, but she’s got to have a little heart. Brie Larson plus brown hair dye? Now that could be a stellar option. Larson’s been an incredibly busy actress for quite some time, but has yet to land a role that garners the attention she deserves. That movie should have been Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, but sadly, that also didn’t get the attention it deserved. Anyway, Larson’s resume still proves she’s got a thing for playing sassy yet loveable characters and could create an electric on-screen relationship with Jennifer Lawrence.
Finnick Odair: Armie Hammer
Yes, I know, this is the obvious choice, but how could I not go with Armie Hammer when he’s just so damn perfect? Had The Social Network hit theaters before my first reading of Catching Fire, I’d like to bet I would have pictured him as Finnick. The way Finnick’s described in the book, he’s basically an Abercrombie model and should Hammer ever apply for that gig, he’d definitely get it. But it isn’t just about looks with Hammer. He really is very talented. He can get serious working with material like The Social Network, but has no trouble letting loose and having some fun in films like Mirror Mirror. Should he find a middle ground between those two, perhaps veering a little more towards the Winklevoss side, we could have capable but very charming Finnick.
And just for fun … The Morphlings: Gary Busey and the New Jersey Tanning Lady
So maybe this is a little mean, but won’t it be mean to a degree to cast these roles at all? The Morphlings are the victors from District 6 who, after winning big in the Games, opted to spend their earnings on the painkiller Morphling. Thanks to the intense addiction, both ended up with a nasty yellow hue to their now saggy skin. The duo is also a little off, if you know what I mean, and spend their time in the training facility practically bathing themselves in camouflage paint. With Gary Busey being Gary Busey and the New Jersey tanning lady already rocking abnormally colored skin, Francis Lawrence could cross some rehearsals and makeup time off his to do list should he cast these two.
The Hunger Games Countdown runs here on Movies.com every other Wednesday. There are 561 days until the release of Catching Fire.