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The casting of 'The Hunger Games': Just calm down already

April 6, 2011 |  5:04 pm

Hunger-Games-cast

Perhaps you’ve been following the development of "The Hunger Games" — the upcoming film based on the book that may have been ripped off from another book about kids fighting in a giant outdoor lucha libre death match.

Actually, scratch that. Of course you’ve been following the development of "The Hunger Games." "Twilight" is winding down. What else are tweens and overheated hausfraus expected to follow — the situation in Libya?

So here’s the latest with "The Hunger Games": Casting. Not everybody likes the designated hottie lineup. For one, the franchise heroine, a brown-haired teenager named Katniss, will be channeled on screen by a blond 20-year-old named Jennifer Lawrence. The two boys who complete the Katniss love sandwich in the book also will be of age in the movie: Liam Hemsworth (21) and Josh Hutcherson (18).

To many fans, the choices seemed clueless at best, cravenly cynical at worst. After all, isn’t there a perfectly serviceable, 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld all trained and ready to report to the set? So you’d think. But then you’d think wrong.

Casting directors say that, yes, while Steinfeld may, in fact, exist, the suits at Lionsgate probably couldn’t have hired her even if they'd wanted to. In fact, they likely had to cast a trio of adults. Here’s why.

By law, child actors can work only six hours per day. They also require on-set tutors, multiple breaks and other quite reasonable allowances that can add up on a studio’s balance sheet. One kid, a la "Little Miss Sunshine," works fine money-wise. Several kids? Often cost prohibitive.

(Sure, Steinfeld was one of the leads in "True Grit." But she was the only child lead. After her six hours per day were up, Jeff Bridges or Matt Damon could mosey on in and work for another six hours.)

So why not divide it up? Well, if you cast one kid -- say, as the female lead -- it would look awkward to have her flirting -- or fighting -- with adult men. And vice versa: Imagine an adult woman having an on-screen love triangle with boys who look underage.

“We have to believe that these are all kids who are reasonably the same age,” says Bonnie Gillespie of the casting company Cricket Feet.

And there you have it. Bring on the geriatric tributes!

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— Leslie Gornstein

Photos (from left): Liam Hemsworth. Credit: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images.

Jennifer Lawrence. Credit: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images.

Josh Hutcherson. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

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