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"The Hunger Games," by way of "24"

July 19, 2010 |  3:52 pm

With the "Twilight" franchise set to take a break of nearly a year and a half, studios are even more furiously trying to find the young-adult books that could soon take that franchise's place as a big-screen genre event / the best way to send 12-year-olds into a state of barely controlled delirium.

One prime candidate: the dystopian fantasy "The Hunger Games," which Lionsgate and Nina Jacobson ("Diary of a Wimpy Kid") are producing.

HungerSuzanne Collins' series about a strong-willed heroine named Katniss in a world devastated by global disaster (two of the books are out, the third, "Mockingjay," comes out next month), doesn't have quite the rabid fan base that "Twilight" had at this point in its evolution. But the story of a girl who steps up to take part in the titular games, in which several dozen teens fight to the death every year in a brutal, large-scale competition (think "The Running Man" meets "The Road"), has a growing group of young female fans, a genre conceit and a strong teenage protagonist.

Now there's momentum on the project, as well as a a bit of news: The veteran screenwriter Billy Ray has been doing a draft/polish of the script that was initially written by Collins herself.

Ray has a number of action movies under his belt, including "Flightplan" and "State of Play" (as well as "Breach" and "Shattered Glass," both of which also saw him sitting behind the camera). But perhaps most notable is that the writer-director has been chosen as the man to adapt "24" for the big screen. (His pitch, which has Jack Bauer running around Europe, Jason Bourne-style, was favored by Fox executives.) There's probably not a lot of overlap between the globetrotting battle to fight violent terrorists and fighting to survive in the futuristic nation of Panem, though, now that we think of it, there are looser comparisons out there. (It's also worth noting that "Hunger Games" comes from Scholastic, the same publisher as the Harry Potter franchise.)

Fans have been wondering who'll pay the young heroine in "Hunger Games" -- Chloe Moretz, Dakota Fanning and Saoirse Ronan are among the fan favorites, as far as we can tell -- but first the project needs to find a director. That could happen soon; Ray's script is about to come into producers, if it hasn't quietly been slipped to them already. And with that will commence the next step in the battle to create the next "Twilight," a competition as fierce as anything in "Hunger Games" itself.

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: "The Hunger Games." Credit: Scholastic Books


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Comments () | Archives (24)

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This is really exciting news for the fans! It sounds like he knows his stuff, but hopefully he leaves Peeta's lines alone. Suzanne Collins writes him so perfectly in the books I can't imagine anyone needing to revise it.
But...I haven't met/seen anyone who's actually read the books want any of those actresses as Katniss. The only people suggesting those actresses are journalists who have never read the books and only go off of popular teenage actresses when they write their piece. All of those girls look nothing like Katniss. Most people in the fandom want an unknown actress for Katniss, or they want to play her. Better-known actresses for that part the fans want, though, are Maltese Jow, Kaya Scodelario, and Jodelle Ferland.

Chloe, Saoirse, and Dakota are definitely NOT fan favorites. Do some more research, honey.

The actual fan favorites are (in no particular order) : Kaya Scodelario, Malese Jow, Jodelle Ferland, Anna Popplewell, Camilla Belle, Emma Roberts, Alexandra Daddario, Nina Dobrev, and there's more but I can't remember right now.

My 2 biggest concerns:
1 - how are they going to make an "R"-rated book into a teen movie?
2- is it possible to make it a glamorous Hollywood movie and not glamorize Hollywood? I personally hope The Capitol burns, but as it is rather symbolic of the Hollywoood lifestyle, I can't see them signing off on any anti-consumerism message.
Of course, if Ms Collins actually gets any kind of final approval, I'll trust it to be done well and will be first in line to see them. If she doesn't, I'll probably stick to the books.
But wouldn't it be nice to see a movie not catered to the lowest common denominator?

Like others have said, Chloe, Dakota, and Saoirse are not fan favorites, other actresses are.
And to respond to your comment matt, Hunger Games will be rated PG-13, not Rated R like another book that is similiar to this: Battle Royale. So it's easy to make this into PG-13, because it's not that gorey enough to actually be Rated R.

I have to agree with the other comments, Chloe Moretz, Dakota Fanning and Saoirse Ronan are in no ways fan favourites, I don't feel they portray Katniss at all. Alot of people feel that it would be best to have unknowns play most of the roles, so then the movie can be enjoyed for itself really, and not the famous/well-known faces in it. Unknowns are also better as then you have a wider range of people you may choose from, allowing you to find the perfect person who portrays the characters. Instead of looking at celebrities, and deciding who has been in recently popular movies and saying they fit the role.

Also, is there any news as to where auditions and such will be held? Like are they going to be in the typical Los Angeles/New York or where ever... Or in other places too?

@ gabrielle - i don't think that catching fire needs to earn an R, but hunger games... without showing all of Rue's action (trying to have no spoilers here) i'm not sure how the audience can be as shocked, or empathetic, with katniss without, um, showing everything.
in addition, about the time that Thresh shows her mercy, he also gets kind of brutal. even not showing that on screen, the very act is rather violent.
battle royale - yeah. but that was violence almost for the sake of being violent.

i'm okay with being wrong; as long as the emotional reaction is there, i don't particularly care what the audience sees. but if they cheapen the heart behind the story to earn the easier pg-13 i'm going to have issues.

Guys, guys, guys. xD I'm pretty sure that at least the first one, Chloe, is it? Is a favorite among those who should play Prim, Katniss's little sister. I'm also thinking that the same could go for Dakota Fanning, had she been younger. The girl from Lovely Bones is possibly the worst choice I've ever heard. Not that she's a bad actress; she's good! But the thing is, Katniss is dark haired and olive skinned; NOTHING like any of these.

Oh please please please NO NO NO Dakota Fanning!

I hope they go with unknowns .

I haven't read the book but what about Ellen Page?

Yes, have to agree with everyone else here... those actresses aren't anyone's favorite. While I'm happy to see an article about the books/movie, I hate, really hate, to see it compared to "Twilight." I do love the "Twilight" series, as well as "Harry Potter," and while "The Hunger Games" trilogy has JUST as much potential to turn into a frenzy, we (or anyone who has actually gone through the trouble to read it) must realize that "The Hunger Games" is about as glamorous as Harry Potter, definitely not as glam as Twilight, and about 100% MORE violent, depressing and thought-provoking than either... it should be handled as such.

I'm a student at the University of Pittsburgh and I study children's literature, and though I'm no expert, I do know that Collins' book is SO amazingly crafted that the ONLY reason I allow myself to be excited at all about this becoming a film is that Suzanne Collins herself penned the script. One can only hope that huge screenwriters such as Billy Rae and blonde, hugely known actresses (read, Dakota Fanning is the EXACT opposite of what the actress playing Katniss needs to be) will not ruin what has a huge potential to become an amazing movie trilogy.

I am glad to hear there has been an ounce of progress in the movie. Hunger Games is so superior to Twilight in so many ways. (The most important being the writing itself) I really hope they don't cast Dakota Fanning though. They need an actress with a little more edge, not to mention she is complete opposite of the physical description of Katniss.

As far as not making it R, it is just as easy to elude to the violence without showing it.

On another note, I am so anxious for Mockingjay, I wonder if there will be a midnight release of the book... We are so close!

I think Katniss should be a new face...someone that nobody has ever really seen in anything else...that way it doesn't take away from the character...a lot of times in movies when a lead is played by a celebrity, the viewer is thinking that actors name and what they have been in the whole time rather than just getting into the movie.

I personally believe that the role of Katniss should be cast as an unknown. All of the favorites don't seem to match her. There could be an unknown with amazing talent that fits the role perfectly. I don't think we should just try to get famous teen girls to fit into the role but get the role to fit some person. Katniss has to be perfect. If not, the whole movie will be a waste.

matt - the book's not R-rated, it's aimed at a teen audience, and so will the movie.

I've heard the auditions will be closed, but you probs need an agent anyway, so... :/

And... Dakota and Saoirse? Really. And that's the first time I've heard anything about Chloe Moretz being a favorite to play Katniss - she's mainly considered by the fans as a good candidate to play Prim. Please don't just pull names of popular teenage actresses from thin air like that. It implies laziness. :) Thanks for the article, though.

I dont know about the "PG-13" deal. If you've read the first book(Which you should have because their awesome)you'd agree with me. There are some pretty violent parts in the book. Just ask a fan about the trackerjackers. That stuff creeped me out when I read it, just think about what it'll be like in a movie. Also the Hunger Games Pitts 24 kids against eachother , so most of the deaths are pretty gruesome. I'm also mad that people are comparing this to Twilight. Twilight wasn't a good series. AT ALL. Pieces of cardboard have more personality then the characters do. I'm just hopeing that they dont screw this up.

I agree with a few of the other posters and take offense to the "12 year old" and "young female fans" comments by the author of the article. I am a 38 year old male and think the books are fantastic. It is obvious that Steven Zeitchik did not read the book (not surprising considering the state of journalism today) or at least the back cover where Steven King says that it is a "violent, jarring speed-rap of a novel". Steven King is hardly a 12 year old female and this book is about much more than Twilight.

Twilight is a love story. It is Romeo and Juliet with monsters. I am not knocking it because it is done well. But the Hunger Games trilogy is not just a love story. In my eyes the primary theme is the importance of freedom and limited government. Yes, there are some love undertones but they are not the primary focus. This book is dark, brutal and unforgiving. It shows how powerful governments can suppress its people with fear and starvation while government officials live like fat cats. Not exactly your typical 12 year old fairy tale but I would encourage them to read this series and take the warnings about big government seriously. If I were to compare it with another novel that I have read I would say 1984, although that book is much slower and more difficult to read.

Now, on to the movie. I envision something animated or partially animated (along the lines of 300 and Sin City) with stylistic gore to help keep the rating down. The casting needs to follow the book’s descriptions (Katniss is 16 years old with dark, straight hair, olive skin and grey eyes). Aside from that I can’t say I care who plays Katniss as long as she can pull off her complex personality. The same goes for the other characters in the story.

To me the two most crucial parts of this movie will be whoever plays Katniss (even though I think it should be a new actress rather than well-known) and how they depict the Capitol. The Capitol, in my mind, needs to be rather fantasy like. It should be other-worldly even. Everything should be strange and over-done. The young actress that will play Katniss should be as close as possible to how she's described. Not only in looks, but also the fact she can sing and give an unemotionally, hard, glare.

I love these books!!! But I am a little worried about how they will translate it to the big screen. I'm sure I'll see it in theatres anyway.

Willa Holland would be great for Katniss. Her eyes and skin are perfect. All she needs to do is darken her hair.

Nice fan pick. I think it's about time we saw Saoirse Ronan with dark hair. She's my choice. If you look at her closely she's truly radiant as the sun. ;)

I am a huge fan of the Hunger Games books and can not wait for the next one to come out. What about Missy Peregrym to play Katniss? I think she would be perfect

I am a huge fan of these books and I think that Missy Peregrym would be a perfect Katniss

I think it's slightly ridiculous that this article posts those girls as fan favorites--when I've never heard any of them mentioned until a stupid article from NY Magazine.

Have we noticed the fact that those girls are all pale blondes with blue eyes, while the character of Katniss has an olive complexion, straight BLACK hair, and gray eyes????

Far from the perfect girls for the role, dontcha think??


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