As previous winners of the nationally televised battle to the death known as the Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark should be permanently excused from further participation. But this year is different. This will be the 75th Hunger Games, and to mark the occasion, the Capitol has something special planned. Katniss and Peeta will need to enter the arena again…and this time, it won’t just be inexperienced teenagers they’re up against. Meanwhile, Katniss and Peeta’s actions during the 74th Games have galvanized the downtrodden citizens of Panem, and Katniss begins to realize that she has become the unwitting symbol of a major rebellion.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is one of the most hotly anticipated movies of 2013, and well it should be. The first filmed installment of Suzanne Collins’ ultra-popular trilogy was not only a raging hit this year; it was also a genuinely gripping, compelling movie, anchored by a fierce performance by Jennifer Lawrence as reluctant heroine Katniss, with able support from Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth as Peeta and Gale. Casting rumors abound for the sequel, but as of this writing few formal announcements have been made. Here are my suggestions for the major roles.
(See casting updates below!)
Probably – no, make that certainly – the most widely speculated-upon role in Catching Fire is that of District 4’s blindingly beautiful beach boy Finnick Odair, whose most notable trait – at least at first – is his devastatingly handsome appearance. Like, you can’t look at him for too long or your retinas will melt. We’re talking Matt Bomer levels of pretty here.
Bomer may be just a bit long in the tooth, unfortunately – at least, he presents that way – and in my mind the only other actor who even approaches that elevated plane of eye-searing beauty is Ian Somerhalder. Many others have been proposed as Finnick, but they all fall short of the mark. Jesse Williams is gorgeous, but he’s not Finnick; Taylor Kitsch’s energy is entirely wrong for the role; and Robert Pattinson’s unique brand of appeal is, let us say, very much in the eye of the beholder. Somerhalder may not be the most original choice for the role, but to me he’s the only choice.
Can’t we just bring Isabelle Fuhrman back? – What do you mean, no? Okay, then. The Neteratti clamor for Kristen Bell, but I’m not feeling it. Bell is too, for lack of a better word, nice. The tough, damaged Johanna, a former winner from District 7, is a classic Bitchy Best Friend, emphasis on the “bitch.” And also on the “friend,” although neither she nor Katniss realizes it right away.
Actresses seem to age out of BBF roles fairly early on; the best BBFs I’ve been able to come up with are on tweener t.v. Unfortunately, both Jennette McCurdy (iCarly) and Elizabeth Gillies (Victorious) are still too young to pull off a role like Johanna. So I’m going to go in a completely different direction and suggest Brit Ruth Wilson. We’ve seen her do “strong yet vulnerable” in the recent Jane Eyre, and devious and malicious as Idris Elba’s serial killing soulmate in the BBC’s Luther. It’s time she had her shot at mega-stardom on this side of the pond!
Updated 7/5/12: The role of Johanna Mason has been cast! Jena Malone (Sucker Punch, Hatfields & McCoys, Saved!) is reportedly set to take on the part of the fan-favorite ax-weilding victor from District 7.
Tech genius Beetee is basically a good egg, but he’s definitely a pragmatist. He deplores the thought of unnecessary deaths, but at the same time, he accepts and even embraces the fact that in any war, some collateral damage is inevitable. (This becomes quite obvious in Book 3.) In Person of Interest, Michael Emerson credibly portrays a genius; in Lost, his character frequently and effectively demonstrated a certain comfort with the idea of technically innocent people dying. If we wanted to hot the character up a bit, I’d suggest going with Ringer’s (and Lost’s) Nestor Carbonell, but…nah, Beetee’s just not that studly. Emerson it is.
We don’t really get to know Wiress, Beetee’s partner from District 3, all that well. I’ve read the book three times and I still haven’t worked out whether she’s Beetee’s Games partner, his business partner, or his partner partner, if you know what I mean. We do know that she’s brilliant, intuitive, and just a little bit emotionally fragile. Another Brit, Emily Watson, evokes intuition with a touch of madness perfectly.
Updated 7/17/12: The role of Wiress has been cast! According to Deadline.com, Amanda Plummer has won the role of Wiress, aka “Nuts.”
The frail and elderly Mags is another one we don’t see too much of, but as Finnick’s former mentor she has an important part to play in the story. Ellen Albertini Dow – you may know her as the Rappin’ Grandma from The Wedding Singer — is still active in television and film at the age of 93, and would bring the perfect combination of feisty and fragile to the role.
Things didn’t turn out so well Head Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee’s predecessor, Seneca Crane. But like Seneca, Plutarch is a consummate showman. He’s also…ah, but that would be telling. There’s no reason we can’t suggest a little eye candy as Plutarch, so my pick would be showman extraordinaire Hugh Jackman, who has also shown on multiple occasions that he can bring depth to a role when he needs to. (Note: According to the IMDB, Philip Seymour Hoffman will portray Plutarch – less pretty, but also an excellent choice.)
In the minor roles, I’ll recommend Gary Dourdan (CSI) as Haymitch’s freewheeling buddy Chaff;
Kate Nagy is Editor at Large of Geek Speak Magazine.