Tuesday, December 21, 2010

EXCLUSIVE: ‘The Hunger Games’ star search: ‘There are no front-runners yet’

Young actresses — and their agents — are notching their arrows. Their target is the coveted role of Katniss Everdeen, the hunter-heroine in Lionsgate’s upcoming adaptation of “The Hunger Games,” and casting begins next month.

“We’ll start auditioning fairly early in the new year,” says “Hunger Games” producer Nina Jacobson. “There are no front-runners yet.”

“The Hunger Games,” the bestselling series of young adult novels by Suzanne Collins, are set in a ragged, fictional future in a nation called Panem, which has sprung up in a North America that saw today’s countries crumble amid war. The government forces children to fight one another to the death on television. Sixteen-year-old Katniss, a capable archer who helps feed her family through illicit hunting, enters herself in the games to spare her younger sister from being put in the competition.

“We have so many great young actors right now whose representatives are interested, or who are interested themselves,” Jacobson said. “It really comes down to finding that person who can capture the physicality, the vulnerability and the toughness. She’s a paradoxical character and you need somebody who has the range to capture all of those dimensions.”

Any actress who plays Katniss has more responsibility than inhabiting a scrappy action heroine — she’s also the moral compass in a startling dystopian fantasy that has captured the imagination of mostly young readers around the world.

“The book takes on the collision of violence and entertainment and comments on it in a very compelling way,” Jacobson said.”That awareness is most embodied by Katniss’ point of view. In the book, you’re always in her head. She’s much more of a soldier drafted to duty than she is a character who has a great hunger for violence. She’s forced into it and so are the other kids in the games. She has fierce survival skills that are so effective that she almost feels guilty that her first instinct is to survive or to protect her sister rather than a sort of socially minded impulse. She has so much inner strength, but she’s a reluctant heroine.”

That reluctant heroine will have to reveal herself to the filmmakers fairly quickly once auditions begin — “The Hunger Games,” which will be directed by Gary Ross, is set to begin production in late spring.


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