Hunger Games Casting Leaves Many Feeling Underfed
March 21, 2011 1 Comment
When I picked up a copy of The Hunger Games two months ago, I never expected to find myself so invested in the film’s casting. And yet, here I am all set to lament the news that Jennifer Lawrence has been cast as Katniss Everdeen. For the last few weeks, Lawrence’s name has been bandied about. During that time, there has been no shortage of articles written about the film’s casting. Writers at Zap2It, Cinematical, Movieline and The Playlist all gave their two cents on the project. And while some were better than others, it was Kyle Buchanan of New York Magazine’s Vulture Blog who finally forced me to weigh in on the news.
On Friday, Buchanan wrote a piece that belittled fans of the novel who were unhappy with Lawrence’s casting, saying of them “To be fair, a great deal of Hunger Games fans probably haven’t seen Lawrence’s breakout role in the R-rated indie Winter’s Bone (which would at least partially explain why they were campaigning to get actresses from Nikita or Pretty Little Liars cast instead of an Oscar nominee — work with what you know, we guess?).” He goes on to explain that, while Lawrence may have blond hair and be slightly older than 16, those problems can be remedied with makeup and hair dye. He seems confused, however, about the bigger issue with Lawrence’s casting… her race.
My qualms with Lawrence have nothing to do with her blond hair or the fact that she’s 20; and, contrary to what Buchanan seems to think, I quite enjoyed Winter’s Bone. It’s Lawrence’s alabaster skin and curvaceous figure that make her a less than ideal candidate for Katniss. Described in the novel as having long black hair which she wears in a braid, olive skin, and gray eyes, Katniss is also meant to be rail thin because her district is starved for food. Even if she dyes her hair, and wears contacts to make her eyes appear gray, Lawrence is still a corn-fed girl from Kentucky. She doesn’t look remotely ethnic, her skin tone is inherently pale, and her figure could hardly be described as rail thin.
Before going any further, I feel like I need to clarify something; Jennifer Lawrence is hot. So, when I say she isn’t rail thin, I’m not knocking her. I’m simply saying that her body type isn’t that of Katniss Everdeen. Those who have seen Winter’s Bone, will attest that Lawrence spends most of the film draped in ill-fitting flannel shirts. This allowed director Debra Granik to hide Lawrence’s busty figure, but it’s a luxury that Hunger Games‘ Gary Ross will not have. Katinss spends the vast majority of the first novel is very little clothing. In fact, there are portions where she is literally wearing nothing at all. I think its safe assume those parts will be cut or lensed such that we can see very little. But, even when she’s in the arena, Katniss’ wardrobe is little more than snug-fitting green shirt and dark pants.
(RaceBending.com has pointed out that Katniss could easily serve as an Appalachian heroine, given some of the novel’s vague locational descriptions and author Suzanne Collins suggestion that Katniss speaks with a southern accent, in which case Lawrence will be a more than adequate lead. Still, she’s not even close to who I imagined it the role when reading it.)
It’s probably not worth harping on, but many of the other actresses who were considered front-runners for the role made very little sense to me. Abigail Breslin, Chloe Moretz and Hailee Steinfeld are all fine actresses, but they were simply too young to play Katniss. All three are 14, and more girl than woman at this point. The same goes for Saoirse Ronan and Jodelle Ferland though they are both 16 (Katniss’ age in the book). Disregarding how difficult it would have been to sell actresses that young as romantic leads, casting any of them would have meant working around child labor laws. On the opposite of the spectrum was 24 year-old Lyndsy Fonseca, was just too old for the role.
The remaining candidates were more reasonably aged, but varied it talent: Emily Browning (I’ll let you know next weekend, after I see Sucker Punch), Kaya Scodelario (Alabaster skin aside, not bad), Shailene Woodley (By far the worst of the bunch), Malese Jow (Decent), Emma Roberts (Best option of the bunch). But, none of them really lived up to my expectations of Katniss either. Initially, I suggested Nina Dobrev for the role, but at 22 I can see why fans may have balked at that idea. What I don’t understand is why fans never rallied around 18 year-old Victoria Justice. To me, she is the perfect Katniss, and yet I’m fairly certain she never even read for the part.
With Lawrence instilled at Katniss, Ross’ Peeta will likely be announced soon. Alex Pettyfer, Hunter Parrish, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth have all expressed interest in the Peeta role, but none of them seems particularly right for it. Pettyfer doesn’t have the charm needed for the role. Hutcherson doesn’t look the part. Parrish doesn’t seem grounded enough. And, while Hemsworth wouldn’t be a terrible choice, they could do much better. Austin Butler, for example, would be a fantastic choice, as would Chord Overstreet if he didn’t have the Glee tour this summer.
Very little commotion has been made about the remaining roles, but it seems like everyone has their ideal Gale or Haymitch. For me, the former would be Michael Trevino and the latter Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Alas, it seems unlikely either will get to test. On the bright side, its been all but confirmed that Elle Fanning will play Prim, which is perfection.