Welcome to the dystopian world of "The Hunger Games." North America is no more. Natural disasters and war did away with the continent we knew and gave rise to a whole new land called Panem: 13 districts overseen by an authoritarian Capitol. Then came the Dark Days, a power-to-the-people, down-with-the-Man revolution that obliterated one district and resulted in an annual, gladiatorial tournament known as the Hunger Games.
Now meet Katniss Everdeen, an impoverished teen who feeds her family thanks to some badass bow-and-arrow skills and a stubborn refusal to play by the Capitol's rules. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark — hardly friends, nor possessing the bloodthirsty verve of their opponents — find themselves reluctant participants in the 74th Hunger Games. What happens from there forms the basis of Suzanne Collins' page-turner of a novel, which Lionsgate is now adapting for the big screen with an eye on a March 2012 release.
Whether you're a die-hard fan of the franchise or all this Katniss craziness is totally new to you, now's the time to get up to speed on all there is to know about the Jennifer Lawrence-starring film. Because at the 2011 Video Music Awards on Sunday, MTV is set to debut the first-ever look at footage from the flick. So check out our "Hunger Games" cheat sheet for everything there is to know before the big show.
In March of 2009, Lionsgate snapped up the rights to "Hunger Games," which was published the previous fall. It was the first volume of what would become a trilogy — and a New York Times best-seller for more than 100 weeks. The key question among fans quickly became, 'Who will play Katniss?' We had some initial suggestions — including "Twilight Saga: Eclipse" star Jodelle Ferland — but early reports suggested "Kick Ass" star Chloë Moretz was in the lead to play the teenage warrior.
"Katniss is my homegirl," Moretz told MTV News about the casting rumors. "I would absolutely die to be in 'The Hunger Games.' I'm just sayin' that."
It was not to be. After furious competition and loads more rumors (Abigail Breslin? Hailee Steinfeld?), the role went to "Winter's Bone" star and Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence. "Jennifer's just an incredible actress," Collins said in a statement. "So powerful, vulnerable, beautiful, unforgiving and brave. I never thought we'd find somebody this perfect for the role. And I can't wait for everyone to see her play it."
The Katniss buzz was indicative of both the hype surrounding the project and the way all corners of Hollywood seemed to be angling to take part in the action. "Pleasantville" helmer Gary Ross took on directing duties, reportedly beating out David Slade ("Eclipse") and Sam Mendes ("Revolutionary Road"). The competition was just as fierce for Peeta and Gale Hawthorne, Katniss' best friend; guys like Lucas Till, Hunter Parrish and Alex Pettyfer were rumored as possibilities before Liam Hemsworth nabbed the Gale gig and Josh Hutcherson signed on to play Peeta. The major pieces of the "Hunger Games" puzzle were finally in place as the film moved toward a March 23, 2012 release date.
As filming kicked off in the spring of this year, the official first-look at Lawrence in character appeared in Entertainment Weekly.
"It's lots of training," she later told us about the role, "but the training's actually really fun. I've done archery for about six weeks, and rock climbing, tree climbing — and combat, running and vaulting. But also yoga and things like that, to stay catlike!"
By this point, it seemed half of Tinseltown had signed on the "Hunger Games" dotted line: Woody Harrelson as Hunger Games coach Haymitch Abernathy, Lenny Kravitz as costume designer Cinna, Elizabeth Banks as escort Effie Trinket, and many, many more.
We haven't yet seen what any of them look like in character. We have, however, peeped Hutcherson and Hemsworth. And we've gotten a hold of a fire-infused motion poster. But when would we get to see the first footage from the film? Turns out MTV had the answer — and the goods.
Earlier this week, we announced that the first look at "The Hunger Games" would debut during the Video Music Awards on Sunday with a special introduction from Lawrence herself. And there's not much, it seems, the 21-year-old actress can't do. She can, for instance, sing, as MTV News exclusively revealed she'd recorded "Rue's Lullaby," a mournful tune Katniss croons at a heartbreaking moment in the games.
So what will the footage contain? Thus far we've doled out a few hints, including a photo teaser and a video snippet. But the full reveal will have to wait until the VMAs. But now you have no excuse not to tune in: You know everything there is to know about "The Hunger Games."
The 28th annual MTV Video Music Awards will air live Sunday, August 28, from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles at 9 p.m. ET/PT, following the Selena Gomez-hosted pre-show at 8. See the list of nominees, revisit last year's highlights and vote for Best New Artist by visiting VMA.MTV.com.
Check out everything we've got on "The Hunger Games."
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