'Hunger Games' Casting Won't Begin Until 2011

Those of you hoping for a Christmas present in the form of a Katniss Everdeen casting announcement might want to revise your wishlist for Santa. "Hunger Games" producer Nina Jacobson told the Los Angeles Times yesterday that casting for the dystopian thriller will not begin until the new year. And whether your vote's for Malese Jow, Hailee Steinfeld or newcomer Danielle Churchran for the coveted role, Nina added that there are absolutely no front-runners at this point.

"We have so many great young actors right now whose representatives are interested, or who are interested themselves," she 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."

Nina's comments echo what director Gary Ross recently told Entertainment Weekly. "I've talked to [author] Suzanne [Collins] extensively and I feel like I understand the character really, really well. I feel like I know who that girl needs to be," Gary said. "We'll cast the right person for the part. Lionsgate has been great in the respect that they don’t feel that this needs a movie star in Katniss' role. The greatest thing about the franchise and the books being the star is that we can cast whoever we want. So we all feel like we're just going to cast the right person."

That's good news for all the actresses on our personal shortlist because many of them haven't broken onto the Hollywood scene in major roles yet. Much like the part of Bella Swan in "The Twilight Saga," snagging the role of Katniss is a sure-fire way to become a major global star, and for good reason. It's very comforting to know that Gary, Nina and Lionsgate are taking their time with the casting.

To be sure, whichever actress is chosen needs to have a mental fortitude likely beyond her years to capture Katniss' strength and compassion, as well as the vulnerability and guilt of the 16-year-old District 12 tribute. Because the books are told from Katniss' perspective, her character is the moral compass that navigates the world of Panem and the Capitol.

"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," Nina explained.

Production is set to start on "The Hunger Games" in early spring, so we can probably expect a casting announcement sometime in February or March. As for the other important characters in the series, well, we'll just have to wait. When EW asked Gary whether someone like Robert Downey Jr. or Hugh Laurie would play the role of Katniss' alcoholic mentor Haymitch, he responded with a laugh, "No, but I'll tell you very soon. I promise."

Who do you hope gets cast as Katniss Everdeen? Are you glad Gary and Lionsgate are taking the process so seriously