In the dystopian world imagined by Suzanne Collins in her best-selling young-adult trilogy "The Hunger Games," anxious teens hope against all odds that they can avoid the titular, televised fight to the death decreed by their government. But in the real world, Hollywood's rising stars are battling to get into the arena for the upcoming adaptation of the series' first novel due out March 23, 2012. And no role is more hotly contested than that of 16-year-old District 12 tribute Katniss Everdeen.
Casting speculation has run rampant since the news came in March 2009 that the novel's screen rights had been purchased by Lionsgate. U.K. "Skins" star Kaya Scodelario was an early fan favorite for the role and, along with "Nikita" star Lyndsy Fonseca was reportedly among the first to receive a script. Slowly but surely, however, actresses from their early teens to their mid-20s have begun hungrily eying the part of the 16-year-old heroine.
"Katniss is my homegirl," "Kick-Ass" star Chloe Moretz told MTV News back in October 2010. "I would absolutely die to be in 'The Hunger Games.' I'm just sayin' that."
A few weeks later, "Vampire Diaries" star Malese Jow spoke with Hollywood Crush, expressing a similar sentiment. "I would do my absolute best," she promised. "I would give it 2,000 percent for everyone. I know there are some die-hard fans out there."
A couple of young actresses have gone so far as to tweet pictures of themselves done up as Katniss (and in some cases, sporting her signature bow and arrow). For Halloween 2010, "Eclipse" star Jodelle Ferland dressed as the tribute, though she downplayed the stunt tweeting, "Don't take it so seriously ... I'm not trying to say, 'Hey, look at me. I should be Katniss.' " More recently, "Camp Rock" actress Alyson Stoner posted various photos of herself dressed in Katniss' iconic Hunger Games uniform and climbing walls as part of her "training."
Though plenty of up-and-coming actresses have thrown their name into the ring, producer Nina Jacobson told The L.A. Times early on that a known name wasn't necessary for the part. "It really comes down to finding that person who can capture the physicality, the vulnerability and the toughness," she said. "She's a paradoxical character and you need somebody who has the range to capture all of those dimensions."
In a piece in The Wall Street Journal detailing the hunt for the "next Hailee Steinfeld," the paper went behind the scenes of several upcoming YA adaptations, including "The Hunger Games," in which casting director Debra Zane explained that an open casting call had gone out for Katniss (Caucasian, between the ages of 15 and 20, someone who could portray "underfed but strong" and "naturally pretty underneath her tomboyishness"), and that she'd seen about 50 girls so far.
Nonetheless, last week Variety reported that Lionsgate had three Oscar-nominated actresses in their crosshairs: Abigail Breslin, Hailee Steinfeld and Jennifer Lawrence (with Lawrence as the front-runner). Steinfeld revealed to MTV News on the Oscars red carpet that she had already met with director Gary Ross, saying, "It's definitely something that we're taking one day at a time and making sure that everything is in place."
Entertainment Weekly quickly filed a report that conflicted with Variety's, citing sources at Lionsgate who said that there was not yet a front-runner for the role and that about 30 actresses had been seen for the part, including a few who hadn't yet gained much "Hunger Games" heat (like "The Lovely Bones" star Saoirse Ronan). Fan site The Hob followed up with Scodelario's people (one of the actresses included in EW's report), who said she had not, in fact, read for the role yet.
Ultimately, Lionsgate's pick for Katniss will influence which of Hollywood's young actors will be eyed for the roles of fellow Hunger Games contestant Peeta and Katniss' childhood friend Gale (age is a big factor here). Nonetheless, several actors, including Liam Hemsworth and Alex Pettyfer, have told MTV News they have met with the studio about the Peeta role.
It will be a "Hunger Games" fight to the finish, indeed.
Who do you hope the odds are in favor of to play Katniss?
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