Photo Credit: Kevin Mazur/Wireimage
Readers have been consuming Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games trilogy ravenously since 2008, but they've been patiently saving room for the big budget movie version, which will finally be served up March 23, 2012.
A science-fiction tale set in a future North America, Hunger focuses on 16-year-old Katniss and her classmate Peeta, a baker's son, who are forced to participate in a ritual battle to the death with other, stronger children. These battles, know as "the Hunger Games," are staged and televised by a brutal post-apocalyptic government to show its citizens that no one is safe. It's not exactly Dick and Jane (perhaps Dick and Jane meets Mad Max), but speculation over who would play the now-famous parts has been brewing for months.
In March, the film’s producers revealed the who's who of amazing young talent who'd read for the role of Katniss. The list of potentials included True Grit Oscar nominee Hailee Steinfeld, Little Miss Sunshine Oscar nominee Abigail Breslin and Atonement Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan, as well as rising stars Emma Roberts and Chloë Moretz. But the lead part ultimately went to another Academy Award nominee, Winter's Bone star Jennifer Lawrence.
Since that announcement, more casting news has come fast and furious. The role of Peeta will be played by Josh Hutcherson (The Kids Are All Right), while Liam Hemsworth will play the part of Gale, Peeta's rival for Katniss' affections. Jack Quaid (son of Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan) and Leven Rambin will play Marvel and Glimmer, two more kids forced to battle to the death, while 12-year-old Willow Shield will make her feature film debut playing Katniss' sister, Primrose (or Prim, as she's better known to fans). Rounding out the cast (so far) are newcomers Amanda Stenberg and Dayo Okeniyi as two more young warriors, Rue and Thresh.
Talks are also underway with Elizabeth Banks to play bureaucrat Effie Trinket. Don't know these characters? Ask any neighborhood tween.
The Hunger Games was a New York Times best-seller for over 100 consecutive weeks, but will it be the next Twilight or Harry Potter when it hits theaters? While good books don't always make good movies, dedicated book audiences can certainly make an impact at the box office, especially when amazing talents like Jennifer Lawrence are involved. With both of those aforementioned sagas soon drawing to a theatrical close, audiences will be searching for the next great cinematic saga, and -- wouldn't you know it? -- The Hunger Games already has two sequels ripe for the making: Catching Fire and Mockingjay, based on Collins' follow-up novels.
If it makes any difference, the series already has Twilight author Stephenie Meyer's stamp of approval. "I was so obsessed with this book I had to take it with me out to dinner and hide it under the edge of the table so I wouldn't have to stop reading," she said in a quote for the book's jacket. "The Hunger Games is amazing.” And Meyer knows a thing or two about popular stories.
A year from now, this movie will indeed make a big splash. The only question is whether you'll end up explaining the dark story to your kids, or they end up explaining it to you. In either case, you might want to pick up the first book now to get a head start.