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Ever since The Hunger Games became a box-office smash, we've been dying to hear anything and everything about its upcoming sequel, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. But the casting process has been very, very slow; only Philip Seymour Hoffman has been offered a role (as new Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee).
Well, now Jena Malone can join that club. After several weeks of rumors that Malone was in the running for the part of Johanna Mason, The Hollywood Reporter has learned that the 27-year-old Hatfields & McCoys and Sucker Punch star has officially been offered the role and is in negotiations to take it.
For the uninitiated, Johanna is the victor of a previous Hunger Games who forms an uneasy alliance with Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) in Catching Fire. To tell any more than that would be a spoiler, but we can say that Johanna is one of the lucky few who lives on to have a major role in the third Hunger Games novel, Mockingjay.
During their first meeting in an elevator, Johanna defiantly strips down in front of Katniss and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) to unnerve them and catch their attention. Johanna repeatedly uses her beauty to her advantage, and -- similar to Katniss -- frequently shows signs of rebellion against the Capitol. She's a strong character, and it's exciting that someone of Malone's caliber has landed the part.
Lawrence already delivered a powerhouse performance as Katniss in The Hunger Games, so Lionsgate likely knew they had to cast someone who is equally powerful as an actress to go toe-to-toe with her. Malone has proved herself repeatedly as a fantastic actress in films like Saved!, Stepmom and Into The Wild, and is perfectly capable of holding her own against Lawrence's fierce heroine.
But Malone has never been an actress we've thought of as overly sexual (a key aspect of Johanna), despite her role in Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch, so it will be interesting to see how Malone approaches moments like the naked elevator scene (if Lionsgate even keeps it in the movie). But based on the care the studio has taken with the Hunger Games's casting in the past, they likely have seen something in her that made her perfect for Johanna. We're dying to see what she does with the part when Catching Fire hits theaters on Nov. 22, 2013.