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HUNGER GAMES, THE
(Gary Ross . 2011)

 

 

“May the odds be ever in your favour”

THE HUNGER GAMES

Gary Ross . 2011

The Lord has turned the rings into bullion.Bat, Spider and Super men(and Bourne) have new boots.Harry Potter has graduated. Twilight’s last gleaming is also released in two halves.So what’s next? Where is the next franchise?

The answer is not Peter Jackson resurrecting the Hobbits but a book that begins... “When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.”Which is no clue whatsoever as to what follows - the start of Suzanne Collins’ trilogy (26m books sold)for teenage girls... whoops, YAs.Young Adults.

Lionsgate, a once small entertainment company, founded in Canada in 1986, moving to Hollywood (well, Santa Monica), making Affliction, Dogma, Fahrenheit 9/11, Gods and Monsters, Saw, beat all the majors to the Hunger rights - and knew exactly what to do with them.Trilogy plus one - Part Three, Mockingjay,would be released in two halves. Just like Twilight.

 

The Hunger Game starts

where the Harry Potter books end.”

 

That was the opinion of David Levithan, head honcho of Scholastic, USpublisher of both formats. “Whereas Harry Potter is about childhood and coming of age and your eyes being opened to the world, in The Hunger Games you’re already in this world, and dealing with its inhumanity.”

In January 2012, Lionsgate paid $412.5 million for the Summit Entertainment, producersof the Twilight saga. Two months later, it opened Hunger... The reviews were excellent, the receipts even better- $152.5m for the opening weekend.WhenGary Ross said he wouldn’t or couldn’t make the first sequel. No one cared. Hunger was bigger than any director.So were its brand new, hot off the screen stars...

These arethe youngstersplaying Katniss, her hunting companion Gale and Peeta, her partner in the titular brutal event. They’re from the coal-mining District 12 of Panem, the dystopian post-America (don’t ask aboutDistrict 13) where, to quote Donald Sutherland’s totalitarian president: “And it was decreed that each year, the 12 districts of Panem should offer up a tribute of one young man and woman between the ages of 12 and 18 to be trained in the art of survival and to be prepared to fight to the death.”

Live on TV.

 

This is children killing children -

whether they’re called “tributes” or not.

 

The concept is hardly new. Think Lord of the Flies, The Running Man, Series 7: TheContenders. Doctor Who’s Vengeance on Varos, Star Trek’s Amok Time, the ancient Greek Theseus and the minotaur and, more recently, Kinji Fukasaku’s far more violent Battle Royale. Then again, it is difficult to cite a movie not, er, “influenced,” by another movie or movies. (Numerous Hollywood A-List directors havemadecareers out of it; Spielberg turned Lassie films into ET and War Horse). Collins had ever heard of the Japanese film. Ross had: “The main character in Battle Royale didn’t end up in a revolution... I don’t worry about these comparisons. You can just as easily analogise The Hunger Games to Romeo and Juliet...”

Katniss Everdeen .  Lionsgate confirmed in March 2011, that about 30 actresses were “met or read” for the most important break for a younggirl since Rooney Mara beat several Katniss contenders to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. As Katnip (Gale’s name for her), is 16, “with a certain maturity and power,” said her creator Suzanne Collins, the young hopefuls werein two age groups.

The teenage testees included: Jodelle Ferland, a 17-year-old, Canadian  veteran of 56 screen roles in a dozen years; Mary Mouser, 15, who was Dana Delany’s TV daughter in Burden of Proof; Kaya Scodelario,  19, aka Effy Stone in the UK Skins;  Shailene Woodley, 19, the breakthrough from Tarzana as George Clooney’s daughter in The Descendants, 2011.  The youngest (and most knpown) at 14 was Chloë Grace Moretz, the youngest (and the most knownb) at 14 - she was announced as the new Carrie four days  after Hungeropened.

The Older Brigade featured: Australian Emily Browning, 23, who refused Belle in Twilight to avoid a franchise interfering with her studies (she made Sleeping (around) Beauty, instead);  Dakota Fanning, who grew up (splendidly) before film cameras - exactly the problem; she was too well known; Oaklander Lyndsy Fonseca, 24, who worked  in Kick-Ass, 2009, with rival Chloë Grace Moretz (ironically  their film was also  US-distributed by Lionsgate); and Emma Roberts, 20, from Nancy Drew and Scream 4, but Julia’s niece has started studying English Lit at New York’s Sarah Lawrence College.

Fonseca tested at  “lovely man” Gary Ross’ house. “There were just a few of us girls by that point.  We worked on it for a little bit. It was cool.  I was just lucky to get that far, to be honest.” As things turnedout, there was a third category - Oscar nominees... Thedouble-jointed Abigail Breslin, 15, won the nodat nine forLittle Miss Sunshine;actress Saoirse Ronan, 17,was the Irish revelation ofAtonement in 2007; Hailee Steinfeld, 15, acting since eight was nominatedfor her starring debut,True Grit, withJeff Bridges (she became the 2012 Juliet).

A fourth Oscar nominee was a certain Jennifer Lawrence... for Winter's Bone for where she played exactly the kind of protectrice that Katniss is.

“I do seem to do that character a lot. I did a movie when I was 17 called The Burning Plain and it was the same thing: me caring for my younger siblings and having to be an adult at such a young age. I don't know what it is. I think that when I get older I'll look back and understand... Right now I don't get it."

She became Katniss because she was “the only one who truly captured the character I wrote in the book,” praised Collins.

 

“If this is going to be the thing I’m most known for,

I want it to be something I’m proud of.”

 

It took three days of cogitation -plus her agent busily getting her out of accepted roles in Seventh Sonand Oliver Stone’s Savages; she wasn’t so miffed about losing 21 Jump Street - beforeLawrence signed on... and changed her life.

Like it or not, by March 23, 2011, Jennifer Lawrence, with her natural blonde hair dyed brown,  was A Genuine Superstar. “The coolest chick in Hollywood,” added Rolling Stone.

Even Hollywood bowed to her new power.And Fox postponed its sequel to X-Men: First Class (Lawrence plays Mystique) so the Hunger Games sequel,Catching Fire, could be shot first.

Peeta Mellark . Katnip’s partner in arms in the 74th annual Games is in love with the heroine.  (Aren’t we all?  One critic said we long to be protected by her). Actors seen for the baker’s son included: Jeremy Irvine lost and passed on Tobias “Four” Eaton, in the similar Divergent, 2013; Alexander Ludwig (the 19-year old Canadian was compensated with District 2’s ferocious tribute Cato); Hunter Parrish, 24, Broadway musical star of Spring Awakening and a  regular on TV’s Weeds; Evan Peters, 24, the kid from Kick-Ass, won the American Horror Story series instead; Alex Pettyfer, not exactly Hollywood’s favourite Brit at 21; Lucas Till, the find from X-Men: First Class Office; and Nico Tortorella  from Scream 4.   At age 19, the Kentuckian Josh Hutcherson nailed the role…. as Liam Hemsworth was switched to Gale.  And Ludwig, Pettfyer and Till are three who also lost Divergent’s Four.

Gale Hawthorne . Our heroine's hunting pal back home attracted... Robbie Amell, 23, from Canada and two Scooby Doo DVDs; David Henrie, 22, of Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place; Chris Massaglia, 19, from the Wanted TV series when he called himself Chris J Kellyand Drew Roy, 25,from another post-apocalyptic number, the Falling Skies series. The role (and more screen timein the following chapters) went to Australian Liam Hemsworth, 21, youngerr brother of Chris Hemsworth aka Thor.

Haymitch Abernathy .  To embody Katniss and Peeta’s mentor (the usually drunk ex-winner of aprevious Hunger Games),Lionsgate said:Why not another Oscar nominee…? And so, after discussions with John C Reilly, Haymitch went to Woody Harrelson. He was a Lawrence fan from Day One. “I was on my bus, and on my bus I have a yoga swing,” he recalled.  “Jennifer comes on, and she goes, 'Hi Woody, I'm J - is that a sex swing?'Her first sentence to me.”

For her director  Jenniferis a once in a lifetime talent. Watching her performance, he said, was akin to seeing the ace soccer star Lionel Messi for the first time. “I’m just a lucky recipient,” added Gary Ross. “You don’t find this much talent in someone that often. Climbing trees, fighting, running through the forest, dropping out of trees and all of that... Her depth as an actress, how subtle she is, how passionate she is, her power as an actress, that doesn’t come along very often and so if she wasn’t there, I don’t know what I would’ve done.”

When Lawrence is asked, as she always is, to list the differences between Twilight andHunger , she says: “What are the similarities? Both the content and the story are completely different.”

Her mother introduced her to the book and like YAs everywhere, Jennifer fell for Katniss and her mental toughness. “She can’t afford to have crushes or anything like we would,” she said. “She just has to survive…. She’s a warrior. She’s this hero that doesn’t mean to be a hero. She’sa symbol of revolt, and freedom, and hope...a futuristic Joan of Arc." Due to thetamed, PG13 violence, London’s Sunday Times critic Cosmo Landesman said Katynip was more Florence Nightigale than Xena: Warrior Princess.

And what is Jennifer? “I am a troll,” she told David Letterman. “I hate myself…

 

“I think the movie is great

but their biggest mistake was me.”

 

After three weeks, the film had made a global $460m. Hunger is here to stay. And the knives were out. For one example, the main line of that year’s trailer for The Host, by Stephenie (Twilight) Meyer, for 2013  release was: “The earth is at peace. There are no wars. There is no hunger...”

Only sequels. 

 

She's become a beacon of hope for the rebellion, and she has to be eliminated.” 

 THE HUNGER GAMES:  CATCHING FIRE

Francis Lawrence . 2011

 

Directors have quit films when feeling they had not been given money to spend.  For the Games’ ’ original director, Francis Lawrence it ws a matter of not enough time make the sequel…  correctly.

Various replacements were discussed and quizzed. FromCanadian David Cronenberg and Mexican Alfonso Cuarón to true Brits Duncan Jones (David Bowie’s son) and Joe  Cornish  and on through Swedish Thomas Alfredson and  Americans Bennet Milletr and Cary Kohi Fukunaga.  Francis Lawrence won the gig and stayed aboard for the final two movies: Mockingjay Parts 1 and 2.

Lawence  is not related to his star, Jennifer Lawrence, but they have now scored four films toghether, the fourth being Red Sparrow, 2017.   His previous films include I Am Legend and Constantine after more than 60 music vIdeos with such artists as Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears, Will Smith, Justin Timberlake and The Black Eyed Peas 

Catching Fire stems from, but of course, the second book in Suzanne Collins's trilogy. Hence some new characters… leading to much mediua speculation, particularly about the Brtitish Twilight star, Robert Pattinson. He had, after all,  starred in a previous movie directed by Lawrece, Water For Elephants in 2010.  At Cannes with his new movie, Cosmopolis (directed by Cronenberg!),

Finnnck Odair .   At the Cannes festival with his new movie, Cosmopolis (directed by Cronenberg!),Pattinson woke up to find he had been cast as Finnick in the second Games. "I was kinda curious for a second. So I called my agent. My agent was like: No.. no one's going to offer you that part!" 

Before everyone approved Sam Claflin, Francis Lawrence had seen the known - Armie Hammer (who was both Winklevoss twins in the Facebook biopic, The Social Network), plus Garrett Hedlund and Taylor Kitsch, bleeding from their Disney flops, TRON: Legacy and John Carter - and the (still) unknown Joey Graceffa, Grant Gustin, Luke Mitchell and Hunter Parrish,

Johanna Mason  . Kristen Bell and Lindsay Lohan pushed hard to be the prickly, bold and axe-handy former winner, allying herself with Katniss and Peeta in the Third Quarter Quell,  However, by all acounts, the major battle was between Zoe Aggeliki, Mia Wasikowska and the winning Jena Malone - ,being Donald Sutherland’s daughter for a second time after Pride & Prejudice, 2004. (He was also fathering Sam Claflin a second time, since The Pillars of the Earth, 2010.

Beetee .   Mr Monk, himself, Tony Shalhoub, was first choice until Jeffrey Wright showed up.

Brutus  .  The Fruitvale Station star Kevin Durand was seen. Bruno Gunn was signed.

Magas .   Melissa Leo was in the frame for fhe 80-year-old ex-victor volunteering for the 75th Hunger Games.  But so was Lynn Cohen

Commander Lyme  .  Lily Rabe  was unable to reprise her role  (cut) from the first film as she was booked for Much Ado About Nothing at Shakespeare in the Park.  Her stand-in - or up! – was the 6ft 3ins Brit, Gwendoline Christie, aka Brienne of Tarth in Game of Thrones. That show also  led to Christie joining the big daddy of film franchises,  Star Wars…  Episode VII.

The first Games won made more tha $642m. Jennifer Lawrence had been paid $500,000 - and $10m for the second!   The blonde girl from Louisville, Kentucky, had broken through. After  just TV bits as Moscot and Frantic Girl in 2006, Lawrence  was the second youngest Best Actress Oscar winner for Silver Linings Playbook, 2011,  first of her three  Oscar-nominated  performances for director David O Russell. She even found time for a second franchise as Raven/Mystique in X-Men: Days of Future Past.

 

“Join The Mockingjay, Join The Fight.”

THE HUNGER GAMES:  MOCKINGJAY - PART 1   & 2

Francis Lawrence . 2013

 

The third film was dedicated to Philip Seymour Hoffman who ODed on February 2, 2014, a week before shooting ended. He still had two more scsnes to film as Plutarch Heavensbee. These were handed to other players. For example,  Haymitch (Woody Harrelso) read Plutarch’s letter to Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) - in the script it was a  as a  scene for PSH and Lawrence together.

Alma Coin .   Jodie Foster was discussed before Julianne Moore played The President in a   grey wig and brown contacts.  Hert children made her do it - being great Games fans. Both actresses havce been  FBI agent Clarice Starling in the Hannibal Lecter movies.

Footnote: By 2017, Francis Lawerence and his now superstar, Jennifer, were back in harness for Red Sparrow in Budapest and London. "Francis made three Hunger Games with Jen,” explained producer Peter Chernin, “and when he read this book, he thought immediately this would be their next collaboration.  We chose to go much younger with the role… which we think added something very different to the dynamic with Jen.”

 

 

 





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