'Hunger Games' exclusive: Director Gary Ross talks about casting Katniss

Hunger-Games-directorImage Credit: Lee Roth/RothStock/PR Photos The rumors are true. Director Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, Pleasantville) will direct the Lionsgate adaptation of The Hunger Games, the first installment of Suzanne Collins’ brilliantly urgent dystopian trilogy. In his first conversation anywhere about the film, which Lionsgate told EW will likely go into production in the late spring of 2011, Ross was funny, passionate, and sounded as deeply impressed and moved by heroine Katniss Everdeen as the trilogy’s ardent fans.

Ross revealed that he hadn’t yet met with any actresses but would begin those conversations shortly. Admirers of Katniss, District 12’s dark and resilient “Tribute,” can rest assured that the director won’t dumb the character down or cutesy her up for the movie. “I’ve talked to Suzanne extensively and I feel like I understand the character really, really well,” he said. “I feel like I know who that girl needs to be.”

Ross dispelled the notion that there are already leading contenders for the role. “I’ve read in the press that there are frontrunners but that’s not the case.” There has been much clamoring online to cast an unknown, a possibility Ross hasn’t ruled out. “I honestly don’t know,” he 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.”

And just who Katniss should be, says Ross, has nothing to do with an actress’ heat or whether she’s a great beauty by Hollywood’s exacting standards. “I don’t think that’s the main criterion for Katniss,” Ross insisted. “What makes Katniss attractive is her strength and her assuredness and her defiance and ultimately her compassion. And I don’t mean just physical strength. I mean a real strength as a human being. She knows her own truth. She feels deeply and fiercely. And this is something that the actress has to bring with her.”

Was Ross ready to reveal whether, say, Robert Downey Jr. or Hugh Laurie would step into the vomit-stained shoes of our beloved Haymitch? “No,” he said with a laugh. “But I’ll tell you very soon. I promise. It would be wrong I think to announce it before we’ve actually cast them or spoken to them.”

For much more of our conversation with Gary Ross about the Hunger Games, check out the Jan. 7 issue of ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY. And check back online over the next two weeks for more scoop from the director.

More ‘Hunger Games':
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‘Hunger Games': Casting clues?
‘Hunger Games’ = ‘Twilight’? No!

Comments (230 total) Add your comment
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  • SAGirl

    The way he’s speaking,it sounds very promising that Haymitch could either be Robert Downey, Jr. or Hugh Laurie. My personal vote is for Robert Downey, Jr. He has that unique intensity only he can bring to a role.

    • Hannah

      I can totally picture Robert Downey Jr as Haymitch- itd be perfect. But I wouldn’t ignore a movie with Hugh either.

      • arkenken

        i was actually thinking of Rober Downey when i was reading THG.

      • Sadie


        I was thinking the EXACT same thing.

    • Jonathan

      ARE YOU KIDDING??? Haymitch has to be Mad-Eye Moody from the HP pictures….he’s the right person!!!

      • Page

        Katniss–Kaya Scodelario
        Peeta–Freddie Stroma (Cormac McLaggen in HP)
        Gale–Adam Gregory
        Haymitch–Brendon Gleeson
        Effie–Kristin Chenoweth
        Prim–Elle Fanning

      • Miranda

        God help me if Kristin Chenoweth is anywhere near this movie. Cannot stand her. Not a big fan of a Fanning playing Prim either.

      • V

        I was thinking the same thing about Moody as Haymitch as I was reading it!

      • tricia

        while reading Hunger Games, i always pictured Robert Downey Jr. to be Haymitch. its just like when he was in sherlock holmes. CAST HIM!

    • Casey

      Robert Downy JR. needs to be Haymitch.. he is absolutely perfect!!

    • Parameswaran

      Edward was in-pain, but the scene where he hears Reneseme’s tohughts was soo cute. And I loved all the wolf-pack stuff which I tohught I’d hate, but some of the stuff was actually pretty neat. I LOVED the wolf pack scene where Jacob leaves the pack. Enjoy in this movie at Popcornfreak’.

  • Jeff King

    I vote Kurt Russell for Haymitch. Mr Downey is not old enough.

    • JennieO

      Mr. Downey is 45; plenty old enough to play Haymitch. Especially considering his Hunger Games were the second quarter quell; 24 years before Katniss’s games. I think that he or Hugh Laurie would be excellent.

      • Suzie Q

        Haymitch is only about 40-41 in the first book, so Robert Downey Jr. is actually older than him ;)

    • Jen

      Love the idea of Kurt Russell. I had actually pictured Nick Nolte when I was reading, but Kurt works great for me.

      • Charles

        I really like the idea of Russell Crowe as Haymitch, but I like both of your’s creativity with Kurt R and Nick N. Everyone seems too fixated on Downey and Laurie.

  • Casting Agent

    Lyndsy Fonseca from Nikita is perfect for Katniss – don’t waste your time looking for anyone else.

    • sars

      No… she’s too… nice or something. Too innocent.

      • Kris

        I think Lyndsy proved she could get a bit crazy in the episode where Alex was kidnapped, tortured, and ultimately killed her kidnapper.

    • matt

      too old.

    • Alexis

      She’s definitely my top choice, she’d be perfect, I think she’s a great blend of strength and vulnerablity

      • Pradeep

        Le deceda a Kamilo Klauss que yo pienso que para los de la rietsva SoHo lo de Marbelle es una burla, Se aprovechan de ella, hacen mofa de ella. No se si la fotografiada lo tenga claro y no le importe o crea que de verdad le este1n dando oportunidad de entrar a su elite. Lo veo como la nif1a pobre de las novelas que se casa por amor con un joven millonario y la suegra la acepta por obligacif3n pero a sus espaldas solo habla bestialidades de la pobre .Prefiero la autenticidad de Marbelle a la falsedad de las modelitos perfectas que aparecen en la rietsva. Lo malo es que la mayoreda de los hombres del paeds esperan tener una novia como la modelo de la me1s reciente edicif3n de Soho y cada mes, entonces, cambian de pare1metro.

    • CTesdahl

      I agree with you she would be perfect but she’s just too old =/

    • mary q contrary

      I think she’s too old.

      • mary q contrary

        But Willa Holland would be an amazing Katniss and is just the right age.

      • Miranda

        mary q contrary-
        Have you seen Willa Holland on Gossip Girl or The OC, she’s contrite. No way will I go see the movie if she’s Katniss.

      • Carlos

        Hey Greg and everyone at CrossFit Durham tnkhas for letting me drop in while I was visiting and do the WOD at your box Tuesday morning. You guys have a great facility and great coaches! Your website is also sweet lots of great links like the injury workaround ones, so I’ve started checking it on a daily basis. If any of you are ever up in Arlington, VA, come get your WOD on with us at Potomac CrossFit! Zack

    • Cookie

      Has anyone seen “Winter’s Bone”? How about Jennifer Lawrence from that movie? She has the strength and determination to pull it off.

    • Ann

      Kaya Scodelario for Katniss!

      • darlene

        YES! i totally agree! shed be an amazing choice!

      • hi there…

        i want an unknown for Katniss! But if not then i’d say Kaya would be the ONLY other choice…. but I still go for unknown! My best friend is perfect for the role! the way she looks and is an amazing actress and singer!!

  • Laurie

    I loved the books and only hope that this cast this thoughtfully. I am pleased that he is directing as I have enjoyed his earlier films.

  • Carrie

    I really hope they get this right. Katniss and Peeta are two of the best characters that have come along in a while. “The Hunger Games” trilogy is terrific.

    • sarrrran4a

      I also like Path- character from “Hush hush” ^-^

      • Izobel Danvers

        His name is Patch. I think that may have just been a typo though.

  • j

    What would be hilarious would be if Miley Cyrus campaigned for this role. I would love to see her audition tape. HA!

    • Mr. Holloway

      If it’s half as good as her audition for the new Batman movie, it should be a treat!

    • Leo

      Did you see her ‘movieclips’ on SNL’s The Miley Cyrus Show? I can picture this one for the next installment :)

      • Alberto

        Revisiting old topics? I’m gusinseg your latest celebrity victim escaped your death trap. When I get stuck for topics, I post pictures of hot Asian women. You should try it. There is not enough of that on the Internet.Reply by on August 12th, 2009 at Wednesday, August 12, 2009 @ 10:58 am@Grant, I’ll keep that under advisement.

    • sarrrran4a

      Let her sing not play))))))))))

    • serious

      when i read the book, i thought of miley as katniss and her ex liam hemsworth as peeta.

  • Red

    I liked the first two but I didn’t like Mockingjay. I’m excited to see who they cast for this movie because I feel like it will be even better as a film.

    • Aster

      I agree with this. The first two books were pretty good but the third was a let down.

    • Hazal

      I think that Peeta is sincere in his love for Katniss, but I think he is ryting to play down how he feels in fear that both Katniss and the people of the Capitol will see his love as a weakness. He is afraid to make himself vulnerable. He is ryting to keep both Katniss and himself alive, and he knows that the only way to do this is to play to the Capitol’s interest. He is smart.My question is, do you think Katniss is sincere in her care for Peeta? Is she really in love with him, despite her reservations? After all, she was willing to risk her life for him several times.

  • Justin

    Some casting ideas I’ve had in my head:
    Brenden Gleason for Haymitch.
    Roger Lloyd-Peck for President Snow.
    Kristen Chenoweth for Effie (too obvious based on Wicked?)

    I’d rather see some unknowns for the tributes though.

    • Allison M

      Effie is the one character I don’t mind being obvious. But I’ve found it interesting that I can equally picture Kristin Chenoweth, Amy Poehler, and Emily Blunt as great Effies.

      • DK

        Amy Pohler could DEFINITELY embody Effie, and Chenoweth would be my second choice

    • Tayononi

      dejen la h.p envidia mabrel,muestra la belleza de la mujer real,es q acaso todas tienen q ser anoresicas para q asi esten complacidos,no sean pendejos ademas los duenos de la revista sacan a quien les de la gana por q no se miran en un puto espejo para luego hacer estos comentarios este cucho me cae remal

  • Molly

    I think the girl from Pans Labyrinth would make a great Katniss.

    • Nat

      her name’s Ivana Baquero i think. She would be good for the part as long as she didn’t have a spanish accent.

      • Alina

        She doesn’t, actually. She did a perfect American accent in The New Daughter.

  • ML

    Kaya Scodelario as Katniss
    Hunter Parish as Peeta
    Gaspard Ulliel as Gale
    Kristin Chenoweth as Effie
    Hugh Laurie as Haymitch
    Jason Behr as Finnick
    Elizabeth Banks as Johanna

    This is who I kept seeing in my mind as I read the books.

    • Leo

      I totally get Gaspard Ulliel for Gale
      The rest, I am not so sure about.

      • Katie

        luke pasqualino for gale!!!!

      • Katie

        luke pasqualino for gale!!

    • Kahlan Alanna

      …I’ve always pictured Johanna being in her lower 20’s, not 30’s…..but she’s not even in the first Hunger Games so…

    • Katy

      Love this!!!! I agree 100%

    • Mocha

      I agree with Kaya Scodelario and Hunter Parish. But I think of Justin Hartley for Finnick, and someone a bit more, I don’t know, frightening as Johanna. Like Kahlan Alanna said, though, this is for the first movie, so I won’t worry about the second one yet.

      • Miranda

        I love the idea of Justin Hartley playing Finnick, he’s who I’ve got in mind currently.

    • sarrrran4a

      Absolutely aggree on
      Kaya Scodelario as Katniss
      Hunter Parish as Peeta
      Gaspard Ulliel as Gale
      Jason Behr as Finnick

      But as a rule our choises and director’s choises aren’t the same… :(

    • remington

      No way dude, Katniss needs to be 14 yo in the first book, this chick is way too old for this role forget about it. I was thinking bout Chloë Moretz instead, she did a great job in the movie Kick ass as this wild kid! And the guy you picked for Peeta is way too good looking as well …

      • Alex

        Actually, Katniss is 16 in the first book. Chloe Moretz is a really good actress and she’s really funny too but she is much too young to play Katniss, she’s only 13.

  • George

    Kaya Scodelario for Katniss!

    • JC


      • Leo

        reference point please? I don’t know her…

      • Nan

        On a British show called “Skins.” I’ve never seen it, but a lot of the HG fans seem to think she’d be a good fit for Katniss. She has the look, but I’m not sure other than that.

      • Leo

        Thanks Nan

      • yo

        yesssss. kaya. not that hailee steinfeld girl

    • Brittany

      She can definitely pull it off.

  • Sioned

    I hope they at least consider hunter parrish for peeta. He is so perfect. I honestly can’t see anybody else playing him.

    • Jenna

      I completely agree with you. He’s an amazing actor and just has that Peeta vibe to him.

    • Allison M

      Too old?

      • Sara

        He has a young face.

    • Cookie

      What about Zach Roerig (he plays Matt on the Vampire diaries). Blond and cute, but very earnest and honorable- like Peeta

    • sarrrran4a

      Lots of fans see Alex Pettyfer as Peeta. But he looks older than the caracter should be.Hunter is a great choise!)

    • Dim

      I think Alex Pettyfer would be amazing as Peeta, and I really can’t imagine anyone else as Peeta. Although that is only my opinion.

  • Grant

    I’d go with Phillip Seymour Hoffman for Haymitch.

    Mark Hildreth as Cinna

    Julian Assange as Snow (don’t know if he can act though)

    • Jen40

      Every time I came to a part in the books with Cinna I pictured Mr. J from Top Model.

      • Nan

        HA! Julian Assange as snow. Well done.

      • Alexis

        I totally did too Mr. J ftw!

      • Allison M

        I think Cinna is much more subdued.

      • Miranda

        I picture Hugh Dancy as Cinna.

      • Austin Fan

        Austin Scarlett = Cinna

    • CTesdahl

      Dude Hoffman would be perfect!!!

      • Sarah

        That would be a good choice for aesthetics. However, I don’t know if he could act the part

    • ML

      I always pictured Brandon Routh as Cinna.

  • Jenna

    I’m loving Gary Ross so far. He really seems to know what this movie needs to be not just good, but amazing. No need for a Hollywood beauty, or a big name, or even an unknown just the right girl for Katniss, whoever she may be.

  • Kimber

    Although I think Robert Downey Jr. would be great, Jeffrey Dean Morgan is still my number one choice. He’s who I pictured whenever I read the books, and I think he would just be amazing.

    • teekay

      Me too!!!

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