Culture

Let the Games Begin: Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth to Play Peeta and Gale in 'The Hunger Games'

We are a nation starved for news from the front lines of the apocalypse. Or so it has seemed for the past month or so, when every news outlet with an RSS feed has been churning out banner headlines about every potential player in the big-screen version of The Hunger Games.

Consequently, there have been few casting derbies that have reached the fever pitch of heated speculative furor that engulfed writer-director Gary Ross' search for the young actors with the right combination of sensitivity and studliness to play Peeta and Gale in his adaptation of Suzanne Collins' bestselling future-shock saga. So we're marooned somewhere between exhaustion and excitement now that the guessing game has finally come to an end with today's announcement Josh Hutcherson, the sullen son with two moms in "The Kids are All Right," will play the self-sacrificing Peeta Mellark; and Liam Hemsworth, best known as Miley Cyrus' love interest (on and off screen) in "The Last Song," will take on the part of Gale Hawthorne.

These two characters are among the most compelling and pivotal inhabitants of Suzanne Collins' saga about a dystopian future in which teams of teenagers are chosen to participate in a televised competition in which they're required to battle to the death. However, we're not feeling the ineffable sense of rightness we did two weeks ago, when Jennifer Lawrence landed the role of the series' protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, a fiercely principled and physically unstoppable sixteen-year-old who conspires to undermine the games and spark a resistance movement with the help of Dale, her hunting partner, and Peeta, the competing combatant with whom she pretends to be in love in order to win the support of TV viewers. Even in the midst of post-apocalyptic anomie, ratings rule.

If done right, "The Hunger Games" has the potential to join Harry Potter and Twilight in the pantheon of  four-quadrant multimedia sensations. However, after the cinematic mangling of beloved works like "Percy Jackson and the Olympians"and "The Golden Compass," we've learned that it takes a filmmaker or producer of extraordinary sensitivity, talent, and power to pull off an adaptation that musters a modicum of the magic of the source material. Peter Jackson had an intrinsic understanding that it would take over nine hours to capture J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy on the big screen and waited until he could do so without compromise. Longtime Harry Potter producer, David Heyman, proved himself to be a canny custodian of J. K. Rowling's septet. And Nina Jacobson should also be commended for the critical and commercial success of the first two installments of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid franchise.

But the truth is that there are more ways Hollywood can go wrong than right in adapting a beloved work of fiction. We're cautiously optimistic that Gary Ross will capture some of Suzanne Collins' electrifyingly emotional storytelling and socially resonant themes in his film. He did a decent job at conjuring Laura Hillenbrand's populist uplift in his version of "Seabiscuit." But, frankly, we're not completely sold on whether either Hutcherson or Hemsworth has the mettle to hold the screen opposite a force of nature like Jennifer Lawrence.

Let's just say we're eager to be swayed out of cautious optimism into tentative excitement. Does anyone else find this news to be a little anticlimactic? Go ahead, make your case. Give us a reason to celebrate.

  • Layla

    BAD CHOICES!

    First off petta is supposed to be bigger then Gale not the other way around! and Josh Hutchinson doesn't look anything like petta who has blonde hair, and he would not be a good looking blonde! unless they aren't sticking to the looks in the book which is not acceptable!

    Overal BAD CHOICES, boycotting the movie all together! they deserve my money with this horrible casting

  • Holly

    As much as i want to say Liam Hemsworth should play the role of Peeta because of his height and muscle, I'm going to have to say Josh Hutcherson should do it. Hemsworth looks too old to play Peeta, and in my opinion, could even be casted as Gale, who is actually older than Katniss. Furthermore, Hutcherson still has the teenager-quality look to him, whereas Hemsworth looks like a near grown man.

  • Tina

    I'm really excited for any news of this movie, but maybe a little more proofreading next time guys. "the help of Dale, her hunting partner" Dale?

  • Erica

    Well, look at it this way - we all thought Tom Cruise was 6 feet tall in the 80s and 90s before he started jumping on Oprah's couch. If the filmmaker can work his magic and make Peeta appear the gentle, yet hulking giant of the books (and blond!) then I'm sold!

  • Edwin

    At first I was against their pick for Katniss, because I wanted it to be Ellen Page, but I'm warming up to Jennifer now. However, they totally blew it with Peeta, horrible horrible decision. Peeta is supposed to be big, and strong, with lots of emotional depth- I mean what were they thinking?? Do they even read the book when they pick these guys out? The only pick of theirs I agreed with on first site was Gale.

    • Meghan

      Ellen as Katniss? No. It wouldn't work out. They need(no offense to Ellen, since I love her) a YOUNG actress. Jennifer is perfect. But I always pictured Katniss as more dirty-blond then Jennifer is.

      ~Meghan~

  • Meghan

    I LOVE the actress they picked for Katniss. She fits the role. But the characters for Peeta and Gale? All wrong. The need to switch out black-hired-boy fro a blondy. Both Peeta and Gale are BLOND! I'm guessing now that some of the character choices for this movie will be bad, but we have to learn to live with the choices. I'm mad with these choices, but they isn't anything we can do about them.

    ~Meghan~

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003406003613 Kara

      Orchid - what is up? You should fisinh those books. At least before the movie comes out. Sorry you were sick and fell asleep in the movie, but I saw it twice and still loved it so you'd better give it another try!Melissa - goodness, I wish I had your guts. It would have been worth getting tackled and escorted out by security just to have AP in my arms for a moment!Linda: Good thinking. It's all about what they can portray on screen. And ahhhh, thank you. I'll live with the dream that AP was just to shy and gentlemanly to profess his true love!

  • Lenora

    While all others seem to have warmed up to Jennifer Lawrence, I'm still not sold. I'm atill unsure of Liam, but I'm also open minded. Him and Jennifer will have to wait until the big screen. Josh, though, is (in my opinion) as close to hitting the mail on the head as we're going to get. What I don't odd, though is that everyone in the cast so far will have.to have their hair dyed for the role... Both Katniss and Gale are dark brunettes, while Peeta is blonde- but Josh has the brunette hair, and Jennifer and Liam have the (if somewhat dirty) blonde hair. As long as it doesn't look fake, I'm happy. I can't wait to see who will play Prim and Haymitch, but nobody comes to mind...

  • Lenna

    OK i also hated the idea first of Jennifer as Katniss ..and since they are going to dye her hair she is actually a graet pick for Katniss.... and im starting to warm up to Liam being Gale but peeta..... PEETA i loooove the character peeta and Josh is the wooooorrrssstt choice ever ... peetas a romntic a strong teenage boy a BLOND and blue eyed a kid i dont think Josh is AT ALLLLLLL ... they should have fans help with the casting because everyone who they have picked is so far terrible i hate this choice so much i think Justin Bieber would be a better Peeta and trust me that is notttt a good thing..............who ever chose Josh better have been Drunk and they better fix this up

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