Woody Harrelson cast as Haymitch in The Hunger Games, all 24 Tributes in place, Filming Starts May 23 in NC

Since my regular professor job, unlike my beloved position here at Hogwarts, has the requirement that I evaluate reams of student work and turn in grades at semester’s end, I’ve been a little swamped this last week of the semester, and so I have not yet had the chance to post thoughts on the latest developments in the filming process with The Hunger Games. Now that I’ve sent all the owls on their way with everyone’s final scores (and no T for Troll grades this year, either!), it’s time to take a peek at developments.

 Though there had been much bally-hoo about the potential of John C. Reilly landing the role of Haymitch Abernathy, and fans continued to hope Hugh Laurie could work around his House filming, the part of Katniss and Peeta’s curmudgeonly  mentor will be played by Woody Harrelson. Harrelson does have a track record of playing eccentric and prickly characters, but he hardly seems to fit the image of a scrappy coal-miner who, as a kid, used his brains to defeat much larger and stronger opponents and who then crawled into a bottle to escape the misery of loosing Masilee Donner and 46 subsequent District 12 kids. His looks fit the Merchant class far more than the Seam. But then as we’ve already seen, several of the casting choices seem to go against physical expectations ( Jennifer Lawrence, who plays Katniss, and Josh Hutcherson, playing Peeta, are the exact same height, 5’7” contrary to the text’s description of her as small, and him as tall).  Honestly, the physical descriptions are far less important than an actor’s capability to effectively portray a character. Though I’m willing to wait to see the performance before I pass judgment on Harrelson’s portrayal, I am concerned that his past work sets in place the possibility that he may gives us a dumb hick Haymitch, a caricature much like the endless series of negative portrayals we’ve all seen of Appalachian people (and which I fight with my course on Appalachian culture). I am hoping for a complex, nuanced depiction of Haymitch, but then, like Effie, perhaps I am ridiculously optimistic.

 We also now have a full complement of 24 tributes, with the addition of Cato and Clove. The trend of casting interesting, ethnically diverse males and primarily Anglo, similar girls has continued.  The “same face, different girl” theme is really creepy when one notices how much Jennifer Lawrence, playing Katniss, looks like the actresses playing Glimmer and Effie. They look like triplets in this publicity shot montage. This effect will doubtless vanish once they are in costume and makeup, but it is still disconcerting.

  Also, Alexander Ludwig, the young man cast as Cato hardly looks like the hulking brute Collins describes as “a monstrous boy” who volunteers; in fact, he looks more like Collins’s description of Peeta: blond, tall (he’s 6 feet), with a face that looks rather sweet instead of terrifying and unhinged like Cato in the text. When I saw him in Race to Witch Mountain last year, shortly after reading The Hunger Games, I remember thinking he might make a good Peeta in a few years.  Isabelle Furhman, playing Clove, strangely enough, looks far more like Collins’s description of  Katniss than Jennifer Lawrence does. Coincidence? Were these two really chosen for athleticism or some other attribute? Or were they chosen, last of all, after plenty of reader and fan scuttlebutt on Lawrence and Hutcherson, to intentionally resemble the expected appearances of Katniss and Peeta? Will the deaths of Cato and Clove be an effort to “kill” viewer expectation? “Here, fans, here are a couple of kids who look like what you wanted, and they are going down.”  Is this casting the equivalent of the Game Makers hurling pyro-missiles at the “girl on Fire,” a cruel joke on her image? That may be reading too much into the casting; maybe these two were Peeta/ Katniss contenders and got these roles as consolation prizes.

 Many of the other Tributes seem a little surprising. Several will only get brief moments on screen, as they all perish in the Cornucopia bloodbath: the parade, the interviews, a little training, then their games will be over. These are the male tribute from 4 (who is one of the most interesting faces, but who hardly looks like the Career whose early death surprises Katniss), the boy from 5, both tributes from 6 and 7 (each of these is a blond girl/dark boy pairing), the boy from 8, both from 9 ( both of whom are painfully young and sweet-looking; this is the boy Katniss fights for the backpack and who is knifed by Clove. Is his charming headshot on the tribute page, which looks like his sixth-grade school picture, chosen intentionally with this fate in mind?), and the girl from 10, one of the only ones who actually looks unusual. District 8’s girl, cast as a pretty, delicate-looking blonde, is the tribute attacked by the Careers (and perhaps killed or put out of her suffering by Peeta) shortly after the Games begin.

 Of course, we all know that, with the exceptions of Katniss and Peeta, each of these tributes dies a brutal death, so as we look at their smiling faces and predict how they will play their roles, we are cast, once more as the Capitol viewers, only with an inside track on whom the odds really will favor.

Meanwhile, here in District 12, extras are being fitted for costumes. Most of those who have “gotten the call” so far are teens (the children of a colleague’s siblings just went to get their fittings done last week; I look forward to reporting on any information we can share), and the casting company in charge of background is still looking for adults, with plans to film throughout the summer, well into August. They particularly seem to need Peacekeepers, as they are looking for tall, military-looking types willing to buzz their hair. The hopeful extras are eager to be part of this production, further adding to the fascinating ironies around here. This is a story about the exploitation of rural people that will pump huge amounts of cash into our languishing rural economy in North Carolina. This movie, which criticizes the media, will likely make gabillions of dollars for that very industry, as we rush out to watch a movie about the evils of over-saturation of entertainment. This paradox is summed up nicely by the poster I have in my office: it’s a big Mockingjay emblem with the phrase “Down with the Capitol”; at first glance, of course, it seems to be a battle cry to overthrow that bad old Capitol. But, as we’ve discussed here at great length, the moral complexities of this story urge us to remember that this phrase also demonstrates that we, as readers, as media consumers, are often “down with” whatever the Capitol does, no matter how morally repellent, as long as it keeps us entertained.


  1. The casting has often puzzled me too. I am not sure I get why or what methods they used to cast some of these people, but I’ll take a wait and see approach.

    You are right about the Cato actor originally being up for Peeta. He was one of the ones supposedly in the final running. Personally I think the actor for Peeta was chosen long before the supposed final Peeta auditions by the director and they just wanted it to look like they were keeping an open mind since Josh Hutcherson looks nothing like Peeta.

    Many of the tributes are stunt people, which makes sense to save money. I am not really sure yet how I feel about Woody Harrelson as Haymitch.

    You are also right in that I am starting to feel a bit like a capitol citizen waiting around for the Hunger Games to start. Yes, it is just for the movie and not the real games but never the less it is still kind of eerie.

  2. I was just wondering about two things:
    1) What does everyone think about Foxface’s casting?
    2) Does anyone have any idea who might be portraying Pres. Snow?

    Thanks! These are just two things that haven’t been addressed in any of the sites I’ve been keeping up with recently…

  3. revgeorge says

    A couple of thoughts. First on Foxface, I originally was thinking more of the girl from 6 or 9 being more my image of her, but after further review, the girl they chose does work.

    I also certainly get the point that the girl chosen for Clove does perhaps look more like what we might imagine Katniss to be rather than Jennifer Lawrence. She & Hutcherson don’t look remotely like what I envision Katniss & Peeta to look like.

    Of course, I’m probably not going to see the movie anyway for two reasons. One, hate the casting of Woody Harrelson for Haymitch. Really, it’s the part John C. Reilly was born to play.

    Second reason, well, the book is intense enough as it is, gripping, horrifying, but with a voyeuristic train wreck sort of fascination. And books as compared to movies give us time to think, to reflect, to let things sink in. Movies don’t do that very well; it’s all being dragged from one action scene to another with usually very little time given for characterization & being able to sympathize & empathize with the characters involved, even with the bad guys. I think for this story you need that kind of time for reflection & empathy & an ability to know Katniss’ thoughts on it, not just her outward emotional response.

    Plus, the more I think about it, the more I think they should’ve cast Isabelle Fuhrman as Katniss & Jennifer Lawrence as Clove.

  4. Just saw the online news that Lenny Kravitz has been cast as Cinna!!!????!!!! Mixed feelings are surfacing…ambivilance about the HG project is rapidly overtaking positive anticipation. Hope this doesn’t become a train wreck.

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