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It’s time to really start worrying about the ‘Hunger Games’ movie.

April 5, 2011

What the "H"? Hemsworth, left, and Hutcherson.

It’s all in the execution, as Hemingway said in an entirely different context, but now that the bastard love child of Frodo Baggins and Chris O’Donnell has been cast as Peeta, the time has come to seriously worry about  the movie version of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy.

Look at that picture of Josh Hutcherson and tell me he doesn’t resemble some unholy experiment commingling the DNA of Elijah Wood and the guy who played Robin in the 1997 movie that killed the original Batman franchise.

What’s more, the second male lead, Gale Hawthorne, has gone to Liam Hemsworth, who looks like nothing so much as what would happen if John Krasinski and Ryan Reynolds fell in love and started a family.

When filmmakers turn a book into a movie do they have a responsibility to cast actors who bear some resemblance to the characters as described on the page?

Dad No. 1: Frodo

Of course they do, which is why I consider Casino Royale, a first-rate action picture, to be more akin to Bourne IV: The British Version than to anything conceived by Ian Fleming: James Bond cannot be blond, people! I mean, c’mon. Sheesh!

The problem with Hemsworth and Hutcherson is not so much that they don’t resemble Peeta and Gale as that they just look so damned boringly, conventionally handsome. I mean, the one kid looks like the president of a prep school young Republican club, while the other looks like captain of the lacrosse team.

Handsome need not mean dull, either visually or emotionally. If pure physical beauty were all that mattered, then our movie stars would come from among those anonymous fashion models in

Dad No. 2: Chris O'Donnell

Vogue. You know, the ones so beautiful they kind of creep you out. And by “you,” I mean me.

The best kind of beauty among men — women, too, though to a lesser extent — is what’s generally called “unconventional.” Consider some of these successful young actors (not, alas, young enough for The Hunger Games): Ryan Gosling, Jake Gyllenhaal, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James McEvoy, Shia Labeouf, Ben Foster. Unconventional, the lot of them.

Even Robert Redford, probably the sexiest male movie star since the studio era, had that lopsided jaw muscle sticking weirdly out of one side of his face.

Talent will out, of course, and Hutcherson has shown his chops in movies like Bridge To Tarabitha and The Kids Are All Right. Hemsworth, with a much more limited resume, is an unknown quantity, but, hey, at least he looks superb without his shirt.

Maybe they’ll surprise us. After all, I’ve been wrong before. The first time I saw Matt Damon, who was getting a big build up, I thought he was the most nerdy, unappealing young actor I was ever asked to accept as a leading man. Uh, mark it down: I was wrong.

But coming on the heels of the disappointing announcement of Jennifer Lawrence in the pivotal role of Katniss Everdeen, I fear the filmmakers are signaling their direction, and it’s much more Twilight than Lord of the Rings — or even Harry Potter.

Lawrence’s casting rankles more with each passing day. Sure, she’s a terrific young actress, as she proved in last year’s hillbilly

Oh, now I get it: Hemsworth.

gothic meth drama, Winter’s Bone, but she’s blonde, for pete’s sake! Katniss has dark hair and olive skin and, as even director Gary Ross acknowledges, may be bi-racial.

Katniss’s hair and skin color are more than passing details — they bespeak a certain inclusiveness that I think is important to the tween girls reading the book.

Besides, coloring is one of the most overlooked pitfalls of movie casting, and the hardest switch to make convincingly is fair to dark, blonde to brunette. Ross is simply dead wrong when he claims “we can easily deal with Jennifer’s hair color.”

Michelle Pfeiffer may be sublime, but I never bought her as a dark-haired Italian chick in Married to the Mob. She just didn’t look right.

Kate Bosworth was an embarrassment in a dark wig as Lois Lane in Superman Returns, and I fear even the great Amy Adams, usually seen as a pale redhead, won’t be able to pull off the part in Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot.

I mean, she’d make a great, grown-up Lana Lang, but Lois Lane? Not so much — not when talented brunettes like Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Olivia Wilde, Jessica Alba, Rachel Bilson, and (my first choice for Lois) Anne Hathaway walk the earth in their young prime.

Sorry, I got carried away there. Back to the matter to hand: I hope I’m wrong, but I fear the people behind The Hunger Games, in their casting choices, are showing a worrisome lack of respect for both the material and fans of the books. What’s that sound? Oh, it’s just the Hollywood blender. Pay it no mind.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. PJ Parrish permalink
    April 5, 2011 1:54 pm

    Liam Hemsworth, Mila Kunis, Olivia Wilde, Rachel Bilson, Ryan Gosling, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James McEvoy, Shia Labeouf, Ben Foster, Josh Hutcherson…

    Who are these people?

    Crawling back under my rock now.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      April 5, 2011 4:07 pm

      Just how old is that rock, anyhow? Theda Bara was up for the role of Katniss, but, alas, filmmakers decided to skew younger…

  2. April 16, 2011 2:38 pm

    I do strongly believe that actors can change appearances, hair color, eye color body shape. I mean thats what Hollywood and the Capital’s known for… “To make you look as freakishly unnormal as possible” although there comes a time to say “hello wake up!” That just doesn’t work; no matter what you do; no matter how much layers of makeup you apply to your face, until it droops with not an inch of success and screams “”REJECTION.””
    Although Miss Lawrence is a talented Gorgeous actress with striking eyes with beautiful natural curves, she is not Katniss. To be completely and utterly frank (I hope i’m wrong in the end, considering I like to give people a chance) I dont think she could pull off naturally “thin” and not everyone can; based on their build. Her being thin would be a disasterous re-cap of Renee Zellweger in “Chicago” as she resembled a flailing twig with tap shoes next to the very curvacious costar Catherine Zeta Jones. It didn’t look right; it was awkward to watch and she certainly looked sickingly; almost suffering form anorexia.It just wasn’t her to go “that” skinny. Take Audrey Hepburn or Natalie Portman they are naturally tinier because they were born that way.
    On to the next thing….Lawrence and Hutcheson…the same height? Where is the love???
    Peeta’s only super weapon of unconditional comfort is over powered once again by Katniss…does she need ALL the attention? Katniss let’s face it is the sharp spike of the relationship. Audience members want to see Katniss cradled in his strong warm arms, not the other way around. They outta do something about this. Better hope Hutcheson (whom im considering out of the three) grows a few inches in the process; give him heels, make him walk on a wall or something. Or its not doubt you’ll have a mad mob of tweens rebelling their fury throwing apeshit at the screen. Beware! Lets just save this from another Twilight franchise …Oh no.. Too late isn’t it? ofcourse it is. They might as well just stick Edward in there as a capital stripper. Or as a serious role say Finnick Odair or Cato; then cast Batman as the Tracker Jacker. Because at this point..anything’s possible. ;|

  3. Delaney permalink
    May 3, 2011 2:09 pm

    this sucks. they won’t be able to get all the GREAT details in the movie. it’s only 2 hours long! this is the movie that needs great characters casted and the movie needs to be about 4 hours long. if it calls for it this movie can have an intermission if needed.i want this movie to be as great as the book and i want the characters to be as great too.

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