It’s casting roulette week I guess. There are two teen franchises casting right now. One is huge, poised to take over the pop culture landscape as Twilight and Harry Potter are winding down and making room for The Next Big Thing. The other is about incest.* Casting on these projects is a big deal as the young actors and actresses chosen to star stand to become instant A-listers if their projects take off. So let’s examine the candidates, both real and imagined, for the principal roles in The Hunger Games, pop culture’s next Moment, and The Mortal Instruments, The Hunger Games’ backwoods cousin who’s just happy to be invited to the party.
*Not a joke. The Mortal Instruments is actually three books about incest.
The Hunger Games
Suzanne Collins’s tale of a dystopian future that uses a Survivor-style competition, but with kids and death, in order to control the populace is already a best seller. Lionsgate is producing the movie version and they cast a wide net for lead character Katniss Everdeen that resulted in the casting of Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone). Fans seem to be taking this hard as Lawrence doesn’t “look like Katniss”, but to them I ask—have you seen this?
Now that Katniss is cast Lionsgate is turning their attention to her love interests, Peeta Mellark and Gale Hawthorne. Peeta seems to be the character with the most casting action, and I won’t be surprised at all if Gale and even Finnick end up coming out of the Pool of Possible Peetas. So far the actors who have met with the producers rage in age from 18 to 23, so it looks like an actual sixteen-year-old is out as Peeta. As with Lawrence, none of the Possible Peetas are big-time household names, which makes me think Lionsgate may be taking the Harry Potter route and casting relative newcomers for the children and may go with bigger names for the adults. Anywho, here’s the list I’ve pulled together, combed from actual possibilities and fan-fantasy wishes.
Where you’ve seen him: CSI: NY, Beautiful Boy, the upcoming Red State
Pros: Look at him. That’s Peeta. There’s no basis for Gallner’s inclusion here other than my own wishes, but goodness. Seriously. That’s Peeta. Also, he’s a good actor. He’d not only look attractive opposite Lawrence (because casting directors never ever consider such gauche things as how their leads look together, no, not ever), but he’d be able to hold his own in scenes with her, too.
Cons: At 24, he’s older than the oldest acknowledged Possible Peeta, Hunter Parrish. Also, he’s probably past even The Hunger Games’ reach. This guy has been working steadily in increasingly rarified circles for years. He doesn’t exactly need the boost and doesn’t seem to be seeking out work of this scale so it’s probably not even on his radar.
Where you’ve seen him: The Kids Are All Right, Bridge to Terabithia, the upcoming Detention
Pros: At SXSW last week he said he’d met with producers about Peeta and was practically begging for the part on the red carpet. However, I see him more as Gale. It’s the jaw, I think. That’s a determined jaw, the jaw of a planner. Either way, he’s a handsome kid and a good young actor.
Cons: Well, his beggy-beggy moment at SXSW didn’t impress me but I can’t think of any overt cons for Hutcherson. He makes a lot of sense with this project.
Where you’ve seen him: Weeds, 17 Again, It’s Complicated
Pros: Well he looks like Peeta, anyway. He made it very clear in his own red carpet moment last week that he, too, would really really like this part and would do anything to be Peeta. And he’s available.
Cons: I’m not a huge fan of Parrish. He seems like if you left him out in strong sunlight for too long, he’d wilt. Like a daisy. He’s like a daisy. I know Peeta is supposed to be all sensitive and shit, but do we really want a daisy playing him? Also, he’s three years older than Lawrence, who is considered by many fans to be too old for Katniss. So you’re just throwing fuel on that fire with this guy.
Where you’ve seen him: I Am Number Four, Beastly
Pros: Pretty Face Pettyfer was the first to out himself as a Possible Peeta, and while everyone was turned off by his off-hand arrogance about “considering” the part, in the wake of Parrish and Hutcherson fellating Lionsgate so openly, that doesn’t seem so bad anymore. He’d look great on the movie posters with Lawrence, and he’s age-comparable to her. It’s not really a pro but Pettyfer has dropped out of negotiations for two potential franchises, The Mortal Instruments (see below) and The Seventh Son. Someone is clearing his schedule.
Cons: The acting. It’s not that good? I’ve not hated him outright in his previous films this year but he isn’t an easy sell on that score, either. His screen presence is fine, but the range is maybe limited. And something about Pettyfer says “Cato” or “Finnick” more than it does “Peeta”.
Where you’ve seen him: Battle: Los Angeles, Walk the Line, the upcoming X-Men: First Class
Pros: He’s a fan favorite, he’s age appropriate, and physically he’d mesh with Lawrence. He’s also not a totally terrible actor. I’d rank him below Gallner and Hutcherson but above Parrish and Pettyfer on that score.
Cons: He was in Hannah Montana: The Movie. There’s no coming back from that.
Where you’ve seen him: Hannibal Rising, A Very Long Engagement, The Princess of Montpensier
Pros: He’s a very good actor. He is handsome. He’s a fan favorite.
Cons: He’s way, way too old, which just proves that fans don’t know what they’re talking about and this is why casting directors never listen to them.
There are a few characters that people seem to care about more than others—Haymitch, Rue and Prim. I’m increasingly having my heart set on Philip Seymour Hoffman for Haymitch, but I have this weird notion Nick Frost could do it, too. Robert Downey, Jr. is right out—he’s too big for the part and would overshadow everyone else. That’s not what you want from a supporting player. As much as her “music” bugs me, Willow Smith is actually a decent fan choice for Rue and Elle Fanning as Prim makes a lot of sense, too, especially when paired up with Lawrence. But these roles don’t seem as urgent right now, as all the focus falls onto completing Katniss’s love triangle.
The Mortal Instruments
Have I mentioned that this series will deal with incest? Because it will. It’s the mechanism that drives the unresolved sexual tension between the lead characters, Clary Fray and Jace Wayland. After reports that Pettyfer allegedly asked Screen Gems, the studio behind the adaptation of Cassandra Clare’s books, for $10 million during negotiations a lot of people thought he was getting ahead of himself as he’s barely known on this side of the pond and hasn’t had a hit movie yet. After reading The Mortal Instruments, though, I wonder if he didn’t tank those talks on purpose once he got a look at the script. Whoever plays Jace will spend up to 3-5 years of their life playing a dude jonesing for his sister. GROSS. (To be fair, the resolution is clear to readers halfway through the second book but STILL.) Clary, the central female character, will be played by Lily Collins (The Blind Side) and the remaining principal roles are Jace, Alec and Isabelle Lightwood, and Clary’s best friend Simon.
Where you’ve seen her: Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief, White Collar
Pros: She has the striking good looks prescribed to Isabelle Lightwood in the books. Her screen presence is solid if her acting is a little iffy. She’s got that action-y, sword-and-punching stuff down pat, thanks to her part in Percy Jackson.
Cons: At 25, she’s maybe pushing it with the age issue. Collins, who plays sixteen-year-old Clary, is 22, so it’s feasible that at 25 Daddario could play eighteen-year-old Isabelle. But it’s also feasible that she could be closing in on 30 and promoting a YA series. Creepy? Also, availability. Percy Jackson was recently greenlit for a sequel so she might not even be available to film City of Bones.
Where you’ve seen him: Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief, 3:10 to Yuma
Pros: He’s a fan favorite for the role of Clary’s best-friend-turned-vampire Simon. He’s cute enough and can pass off as geeky enough. He’s not a terrible actor.
Cons: This dude didn’t even cross my mind as an option until I saw that fans sit on the interwebz and chant his name like they can will his participation into being with their minds alone. He already fronts Percy Jackson. Why would he want to play second fiddle in The Mortal Instruments? Also, he has the same potential scheduling problem as Daddario.
Where you’ve seen him: I Am Number Four
Pros: This is my pick for Simon. He’s age appropriate. He’s nerdy-cute. He fits the physical description of the character with no need for hair dye or contacts, which is not the most important thing but can be a plus. And in Number Four he stole scenes with perfectly delivered one-liners, and he displays considerable wit for a kid his age in real life. Those traits would translate well to Simon.
Cons: He lives in Australia and appears to be there right now, not participating in either of these huge casting searches.
Steven R. McQueen
Where you’ve seen him: Piranha, The Vampire Diaries
Pros: Another fan favorite, and not an obnoxious choice for Alec Lightwood. Alec is described as being quiet, reserved, maybe a bit haughty. He has a crush on Jace and an are-they-or-aren’t-they relationship with a warlock. I can see McQueen pulling all of that off. He hasn’t really impressed me yet but he’s never made me hate him, either, and Alec is one of the more subtle characters in the series. Someone with a quieter presence, like McQueen, would be a good pick.
Cons: There aren’t any obvious ones, unless scheduling became a problem because of his duties to The Vampire Diaries.
Where you’ve seen him: In The Hunger Games section above.
Pros: He’s TMI author Cassandra Clare’s Fantasy Jace. Scroll up and look at that book cover again. I mean, that’s him. It’s not him, literally, it’s just some model they got that looks like him, but from day one Jace Wayland has been conceived and written for Pretty Face Pettyfer. If Twilight is the result of Stephenie Meyer’s weird sex dream about a seventeen-year-old, The Mortal Instruments is the result of Cassandra Clare’s weird sex dream about Alex Pettyfer. Also, Sony (parent company of Screen Gems) just closed a really fucking embarrassing open casting call for Jace. In the wake of Pettyfer’s exit, they seem at a loss as to what do with this character. Which means, no matter how annoyed the folks at Screen Gems may be, the door is still open.
Cons: He doesn’t seem to want to be in this movie. Though he made it all the way to money talks, those fell apart (allegedly his fault) and now Clare is tweeting about Max Irons (Red Riding Hood) being her new ideal Jace. I think if The Hunger Games falls through for Pettyfer we may see him re-engage with Sony/Screen Gems on The Mortal Instruments but I’m not holding my breath. In the meantime, fans have moved on to the likes of Charlie Bewley (The Twilight Saga), which is actually a pretty good choice.
Where you’ve seen her: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Bridge to Terabithia, the upcoming Soul Surfer
Pros: My back-up pick for Isabelle Lightwood since Daddario is probably not going to be available. She’s a pretty girl, the right age, and she’s a good actress. She often communicates a bit of attitude in her characters which would work really well for the balls-out Isabelle.
Cons: Nothing obvious. Her schedule in the immediate future is clear and she’s not already tied to another franchise. But Robb gets steady work and nothing about The Mortal Instruments suggests it’s going to be a cut above what she’s normally doing. What’s really in it for Robb?
The Mortal Instruments has a gay warlock character (oh god I cannot wait to see mass audiences deal with this movie), Magnus Bane. Fans seem to want American Idolator Adam Lambert for this. The why remains mysterious. Just because he’s gay? You could never get him for this project but I pictured Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: First Class) as Magnus when I was reading the books. Super bad guy Valentine, Clary and Jace’s father (EW), is the best adult role in the series and fans want Viggo Mortensen which cracks me up. Like he would ever. Better chance—Sean Bean (Lord of the Rings and the upcoming Game of Thrones). He can be so creepy and he’s a good actor and I get the feeling this project is going to need lots of good actors to save it. I don’t expect Mortal Instruments casting to really get anywhere until The Hunger Games falls into place and the sloppy seconds head over to Sony’s casting offices to try their luck with Clary and crew. This movie is going to be Twilight-levels of unintentionally hilarious.
So tell me. Who do you like, love, hate for these parts? These movies, especially The Hunger Games, are going to dominate the pop culture landscape in the coming years. We’ll be fighting about this casting for a while.