With the firestorm of Jennifer Lawrence officially confirmed for the starring role of Katniss Everdeen in Gary Ross’s adaptation of “The Hunger Games” dying down, attention has quickly shifted to who will play Katniss’s support group, most importantly her rival, partner and love interest in the games, Peeta Mellark, and Gale Hawthorne, her best friend back home and the third point in the inevitable love triangle.
THR reports that for the role of Peeta, actors Hunter Parrish, Alexander Ludwig, Josh Hutcherson, Evan Peters and Lucas Till tested opposite Lawrence last week, while Gale auditions are ongoing and include, but are not limited to, Liam Hemsworth, Drew Roy, David Henrie and Robbie Amell.
In the era of Twitter, a lot of these names are not surprises to the fans of “The Hunger Games”, with Parrish, Hutcherson, Hemsworth and Amell all having confirmed publicly that they were in contention for a role in the film, from as early as January, before Lawrence was even cast. So who are the guys vying for the two open spots? We take a closer look at each candidate.
Hunter Parrish: The overwhelming fan-favorite for the role of Peeta Mellark, 23-year-old Parrish is most known for his role as Silas on long-running Showtime series “Weeds”. Parrish himself confirmed the show begins shooting its next season in May, around the same time production gets underway in North Carolina on “The Hunger Games”, so it’s possible a scheduling conflict could leave Parrish out of the running and thousands of fans disappointed. Parrish recently confirmed to E! Online of his desire to be in the film, “I’d be grateful to get the opportunity. Like, really grateful. It would be amazing.” and acknowledges his immense fan support: “You don’t get much better than that. The true fans of the book. So regardless of whether I’m a part of the film or not, I feel honored to just sort of be thought of.”
Lucas Till: Curiously, like many of the guys on the list, 20-year-old Till’s claim to fame came from Disney, starring as Miley Cyrus’ love interest in “The Hannah Montana Movie”. However, he has been making a great effort to separate himself from Mickey Mouse, with roles in “Battle: Los Angeles” and “X-Men: First Class” this year. Till and Lawrence have already worked together on the mutant flick, surely an advantage if they got along and already have good chemistry. Till has also gone in depth into why he’s drawn to the project and to Peeta, telling a Hunger Games fan website that, among other things, “I guess i’m drawn to him because I feel like I know him.”
Alexander Ludwig: 18-year-old Ludwig has not played any adult-oriented roles in his young career, with roles in “The Seeker: The Dark is Rising” and “Race to Witch Mountain”. Playing a romantic male lead would certainly be a giant leap forward in the former child actor’s career. And it would be something of a comeback, as the young star hasn’t been seen on screen since 2009.
Evan Peters: At 24, Peters is the oldest candidate of the bunch, though he certainly doesn’t look much older than Lawrence. Best known for playing Aaron Johnson’s best friend in “Kick-Ass” (speaking of, we would have loved to see Johnson included!), Peters has also made the rounds on TV, with roles on “The Office”, “One Tree Hill”, “Parenthood” and more.
Josh Hutcherson: Perhaps the candidate with the most serious acting street cred, 18-year-old Hutcherson has already racked up an impressive resume, with roles in blockbuster fare (“Journey to the Center of the Earth”) and small, award-winning indies (“The Kids Are All Right”) alike. He is also a big fan of the books and particularly the character he would be playing: “The character is so much who I am—self deprecating, a people person. And he’d be such a great character to play! Like in the third book? Oh my God.”
Liam Hemsworth: Another actor made famous by Miley Cyrus, Hemsworth was famously hand-chosen by the Cyrus family to play the young Disney star’s love interest in her first foray into more adult films, an adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ novel “The Last Stong”. The strapping 21-year-old Aussie was also at one time a contender to play the titular Norse God “Thor”, a role he eventually lost out to his own brother Chris. Because of some stupid assumptions made by one interviewer who got Hemsworth to admit he was in contention for a role in the film, many expected Hemsworth to show up on the list for Peeta, but instead it appears he’s in the running to play the tall, dark and handsome best friend instead.
Drew Roy: Does Miley Cyrus deserve a finder’s fee for lining up her former co-stars for the casting directors of “The Hunger Games”? Roy is the 24-year-old star of “Hannah Montana”, the Disney Channel TV show, not to be confused with the feature film that made a name out of Lucas Till. With roles also in “Greek”, “Lincoln Heights” and “iCarly”, Roy has been a loyal House of Mouse member for years, not to mention a TV regular. He also played a supporting role in last year’s “Secretariat”, starring Diane Lane and also from Disney.
Robbie Amell: 22-year-old Amell is no one trick pony like some of his competitors. In addition to being a star of Disney Channel’s “Life with Derek”, he also did time on Nickelodeon as a series regular on “True Jackson, VP”. Yes, that was sarcasm. Other than a bit part in 2005′s “Cheaper by the Dozen 2″, “The Hunger Games” would mark his feature film debut, and what a breakthrough debut it would be.
David Henrie: In addition to the inevitable years of service to Disney, on both “That’s So Raven” and “Wizards of Waverly Place” on The Disney Channel, Henrie is also the Son of the proverbial Mother on CBS series “How I Met Your Mother” (his onscreen sister, Lyndsy Fonseca, was in contention for Katniss).
So there you have it. Is anyone else as disturbed as we are that the pool of candidates seems to be limited to actors who have worked for Disney in some capacity? There’s nothing wrong with kids-oriented actors making the leap to more serious roles, but every candidate having this in common strikes us as a bit odd and worrying. Surely the rawness and grit Jennifer Lawrence will bring to the film demands co-stars of equal ability, and we would have loved to see more of the usual up-and-comer suspects show up here. Where are the Anton Yelchins, Nicholas Hoults, Aaron Johnsons and Jeremy Irvines of the industry? Katniss was a highly coveted role for young actresses, surely the male leads could attract a bigger and more prestigious talent pool as well.
If we must limit ourselves to the actors reported by THR, Hunter Parrish/Liam Hemsworth seems to be the best combination. What say you?