Jena Malone ‘Scared the Hell Out of Them’

Johanna Mason — the deceptively cute and deadly victor from District 7 — was the breakout character from Suzanne CollinsCatching Fire, the second volume in the Hunger Games trilogy, so the competition for the movie role was long and intense. Luckily (for her and for the franchise), Jena Malone was the last woman standing and won the role.

Here, she mentions the competition in an interview with Glamour magazine:

Glamour: Was your part in The Hunger Games tough to get?

Jena: I know they saw every single actress from here till Tuesday. They wanted to find someone who didn’t just physicalize this character but could also scare people. I don’t know what I did – I guess I just scared the hell out of them.

Um, maybe the producers heard that you dead-lifted 235 pounds during training for Sucker Punch and decided it was safer to give you the job?

Here’s a look at Jena doing publicity — with director Francis Lawrence and co-stars Willow Shields (Prim) and Jeffrey Wright (Beetee) — for the film at San Diego Comic-Con.

Hoffman is Heavensbee

Philip Seymour Hoffman has officially signed on the dotted line to appear in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire — and, presumably, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, parts 1 and 2, according to Lionsgate Films. Hoffman will portray Plutarch Heavensbee, the new Head Gamemaker who takes over after the debacle that was Seneca Crane’s 74th Hunger Games (in the first movie). Plutarch has the task of creating the 75th Hunger Games, which will be a special Quarter Quell.

The casting means at least one Oscar winner will appear alongside Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen in the first sequel to The Hunger Games. Production on the follow-up is set to begin in September for a November 2013 release, so additional casting should be coming quickly now.
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Jena Malone May Land Catching Fire Role

Entertainment Weekly broke some great news about that Hunger Games sequel, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, specifically that Jena Malone (HATFIELDS & MCCOYS, Sucker Punch) is being considered for the key role of Johanna Mason, the wily victor of a previous Hunger Games.

Johanna’s weapon of choice is the axe, since she hails from District 7, which specializes in lumber. She won her game by pretending to be a helpless weakling — until she moved in for the kill! In the novel, the character is described as possessing “a wicked ability to murder.”

Jena would be perfect for this role, because she can play very vulnerable, and, with her thin frame and young face, she can look meek, too. But Jena is also wiry, and she kicked trainloads of ass as Rocket in Sucker Punch! No one would doubt that Jena’s Johanna is a threat! Jena definitely has the acting chops to play a terrific foil for Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen.
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Francis Lawrence Will Direct Catching Fire

Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend and Constantine) has chosen to direct Catching Fire, the sequel to The Hunger Games. Reportedly, the competition came down to Lawrence and Moneyball’s Bennett Miller, but Miller didn’t like the rushed production schedule needed to meet the studio’s already-announced release date of Nov. 22, 2013. (Let’s hope that’s not wishful thinking.)

Lawrence is an interesting choice. I think of him more as a visual stylist coming off Constantine, but he did handle a pretty sprawling story in Will Smith’s I Am Legend. Both of those films were fantasy/sci-fi projects, and both were adaptations of existing material – Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend novel, and Constantine is the star of the comic book series Hellblazer – so he has experience translating stories. (For what it’s worth, Moneyball was a book, too, so that’s probably why Miller was a front-runner.) Also, Lawrence built a compelling and complicated world overrun by mutations for I Am Legend, and world-building was Hunger Games helmer Gary Ross’ Achilles’ heel.
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Gary Ross Is Officially Off Catching Fire

I’ve written about this already, but now it’s official: Both Gary Ross and Lionsgate have confirmed that the Hunger Games director will not be returning to helm the first sequel, Catching Fire. You can jump here to see how I feel about his work on The Hunger Games.

Ross’ full statement was released by the studio:

“Despite recent speculation in the media, and after difficult but sincere consideration, I have decided not to direct Catching Fire. As a writer and a director, I simply don’t have the time I need to write and prep the movie I would have wanted to make because of the fixed and tight production schedule.

I loved making The Hunger Games – it was the happiest experience of my professional life. Lionsgate was supportive of me in a manner that few directors ever experience in a franchise: they empowered me to make the film I wanted to make and backed the movie in a way that requires no explanation beyond the remarkable results. And contrary to what has been reported, negotiations with Lionsgate have not been problematic. They have also been very understanding of me through this difficult decision.

I also cannot say enough about the people I worked with: Producer Nina Jacobson, a great collaborator and a true friend; the brilliant Suzanne Collins, who entrusted us with her most amazing and important story; the gifted and remarkable Jennifer Lawrence whose performance exceeded my wildest expectations, and the rest of the incredible cast, whom I am proud to call my friends.

To the fans I want to say thank you for your support your faith, your enthusiasm and your trust. Hard as this may be to understand I am trying to keep that trust with you. Thank you all. It’s been a wonderful experience.”

Hmmm, Ross makes it sound like the real reason he left is because he didn’t want production to be rushed to meet the studio’s previously announced release date, Nov. 22, 2013.

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Gary Ross Not Directing Catching Fire!

Well, I was hoping this would happen, and it has. Lionsgate could not come to a deal with Hunger Games director Gary Ross to helm the first sequel, Catching Fire, so Ross has walked away.

Supposedly, Ross wasn’t all that interested in the job anyway, and the salary Lionsgate dangled wasn’t enough to change his mind and compel him to film another blockbuster. Sigh.

Isn’t that Aesop’s definition of sour grapes?
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Will Gary Ross Be the Next Causality of Hunger Games?

While I really enjoyed The Hunger Games movie adaptation, I was not enamored of the film’s direction, and despaired at the thought of Gary Ross helming the next three sequels. (Yes, the cynical and truly bad idea of splitting the last book, Mockingjay, into two movies in order to cash in one more time is still alive.)

In Hollywood, money is the only language anyone understands, and with HG raked in so much at the box office, I figured there odds would ever be not in my favor, because it looked like there was no way to get Ross off the franchise.

But yesterday, The Hollywood Reporter brought this happy news, like a parachute from a wealthy Hunger Games sponsor: Ross is apparently holding out for more money to direct the first sequel, Catching Fire. And I couldn’t be happier about his disenchantment!
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Book Review: Catching Fire

Although this review will not spoil Catching Fire, you should read The Hunger Games before checking out this review…

The sequel to The Hunger Games faced a big problem: Readers have already experienced the thrill (and repulsion) of entering the arena for the 74th Hunger Games, so what could author Suzanne Collins do to follow up that masterpiece? The answer she came up with for Catching fire was to pick up the story shortly after it ended in the first book.

Katniss and Peeta are about to embark upon their Victory Tour as unprecedented co-winners of the Hunger Games when Panem President Snow suddenly appears in Katniss’ home and expresses his doubt that Katniss really loves Peeta. He recognizes that the gambit with the berries signaled defiance against the Capitol, and that small act could blossom into widespread revolution, unless Katniss and Peeta can sell their love story on the Victory Tour.
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