Competition for the lead role in Gary Ross' dystopian nightmare "Hunger Games" is fierce, with nearly every big-name actress under 25 throwing her hat in the ring -- we've heard conflicting reports that Oscar nominees Jennifer Lawrence and Hailee Steinfeld, "Little Miss Sunshine" Abigail Breslin and Chloe "Hit-Girl" Moretz are each the current favorite for the part of Katniss Everdeen.
While Lionsgate tells Entertainment Weekly that, despite all the buzz, "there are no frontrunners at this point," we're nearly out of time to make our own suggestions. With "Breaking Dawn" casting director Debra Zane hard at work and a release date only a year away, an official Katniss must be coming in short order, so we've got to make our casting wishlist while the wishing's still good.
May the odds be ever in our favor.
Kaya Scodelario as Katniss Everdeen
She's best known for her part in the British "Skins," but we'd love to see Kaya slap on a bow, arrow, and American accent for the part of Katniss. She's mastered the art of cool detachment as "Skins" slag Effy Stonem, and though she's hit the big screen twice (in "Clash of the Titans" and the sci-fi indie "Moon") we think Kaya's relatively unknown status in the U.S. lends itself to the best possible portrayal of a thoroughly unique female protagonist.
We're also on board with: Lindsey Shaw, Jennifer Lawrence, Lyndsy Fonseca
Lucas Till as Peeta Mellark
This is a tricky character to bring to life intact - the qualities that make Peeta float off the written page run the risk of rendering him seriously unsexy in live action. You need an actor capable of Peeta's earnestness... who's also so undeniably attractive that a Cullen-level eternal devotion -- without the erotic subtext of vampirism -- appears appealing. We choose Lucas Till, whose hotness couldn't be dampened by a major role in the "Hannah Montana" movie. In fact, his cachet is on the rise -- his next role puts him in the center of a sexiness assembly as Alex Summers in "X-Men: First Class."
We're also on board with: Callan McCauliff
Tyler Blackburn as Gale Hawthorne
We were watching "Pretty Little Liars" a few weeks ago (don't judge) and imagine our surprise when the living embodiment of Gale Hawthorne walked onscreen. Tyler Blackburn matches our imaginary Gale point for point. Brooding eyes? Check. Olive skin? Check. Insanely handsome? Um. Check. It would be Blackburn's first major motion picture -- his previous work includes indie features and TV -- but we know destiny when we see it. We're willing to trust the fates on this one.
We're also on board with: Thomas McDonell, Robbie Amell
Gerard Butler as Haymitch Abernathy
Full disclosure: We had our hearts set on Hugh Laurie as Haymitch before we even knew Lionsgate was adapting the books into film, but Dr. House has made his unavailability crystal clear. Moving on. Our new pick is Gerard Butler... after a steady diet of cake and couch-sitting. Butler is pretty fit, but if he lets himself go a little, we can see him killing the role of the one-time gladiator and current slobbering drunk.
We're also on board with: Robert Downey Jr., Hugh Laurie (hope never dies)
Johnny Weir as Cinna
He can skate, but can he act? As the most theatrical figure skater in the history of the world -- that's saying a lot -- and the star of his own reality show, "Be Good Johnny Weir," we're willing to bet he can. Johnny, who famously designs his own outlandish skating attire, already sports the kind of futuristic fashion we've been picturing on Capitol citizens. (In fact, if this bit of casting perfection doesn't work out, may we suggest a Mockingjay costume for Johnny's next routine?)
Sarah Michelle Geller as Effie Trinket
The entire web is apparently dead set on Kristin Chenoweth playing tribute escort Effie Trinket, and while we love that little lady with the big, big voice, we fear her portrayal would be too cartoonish for what is ultimately a pretty dead-serious role. Our suggestion is Buffy the Vampire Slayer herself. She can handle superficial and silly (see "Buffy the Vampire Slayer:" Season One); she can handle the gravitas of sending children to their deaths (see "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Seven). Just dye Sarah Michelle Geller's hair a sweet shade of pink and she's the Trinket we've been looking for.
We're also on board with: Monica Potter, Sarah Paulson
Madison Pettis as Rue
We're going out on a limb again -- Madison Pettis playing a sweet moppet opposite The Rock in "The Game Plan" didn't give us hard evidence to support casting her as the emotional linchpin of the entire "Hunger Games" series. But... just look at her. If Madison can use those delicate features to trigger our deepest hero complex, she's the perfect choice.
We're also on board with: Jamia Nash
Elle Fanning as Prim Everdeen
The internet agrees, and so do we. Dakota's little sister is the primrose blossom "Hunger Games" needs. The plot relies on Katniss' willingness to sacrifice her life for Prim's safety, and Elle has the acting chops and physical fragility to pull it off.
We're also on board with: No one. Accept no substitutes.
Originally published on March 3, 2011.