Recasting Katniss to Level Fan Expectations Ahead of ‘Hunger Games’ Prequel

Sep 30, 2022

Despite the widespread success of the Hunger Games franchise, many fans, including myself, were left wanting after a rather anticlimactic finale to what could have been one of the most epic cinematic trilogies of our time. So when it was announced that producers are moving forward with a prequel to the originals, to be called The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, my first reaction was one of trepidation. 

It’s safe to say the producers are going to have their work cut out for them if they want to revitalize the franchise and win people over, especially after the last two installments in the trilogy outraged fans, largely thanks to a shopping list of inaccuracies when compared to the books. 

Take Peeta (the male lead), for example. In the books, Peeta is mauled by a wolf and has his leg amputated during the 74th installment of the Hunger Games competitions. For the remainder of his life, he was forced to walk with a prosthetic leg. However, this major plot point is entirely skipped over in the movies, which angered some fans

Moreover, many fans of the books were left dismayed by the casting of Jennifer Lawrence as the lead character, Katniss Everdeen. This is because in the books, Katniss is described as having olive skin, dark hair, and gray eyes, and her character is meant to be 16 years old. Jennifer Lawrence was 20 years old when the first movie was released, and she has blonde hair and blue eyes. 

In addition, American film critic Manohla Dargis was among many who noted the discrepancy between Lawrence’s body type and that of the “waifish” Katniss, writing that the actress’s “seductive, womanly figure makes a bad fit for a dystopian fantasy about people starved into submission.” 

Recasting Katniss 

Katniss Everdeen won’t appear at all in the new prequel, but given that Songbirds and Snakes won’t hit theaters for another 14 months, I thought this was as good a time as any to revisit the casting controversy that was at the heart of fans’ discontent with the movie franchise.  

I was inspired to explore a bit of alternative history and recast the role of Katniss to see if I could do a better job. 

To help me with my mission, I went ahead and used Factune‘s new AI fan-casting feature, which movie geeks have been having some good fun with recently. Basically, you can enter any actor or celebrity’s name, choose from a large selection of movies, and cast that actor as a character from that movie, and Lightricks’s AI will generate an image of that person as that character in that movie. Pretty neat stuff. 

So let’s take a look at some of the actresses that I think could have done a better job than Lawrence as Katniss. 

Hailee Steinfeld 

In my opinion, Steinfeld would have made a better Katniss, as she would have more closely resembled the character described in the books. She would have been 16 years old when the first Hunger Games movie came out, and on top of this, she is of mixed race, having been born to a Jewish father and a mother of European, Filipino and African-American descent. 

What’s more, according to lore, the actress was in contention to play the role but narrowly lost out to Lawrence. When asked about missing out on the role, she said, “there are so many parts that I wanted or didn’t get… But I think, weirdly, it’s the same feeling of having missed every high school dance and prom, and yet I somehow found my way to the Met Gala. I feel like I’ve made up for it.” 

Emma Roberts 

Emma Roberts, who is Julia Roberts’ niece, was another actress who was up for the role of Katniss, but ultimately lost out to Lawrence.  

While she is on the older side to play the character (she would have been 21 years old when the first movie came out), I think she could have brought a different level of maturity to the role. I think the AI-generated image turned out pretty well too, don’t you think? 

Abigail Breslin 

After gaining critical acclaim for her role in Little Miss Sunshine, Breslin was one of the most sought-after child actresses in Hollywood. 

Born in 1996, I think she would have been the perfect age to play Katniss. Not to mention, she also has since gone on to show her acting prowess when playing big roles in dystopian movies, such as Zombieland and Ender’s Game

Saoirse Ronan 

Good luck to anyone that can pronounce Saoirse Ronan’s name correctly, but I think she would have made an excellent Katniss. She would have been 18 when the movie came out, and I think she had the talent (and still does) to pull off the role.  

Plus, with her more gentle yet resilient demeanor, Ronan may have brought a more sympathetic edge to the character that would have been interesting to see. The AI-generated image here is a bit odd looking, but it’s still compelling. 

Shailene Woodley 

I don’t know about you, but Facetune’s depiction of Shailene Woodley as Katniss is almost exactly how I pictured the character when I first read the books. While she auditioned for the role, she admitted herself that it didn’t go too well, and even told MTV that she believes Lawrence was the right woman for the job. 

“Yeah, I definitely auditioned. It wasn’t, like, a great audition,” Shailene said. “But I think that Jennifer Lawrence is perfect for that role. She’s so strong as a woman and one thing that I really love from her is that I love it when women live from their groin, just to say they own their woman power and she totally does.” 

Emily Browning 

Last but not least, we have Emily Browning, who certainly looks the part as Katniss, but couldn’t quite land the role. First of all, she is the oldest woman on this list. She would have been 23 at the time of production. Second of all, it seems like she bombed the audition after she told MTV she was nervous and hadn’t even read any of the books. 

To be honest, I’m not sure if she would have been able to play the role as convincingly as some of the other actresses on this list. However, I think she would have brought a more mature layer to the character that could have worked well.  

To Conclude 

I can’t lie – even though the last two movies left a bitter taste in my mouth, I am still massively excited for The Hunger Games prequel. With Peter Dinklage as Casca and Rachel Zegler playing Lucy Gray Baird, I am confident that the cast will be able to do justice to the source material.  

However, there is always a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that Hollywood might mess it up, as they have done with so many other book-to-movie adaptations. Fingers crossed they don’t screw this one up too. 

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