LOS ANGELES – After a worldwide box-office take of nearly $650 million, it's a no-brainer that the first sequel to “The Hunger Games” is a go. And Oscar-winning character actor Philip Seymour Hoffman is reportedly in talks to join the cast.
Based on the second novel of Suzanne Collins' bestselling trilogy, Catching Fire, the sequel is due for release on November 22, 2013. Titled The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (apparently to dispel any confusion with, say, Police Academy: Catching Fire), the movie was announced by Lionsgate last August, while the first film was still in production. The Hollywood Reporter revealed in February that actors Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth had already committed to the entire film series, and Woody Harrelson told MTV last November that he'd “just signed on for four frigging movies.”
On Monday, Deadline: New York reported that Hoffman (just off a very successful Broadway run as Willy Loman in a Death of a Salesman revival) had been offered the role of Plutarch Heavensbee, the new replacement Gamemaker and a pivotal character in Catching Fire.
The role of Finnick Odair – a handsome young ladies' man who first appears in the second novel – is still open. Rumours were swirling in May that Canadian actor Taylor Kitsch was in line for the part, but Kitsch has denied it. “Not going to happen,” he told the Los Angeles Times on May 30.
According to an E! News report, Armie Hammer and Garrett Hedlund have also been considered for Finnick.
Director Gary Ross, who directed and co-wrote the first movie of the series, announced on April 10 that he would not helm the first sequel. “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,” he said in a Lionsgate press release. “Negotiations with Lionsgate have not been problematic. They have also been very understanding of me through this difficult decision.”
Shorty after Ross' decision, the studio hired Francis Lawrence (no known relation to Jennifer) to direct the second film. Lawrence's previous movies include I Am Legend and Water for Elephants. (Moneyball director Bennett Miller was also considered.)
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Academy Award-winning screenwriter Michael Arndt was being considered to adapt Catching Fire to the screen as recently as May 4. Arndt's acclaimed screenplays include Little Miss Sunshine and Toy Story 3.
Catching Fire is the second installment in the saga of the post-apocalyptic nation of Panem, which holds an annual televised event in which twenty-four teenagers battle to death until one winner remains. In the second book, a rebellion against the nation's leaders begins.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is set to begin shooting this summer. As reported by Entertainment Weekly and other sources, filming needs to wrap by December to accommodate Jennifer Lawrence's schedule; she begins work on the X-Men: First Class sequel shortly afterwards.