“The Hunger Games is a 2012 American science fiction adventure film directed by Gary Ross and based on the novel of the same name by Suzanne Collins. The picture is the first installment in The Hunger Games film series and was produced by Nina Jacobson and Jon Kilik, with a screenplay by Ross, Collins, and Billy Ray. The film stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, and Donald Sutherland. The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic future in the nation of Panem, where boys and girls between the ages of 12 and 18 must take part in the Hunger Games, a televised annual event in which the “tributes” are required to fight to the death until there is one remaining who will be crowned the victor. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to take her younger sister’s place in the games. Joined by her district’s male tribute Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), Katniss travels to the Capitol to train for the Hunger Games under the guidance of former victor Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson).”
“In March 2009, Lions Gate Entertainment entered into a co-production agreement for The Hunger Games with Nina Jacobson‘s production company Color Force, which had acquired worldwide distribution rights to the novel a few weeks earlier, reportedly for $200,000. Alli Shearmur and Jim Miller, President and Senior Vice President of Motion Picture Production at Lionsgate, took charge of overseeing the production of the film, which they described as “an incredible property… a thrill to bring home to Lionsgate”. The studio, which had not made a profit for five years, raided the budgets of other productions and sold assets to secure a budget of $88,000,000—one of its largest ever—for the film. Collins’ agent Jason Dravis remarked that “they [Lionsgate] had everyone but the valet call us” to help secure the franchise. Lionsgate subsequently acquired tax breaks of $8 million for shooting the film in North Carolina. The production was eventually brought in under-budget at $78 million.
Collins adapted the novel for film herself, in collaboration with screenwriter Billy Ray and director Gary Ross. The screenplay remains extremely faithful to the original novel, with Ross saying he “felt the only way to make the film really successful was to be totally subjective”, echoing Collins’ presentation of the novel in the first person present. Instead of Katniss’ internal monologue about the Capitol’s machinations, the screenplay expanded the character of Seneca Crane, the Head Gamemaker, to allow several developments to be shown directly to the audience. Ross explained, “In the book, Katniss speculates about the game-makers manipulations… in the film, we can’t get inside Katniss’s head, but we do have the ability to cut away and actually show the machinations of the Capitol behind the scenes. I created the game center and also expanded the role of Seneca Crane for those reasons. I thought it was tonally important.” Ross also added several scenes between Crane and Coriolanus Snow, the elderly President of Panem, noting that “I thought that it was very interesting that there would be one generation [of Panem citizens] who knew that [the Games] were actually an instrument of political control, and there would be a successive generation who was so enamoured with the ratings and the showbiz and the sensations and the spectacle that was subsuming the actual political intention, and that’s really where the tension is”.
The Gamemakers’ control center, about which Katniss can only speculate in the novel, was also developed as a location, helping to remind the audience of the artificial nature of the arena. Ross commented that, “so much of the film happens in the woods that it’s easy to forget this is a futuristic society, manipulating these events for the sake of an audience. The look of the control center, the antiseptic feeling of it and the use of holograms were all intended to make the arena feel ‘constructed’ even when you weren’t seeing the control room.” Ross and visual effects supervisor Sheena Duggal were keen to use the omniscient view that the setting provided to justify the literal dei ex machina Katniss experiences in the arena; Duggal explained that “we really didn’t want to have to explain things… how do you get compelled by these [animals] that just appear at the end of the movie? We wanted to find a way to introduce them without having to explain specifically and exactly what they were and the game room was a really great opportunity for us to be able to do that.”“
“Lionsgate confirmed in March 2011 that about 30 actresses auditioned or read for the role of Katniss Everdeen, including Hailee Steinfeld,Abigail Breslin, Emma Roberts, Saoirse Ronan, Chloë Grace Moretz, Jodelle Ferland, Lyndsy Fonseca, Emily Browning, Shailene Woodley, and Kaya Scodelario. On March 16, 2011, it was announced that Jennifer Lawrence had landed the coveted role. Ross described Lawrence as having “an incredible amount of self-assuredness, you got the sense that this girl knew exactly who she was. And then she came in and read for me and just knocked me out; I’d never seen an audition like that before in my life. It was one of those things where you just glimpse your whole movie in front of you.”
Though Lawrence was 20 when filming began, four years older than the character, Collins said that the role demanded “a certain maturity and power” and said she would rather the actress be older than younger. She added that Lawrence was the “only one who truly captured the character I wrote in the book” and that she had “every essential quality necessary to play Katniss”. Lawrence, a fan of the books, took three days to accept the role, initially intimidated by the size of the production.
Contenders for the role of Peeta other than Hutcherson included Alexander Ludwig (who was later cast as Cato), Hunter Parrish, Lucas Till, and Evan Peters. Other actors considered for the role of Gale included David Henrie, Drew Roy, and Robbie Amell. In April 2011, John C. Reilly was in talks with Lions Gate Entertainment to portray Haymitch Abernathy. The following month Lionsgate announced that the role had gone to Oscar nominee Woody Harrelson. The casting of Lenny Kravitz as Cinna, Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman, and Toby Jones as Claudius Templesmith, soon followed. Multiple-Golden Globe award winner Donald Sutherland was cast as President Coriolanus Snow in late May 2011.”