The recently Oscar-nominated Jennifer Lawrence has been cast in the coveted role of Katniss Everdeen, the teenage heroine of hugely popular Hunger Games trilogy. The book series’ fans have debated (and debated) who would be right for this plum role ever since it was first announced that it would become a movie. And while “act your age” has never been a motto in Hollywood, the land where Botox flows like wine and telling people your age is 30-murmurmurmur is considered acceptable, when it comes to Katniss, age has understandably become a bone of contention with fans.
There’s no doubt that Lawrence proved in last year’s Winter’s Bone not only that she’s a phenomenal new talent, but that she also dirties up nice. Still, the fact remains that she is a fully-grown 20-year-old who will probably be 24 by the time Mockingjay wraps, and some fans think that’s simply too old. Those fans were likely pulling for someone closer to Katniss’ 16 years, like Hailee Steinfeld (aiming under at 14) or Saoirse Ronan.
On the plus side, Lawrence would hardly be the first person in their twenties to play a teen: Half the high-school students on Friday Night Lights looked about a decade older than the other half, and the average age of The Breakfast Club was around 21. Heck, Gabrielle Carteris was practically in menopause when she finally stopped playing Andrea Zuckerman on Beverly Hills, 90210. And the Hunger Games protagonist probably should look a bit older than her years because, as we all know, oppressive dystopias tend to be pretty harsh on the skin. Another plus, at least for the producers, is that because Lawrence is over 18, they don’t have to worry about child labor laws. In California, minors are required to obey daily caps on work-hours, as well as attend mandated schooling, both of which can eat up potential shooting time. Since production on the film hasn’t even begun, and it’s scheduled to release in a year, I’m sure that must have been a factor.
On the other hand, there are limits. Fans of the book who imagined the character looking like a teenager might have a hard time reconciling the college-age looks of Lawrence with the Katniss in their mind’s eye. Additionally, will they now have to cast all the other characters with twenty-somethings so that Lawrence doesn’t look out of place?
Fans of the books, what do you think? Are you happy they got someone with Lawrence’s skill and pedigree, regardless of age, or would you have preferred they cast one of the younger contenders like Steinfeld? Alternately, who thinks they should have just gone with an unknown, like Steinfeld was when she was cast in True Grit?