Actor Robert Knepper has joined the all-star cast of The Hunger Games franchise as a new character who is not in the popular books the films are based on. The former Prison Break star will play Antonius, the minister to Donald Sutherland's scheming leader, President Snow, for the upcoming third and fourth movies of the series, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Parts 1 & 2.
The movies will be based on Suzanne Collins' final book in the bestselling series' trilogy, but the character is nowhere to be found in the novel.
Lionsgate bosses' have declined to comment on the development, and no other official information has been released.
Knepper will make his debut alongside fellow new cast members Julianne Moore, Game of Thrones' Natalie Dormer, and Australian actress Stef Dawson, while Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth and director Francis Lawrence all return for Mockingjay Part 1, due out next year (14).
Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire might be about to set theaters ablaze, but the most die-hard Hunger Games fans are already looking forward to the franchise’s two-part conclusion. Thankfully, Hollywood has been helpful and the casting mill has been providing excited book fans with faces to put to the names we’ve all memorized from Suzanne Collins’ bestselling trilogy.
Obviously when discussing casting news from Mockingjay, some book spoilers will be discussed. So here’s your SPOILER WARNING in case you haven’t made it to the final page of The Hunger Games trilogy just yet.
Natalie Dormer is CressidaCressida is a reality producer and director who follows Katniss around, documenting her life for the population. In the books, Cressida is described as being bald with a head tattoo. This might be a bit of a problem for the brunette Dormer, who probably needs her lovely locks to continue playing Margaery Tyrell in HBO’s Game of Thrones.
Julianne Moore is President Alma CoinThe biggest casting coup for the final two films. It’s never a bad sign when A-list Oscar-nominated actress Julianne Moore agrees to show up in your film. Moore will be playing Alma Coin, the President of the mysterious District 13, long thought to have been wiped out by the Capitol. One of the biggest new characters in the final book, she’ll be sure to have some juicy scenes with Jennifer Lawrence’s accidental rebel Katniss.
Stef Dawson is Annie CrestaFinnick’s great love is former Games winner Annie, who has since gone a little nutty over time. She’ll be sitting out Catching Fire, but will show up in Mockingjay played by a relative newcomer, Australian actress Stef Dawson.
Lily Rabe is Commander LymeA former winner of the Hunger Games, Lyme leads the rebellion in District 2. In the books the part isn’t very large, but casting well known American Horror Story alum Lily Rabe probably means the part is will be expanded a bit for the film version.
Mahershala Ali is Boggs As President Coin’s military advisor, Boggs is tasked with looking out for Katniss’ safety. A tough-as-nails military commander, Boggs will be played by the equally stoic Mahershala Ali who had starring turns in shows like Alphas and Treme.
Patina Miller is Commander PaylorA military leader in the rebellion, Commander Paylor eventually plays a large part in the action in Mockingjay. So it was smart casting to conscript Broadway mainstay Patina Miller, who knows a little something about stage presence.
Elden Henson and Wes Chatham are Pollux and CastorBrothers and cameramen for Cressida, the major difference between the two is that Pollux is an Avox. The first film skipped over the concept of Avoxes: runaways captured by the Capitol who have had their tongues removed. Ouch!
Evan Ross is MessallaMessalla is Cressida’s assistant, and in Mockingjay he’ll be played by Diana Ross’ son.
Are you excited for Mockingjay? What do you think of the casting? Sound off in the comments!
Diana Ross' actor son Evan has been cast in the third and fourth installments of The Hunger Games film franchise. The 25 year old will play Messalla, according to the official Twitter.com account for the movie studio.
A post on the social media site reads, "It's official! Please welcome Evan Ross as Messalla to the cast of @TheHungerGames Mockingjay Parts 1&2".
He's not the only newcomer to the cast - on Monday (26Aug13), it was announced that up-and-coming Australian actress Stef Dawson would play Annie Cresta and Game of Thrones star Natalie Dormer has also signed on to join the cast, which includes Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson.
Little-known Australian actress Stef Dawson has joined the cast of The Hunger Games film franchise. The newcomer has been plucked from relative obscurity to play District 4 victor Annie Cresta in the third and fourth films of the series, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Parts 1 & 2.
The latest casting news comes just days after Game of Thrones and The Tudors star Natalie Dormer confirmed she had signed on to play Cressida in the final two films.
The two actresses will join Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Julianne Moore and Philip Seymour Hoffman, among others.