Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson set for ‘Hunger Games’

With today’s news, we now have a solid glimpse at the cast of “The Hunger Games,” and it looks to me like Gary Ross is putting together a young, exciting cast for his adaptation of the best-selling books.

A little over a week ago, I published a cheat sheet for “The Hunger Games” for those of you who have not read the books.  I didn’t spend much time discussing possible casting, because I get weary from how much of that goes on these days.  The truth is, no matter how rabid fans get about what they want, unless you’re in the room when these people read or screen-test, you have no idea what it is that the filmmakers saw in these people.

Billy Ray’s adaptation of the first book is a tricky thing.  As with any series where there are hardcore fans already, every single change will be heavily scrutinized, but it read to me like he put all of that out of his mind and simply worked hard to get the spirit of the story right and to condense the text and the characters into something that will work as a movie.  I’ll say this:  it felt like “The Hunger Games” to me, and I’m willing to give Ross the benefit of the doubt as he builds the cast for the films.

Liam Hemsworth was announced today in the role of Gale, the young man who has spent his life as the best friend of Katniss, who will be played by the previously-announced Jennifer Lawrence, and at this point, I’m not shocked if I see a Hemsworth or an Edgerton in the mix in any of these big films.  Liam is the brother of Chris Hemsworth, who is about to arrive on screens as “Thor,” and these two seem destined for stardom, genetically bred for it.

Meanwhile, Josh Hutcherson is signed on now for the role of Peeta, and at least in the first film, it’s the bigger role.  Hutcherson has earned his way to this spot, and I think he’s one of the most promising actors in his age range.  Peeta is partnered with Katniss in the Hunger Games, and reveals early on that he’s been in love with her for many years, never brave enough to admit it until death is finally staring them both in the face.

There are some plum roles still to be cast in the film, including President Snow, who has a bigger role in the film than he did in the book, and Effie, a sort of advisor/mentor to Katniss once she’s chosen for the Games, as well as Haymitch, the only winner of the Games to ever come from District 12.  Once they start filling in these major adult roles, we’ll have a great picture of what we can expect when Lionsgate releases “The Hunger Games” on March 23, 2012.