Debra Zane hired as casting director for The Hunger Games!

In a remarkable update, the Lionsgate film studio has announced that Debra Zane has been hired as the casting director for the film adaptation of The Hunger Games.

Previously, speculation on Zane’s role was heavily circulated around, given her involvement with The Twilight Saga : Breaking Dawn. Zane is also credited with movies like Ocean’s Eleven and the sequels, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

In summing up Zane’s strengths, the studio also laid out the challenge the casting director faces with “Hunger Games.” That is, casting “the people you imagined [as the characters] but not the ones you expected,” says Alli Shearmur, president of motion picture production for Lionsgate.

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The filmmakers, including Ross and producer Nina Jacobson, have said they’re open to casting actors who are unknown (a relative term) in the lead roles. Shearmur says, “The movie-star elements of the franchise are the books and the characters Suzanne Collins created.” But don’t expect Zane to conduct an “American Idol” style cattle call. Instead, she’ll likely use professional channels to cast a wide net. The stated goal: creating a level playing field for candidates ranging from, say, a promising young theater actor to an emerging screen star, such as 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld, whose “Hunger Games” stock has shot up since she anchored the hit “True Grit.”

Shearmur emphasizes that no actors have auditioned yet, but fans and bloggers have been speculating on the casting process for months. And many have launched online campaigns on behalf of the actors they think embody the characters as they imagine them. For instance, the site Reelz Channel recently launched a poll encompassing not just the handful of lead roles, but also a dozen other characters in the book.

“There is this fan ardor and frankly good ideas that you don’t want to discount. We’re definitely paying attention to it,” Shearmur says.

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