The Twilight and Harry Potter franchises might be winding down, but that doesn't mean audiences will be bereft of young-adult oriented fantasy fare. First published two years ago, Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games, quickly became a hit with both teen and post-teen readers. A cross between Battle Royale and The Running Man, The Hunger Games is set in a dystopian future where teens are forced by a dictatorial government to fight in deadly gladiatorial contests on broadcast TV.

Lionsgate picked up the film rights with Collins getting a first past at the screenplay, but unsurprisingly hired experienced screenwriter Billy Ray (State of Play, Breach, Flightplan) to handle the rewrite. Now that the rewrite's in, Lionsgate wants to press forward with the big-screen adaptation. According to Deadline, Lionsgate executives have narrowed the pool of potential directors to Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, Pleasantville), David Slade (The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, 30 Days of Night), and Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes (Road to Perdition, American Beauty).
Of the three, Slade has proven he can handle mid-budget and higher-budgeted, effects- and action-heavy films. Slade, may not be available to direct The Hunger Games. He's widely considered the frontrunner for the X-Men Origins: Wolverine 2 gig that's starting production early next year. Based on his previous work, screenwriter-director Ross seems better suited for middle-brow, crowd-pleasing drama. Mendes has an adaptation of Man-Booker Prize-winning author Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach on tap for his next directing gig. The James Bond franchise remains in limbo due to MGM's financial woes, leaving Mendes an opening after On Chesil Beach wraps production. Mendes' background directing character-driven dramas makes him, at least superficially, an unlikely candidate to take on the adaptation of a dystopian novel, but he's also excelled at world building (e.g, pre-counter-cultural America in Revolutionary Road, the U.S. military in Jarhead, Depression-era America in Road to Perdition, and millennial-era suburbia in American Beauty). Whether Mendes can handle complex action set pieces, however, remains to be seen.

Whoever Lionsgate chooses to direct The Hunger Games, they'll have to contend with dark, grim material, material that might not resonate with mainstream audiences the way it has with readers. In The Hunger Games, a dictatorial government, the Capitol, rules over what's left of the U.S. in a country now called Panem. Each district sends a teen boy and a teen girl to represent them as tribute to the Capitol. The 24 teens battle in a series of deadly contests until one teen remains. District 12 sends two sixteen year olds, Peeta Mellark and Katniss Everdeen, a volunteer in place of her younger sister, Prim, to fight in the games.

Collins has rounded out a trilogy with Catching Fire (2009) and Mockinjay (2010). The Hunger Games has been translated into 26 languages, suggesting a ready-made audience exists internationally for a big-screen adaptation.

If you sway over Lionsgate executives, who would you choose? Slade? Ross? Mendes? Have you read The Hunger Games and if so, what did you think of it? And since it's never too soon to speculate, who would you cast in the lead roles of Katness and Peeta?
categories Cinematical