Updated: THE HUNGER GAMES: Paula Malcomson cast as Everdeen matriarch, but when will Lionsgate please fans and cast Haymitch?
UPDATE: Apparently, I was too busy writing this diatribe until my fingers bled, and I missed Vulture's exclusive announcement that John C. Reilly can expect to be offered the role of Haymitch Abernathy (and soon). My rant still stands, with an added caveat - I love John C. Reilly, but I hate this casting choice.
I'd like to think that all this drip-drip-drip HUNGER GAMES casting is leading up to one big, glorious announcement of a thrilling choice for the last truly important role yet-to-be-filled in the film adaptation. I am, of course, talking about the role of Haymitch, the alcoholic mentor to Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). Today, we do not have Haymitch news. We don't even get another tribute pair announcement. We get Katniss' mother. I'll attempt to rein in my utter boredom so that I can bring you the actual news here. Maybe there will be a rant waiting for you after the break. Maybe (probably).
Lionsgate has picked television actress Paula Malcomson (Caprica, Deadwood) to play unnamed mama Everdeen, mother to Katniss and younger sister Prim (recently cast Willow Shields). The announcement of the casting, from THR, describes the role in such simplified terms that either Malcomson's role is a very small one, or the outlet doesn't even care to investigate more about the character written in Collins' book. It describes her as a woman "grieving after her husband’s death, living in fear that her daughters will participate in the deadly Hunger Games." I mean, I guess that's one way to put it.
Katniss and Prim's mom is actually a really interesting character. Though, yes, she does "grieve" after her husband's death, this description makes it sound as if the death was fairly recent. In actuality, Katniss and Prim's father died five years before the first book in the series starts, and their mother is not necessarily still "grieving," she's actually what would probably be best equated to clinically depressed. Her husband's death so shook her that she was unable to provide for her family, forcing Katniss to step in and become the family breadwinner. While that part of Mrs. Everdeen clearly changed Katniss' life and personality, her depression also serves as a greater device in the story - namely, we see many of her actions and reactions in Katniss (mostly in Catching Fire and Mockingjay).
But while that may sound, well, depressing, Katniss' mom also has a very positive impact on Katniss through her career choice. Mrs. Everdeen is a healer, and her skills are inspirational to Katniss, even when our young tribute still feels anger towards her for her depression. Though she's not necessarily a "huge" character, Mrs. Everdeen's influence is felt much more than she is given credit for.
As is becoming customary with HUNGER GAMES casting news, I have little to work with when it comes to judging Malcomson's ability to take on the role. Per usual, I can say - she looks the part. This is about all I can offer. Which brings me back to the start of this post.
In the past couple of weeks, Lionsgate has been steadily dripping out with THE HUNGER GAMES casting news. It's a solid way to keep the film in the news (look, I'm writing it about it, aren't I?), so it works on a pure "buzz" level. But beyond that, it's beginning to verge on insulting to fans and boring to film writers who don't know much about the books. The casting of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss was not met with resounding cheers - fans of the books had a number of fan favorites in mind, and Lawrence was not one of them. To a somewhat lesser extent, the same applied to the characters of Peeta and Gale. Are Hunger Games fans unhappy? Well, at the very least, I don't think they're happy.
While the other casting choices that are being announced are somewhat important, it's really just time-killing until Lionsgate announces their pick for mentor Haymitch. Do we need tributes announced by the pair, every few days? No. One announcement would seal it up. Do we need stand-alone announcements of casting for Mrs. Everdeen? No. What we need is a Haymitch. And what Lionsgate needs is a Haymitch that will make the fans happy, and I mean, actually happy. Hunger Games fans are a dedicated bunch, and though I'm new to the series, I feel as if we've gotten the short end of the stick here. How do you think people who've been fans of the books since the beginning feel? Readers who've imagined perfect Haymitchs before we even knew the books would get the big screen treatment? I'm guessing they don't feel so damn great.
Over at Movieline, Jen Yamato posted about potential Haymitch casting a few days ago. Her article names some interesting choices, along with long-standing fan favorite, Hugh Laurie. Robert Downey, Jr. has also been bandied about as a possible Haymitch. But what does Lionsgate think? Unlike the casting derby for Katniss, Peeta, and Gale, we've heard about no "shortlists," no "first choices," no actor "in talks." It's been radio silence. When we get our Haymitch casting, it won't be teased, it will just be announced. For Lionsgate's sake, I hope they make the right choice.
And, more than that, I sincerely hope they make it soon.