By Adam Spunberg and Savanna New

The Hunger Games world is abuzz with casting rumors. For those of you who don’t know, The Hunger Games is a futuristic trilogy set in a dystopian version of America, where children are forced to fight to the death on national television. The first in this immensely successful book series, by Suzanne Collins, is now being set to a highly anticipated film, which is expected to rival Harry Potter and Twilight.

We are extremely fortunate to have Gabby Vittoria and Pauline Hughes from The Hob to break down the leading contenders in this heated casting debate. Next up: the often drunken, but wise Haymitch Abernathy, who mentors Katniss through her many trials. Here’s our sobering review of actors favored for the role.

Note: The Hob is one of the top fan sites on the web, and we strongly encourage that you visit their site for more information.

Part I: Katniss
Part II: Haymitch
Part III: Peeta
Part IV: Gale
Part V: Effie
Part VI: President Snow
Part VII: Prim
Part VIII: Cinna
Part IX: Rue
Part X: Tributes
Part XI: The Others

Related: Interview with Tanvi Berwah of Hunger Games Network on the international impact

Robert Downey, Jr.

Gabby: Robert Downey, Jr. has played parts with Haymitch-esque qualities that would be fantastic to see in the role. I think he’s great, not excellent, but has really done similar roles very well. [He’s] 46, definitely the right age. Grade: B+

Pauline: To me, he seems a bit young for Haymitch, but I think he has the personality and acting chops to pull off quite a character. Haymitch is moody, grouchy, drunk, but also has a good heart. I think with proper makeup and costume he could pull it off. Grade: B

Adam: After Robert Downey, Jr. played an Australian actor who played a black man from Louisiana in Tropic Thunder, I am pretty much convinced he could master any role known to person (I say person, because both genders are probably within his repertoire). I would LOVE for him to win the part. Few actors are capable of welding such charm with vulgarity. He will be a grouchy drunk (let’s not kid ourselves — he’s got experience with addiction) with a deeply camouflaged softness of heart. Worst case, they pull him out of the Betty Ford Clinic and he’s good to go. Grade: A+

Savanna: Robert Downey, Jr. is an extremely gifted actor, and I’d personally love to see him as Haymitch. Admittedly, I’ve always had a bit of a crush on him, so that could be swaying my judgment slightly! Haymitch is a character who has essentially lost everything and is haunted by a very tortured past, the memories of which he drowns in alcohol. He has so much soul, you can’t help but fall a bit in love with him when reading the books, and you constantly root for him to have a chance at redemption. It’s hard for me to imagine anyone but Downey embodying all the complexities of emotion that this part will require. Grade: A+

Hugh Laurie

Gabby: He is basically playing Haymitch right how on House. His publicist said timing isn’t good, though. This is what she said: “He isn’t available at this time. He’s filming and there are other commitments stuck in a queue. I wish I could create extra hours in the day.” Grade: A

Pauline: I LOVE Hugh Laurie for this part. I think he would be perfect. The way he is on House shows he can be snarky, sarcastic, an addict… My only worry is that he wouldn’t want to take the part since it is pretty similar to House. Grade: A

Adam: He plays such a kind, considerate doctor on House, I really don’t know if he has “grit” enough to complement Miss Steinfeld, should she be chosen. (That was sarcasm. The kind Haymitch is known for). Laurie is a lot more versatile than most people think, having played some more congenial roles in his youth (Peter’s Friends, for instance) along with irritable misanthropes (House). But if you want a true test of how effectively he can play Haymitch, watch Ang Lee’s Sense & Sensibility: his portrayal of Mr. Palmer is somewhat spot on. Downey Jr. is my top choice, but Laurie would fit the bill exceedingly well. Grade: A

Savanna: I can definitely see Hugh Laurie as Haymitch… I tend to think of him as more of a comedic actor, though, and wonder if he’d be able to plausibly layer enough feeling below Haymitch’s surly exterior to give the character the depth it merits. Unfortunately, it seems like House will never end, so I’m not sure if Laurie would even have the time to consider doing this. Grade: A

Hugh Jackman

Gabby: I adore Hugh Jackman, but I see him as too jovial for Haymitch. I don’t recall seeing him in any dark roles to make me think otherwise. He does so much light-hearted stuff; does he have the acting chops to pull it off? Grade: C

Pauline: I think he is too “sexy” for Haymitch. I mean, I know hair and makeup can do some, but he is too “leading man” for me. Haymitch is someone who basically fell apart after he was in the Hunger Games and became the town drunk. I just don’t see him as Haymitch at all. I think he is a great actor, just not right for this part. Grade: D

Adam: Is he good-looking enough for the part? I hear women find him repulsive. (Also sarcasm). I’m a tremendous Jackman fan as well, and not just for his more popular stuff. Watch his work in Woody Allen’s Scoop and you’ll be impressed. Still, this former Oscar host Boy from Oz would be better served in other projects. Grade: B

Savanna: Like probably every other woman on the planet, I’m a huge Hugh Jackman fan, but I just can’t envision Wolverine or the Boy from Oz as Haymitch. I can see why people like him for this role, though, and I wouldn’t be upset at all if he were cast. Grade: C+

Johnny Depp

Gabby: I think he can take this on and nail it, almost a dark humor-free Jack Sparrow. I just think he is quite out of the film’s league. Would his star power overshadow everyone else? It might! Grade: B-

Pauline: I just personally don’t care for him (well, as personal as I can feel for someone I’ve never met). But to give a more objective view, I think he is the same as Hugh Jackman for me: a little too young and handsome for the role. But on the same note, he has always taken on quirky roles and done a decent job, so perhaps he could work. I do want a really strong actor as Haymitch, but I think perhaps someone like Johnny Depp might overshadow Katniss. His star might be a little too bright, if that makes sense at all. Grade: C

Adam: Depp is such an intriguing personality, I’m afraid he would overshadow the other characters. I have no doubt that he could play the part as drunkenly as he does Jack Sparrow, but this is Katniss’s story above all. However, if this spares him from doing a sequel of The Tourist, let’s pick him ASAP! Grade: A-

Savanna: At this point, I feel that Johnny Depp is so famous, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to separate the man from the characters he’s portraying. If he were cast in this role, I don’t think we’d actually see Haymitch on screen, but Johnny Depp acting like Haymitch. I’m also afraid Depp would bring too much unintentional comedy to the part, and there’s nothing funny at all about Haymitch’s violent outbursts and periods of drunken stupor. Grade: D

Brendan Gleeson

Gabby: I only know him as Mad-Eye Moody [from Harry Potter], and based on that performance, I can see him as Haymitch. They are [both] “drunks,” in one sense or another. And Haymitch is described as paunchy, so he could be great in the role. Grade: B+

Pauline: I love him. He is always who I pictured when I was reading, but more how he looks in character (perhaps without the “mad eye”), as opposed to some of his normal shots that I’m looking at. And he pulls off the “grouchy” thing well. Grade: A

Adam: Somehow, I could see this really working. I know I seem like that teacher who just gives everyone good grades, but if he could emulate his brilliant work in In Bruges, how could the casting director go wrong? Grade: A-

Savanna: I’m not sure how I feel about Gleeson. I like him as an actor, and I certainly think he’s capable of shouldering the weight of this part, but does he really look like Haymitch? He has more of a quirky, odd, “character actor” look, whereas Haymitch was supposed to have been quite handsome in his heyday. As with Jackman, though, while Gleeson may not be my top pick, I wouldn’t be devastated if he were cast, and would probably learn to love him. Grade: B-

Picktainment’s Pick

Daniel Day-Lewis

Adam: Imagine the repressed anger from There Will Be Blood, the physical prowess in Last of the Mohicans, the subtlety in A Room With a View and the mental fortitude of My Left Foot. If Day-Lewis could somehow be persuaded to take the role, how could anyone deny him? Slight preference for Downey Jr., but it’s very very slight. Grade: A

Savanna: At 53, he’s a bit older than Haymitch is in the books (40), but I think Daniel Day-Lewis would be a really compelling choice. We know he’s immensely talented, and he has a sort of dark appearance appropriate for the character, who, like Katniss, was born and raised in the Seam (the poorest area of District 12). I find that there’s always a great deal of story and intelligence in Day-Lewis’s eyes and countenance, which would help convince audiences that there’s more to Haymitch than a houseful of drained liquor bottles. Grade: A

Adam Spunberg is a senior writer at Picktainment and founder of the Austen Twitter Project. Email him at adam@picktainment.com or tweet @AdamSpunberg.

Savanna New is an associate editor at Picktainment. Email her at
savanna@picktainment.com.