For those who have been following the progress of Lionsgate’s upcoming adaptation of The Hunger Games, it’s become clear that fans of Suzanne Collins’ popular trilogy of books are quite opinionated (and vocal) about how the source material is being translated to the big screen.

For proof of their devotion, look no further than the divisive mixed reaction they had to the casting of Jennifer Lawrence in the lead role of Katniss Everdeen. The backlash actually made director Gary Ross feel like he had to come forward and defend his decision. Collins herself would later join in with her support of Lawrence in order to help the dust settle on that particular battle.

Regardless of what side of the fence you fall on in that debate, a reaction that strong demonstrates that this is a property that means quite a lot to a large number of people. Hollywood’s been on the hunt for the next Twilight or Harry Potter since the early success of both of those franchises – and if the level of passion that’s been on display the past few weeks is any indication, it looks The Hunger Games might be the next great page-to-screen success story.

After Lawrence was confirmed as Katniss, speculation turned to who might be playing the role of Peeta Mellark – a fellow contestant in the titular games who’s been carrying a torch for Katniss for several years. Now, THR has revealed a list of up-and-coming young actors that the studio is considering for the role. They also have a rundown of who’s being eyed for the part of Gale Hawthorne – Katniss’ good friend and hunting partner.

As far as Peeta is concerned, it looks like a few names that have popped up in the past are still in the running – specifically, Josh Hutcherson and Hunter Parrish. Hutcherson’s star has been on the rise the last few years thanks to his involvement in films like Journey to the Center of the Earth, The Kids Are All Right, and the upcoming Red Dawn remake. He was also one of the top contenders for the role of Peter Parker in The Amazing Spider-Man before Andrew Garfield nabbed the part. Parrish made numerous appearances in film and television, but is probably best known as Silas – Nancy Botwin’s oldest son on the Showtime series Weeds.

The list also includes Alexander Ludwig (Escape to Witch Mountain), Lucas Till (who co-stars with Lawrence as Havok in X-Men: First Class), and Evan Peters (who played one of the best friends in Kick-Ass). Although several of them bear a certain resemblance to the way that Peeta is described by Collins, my personal favorite of the group is Parrish hands down. I think he definitely has the right look and attitude for the character. Evidently, all of these actors screen tested today – so we should know soon enough which one has landed the role. Interestingly, it looks like Alex Pettyfer (I Am Number Four) is no longer in consideration.

For the part of Gale, THR claims that the studio’s list includes names like Liam Hemsworth, David Henrie, Robbie Amell, and Drew Roy. Hemsworth’s most notable role to date has been opposite Miley Cyrus in The Last Song, but I think he could definitely pass as a relative of Lawrence’s – a trait that’s fairly important for the character.

Henrie is a regular on How I Met Your Mother, Amell has recently appeared as Fred in two straight-to-DVD Scooby-Doo movies and starred in the Nickelodeon series True Jackson, VP, and Roy can be seen in the upcoming TNT sci-fi series Falling Skies.

Should The Hunger Games prove to be successful, adaptations of Collins’ two follow-ups (Catching Fire and Mockingjay) will likely follow. Since the film is being set up as the first in a franchise, a certain degree of foresight is no doubt being utilized when it comes to finding the right actors. Given what an important role Peeta and Gale continue to play in subsequent installments, whoever they cast in those roles can’t just be an appropriate fit for The Hunger Games – they’ll have to convincingly evolve the same way that the characters in the books do.

In my opinion, The Hunger Games is in far more capable hands than a lot of other recent literary adaptations that have attempted to target the same demographic. I know many fans are still apprehensive about the way certain aspects of the production are materializing compared to how they imagined them as they read the book, but I feel pretty optimistic that the core of what made this story so memorable will be preserved.

We’ll find out when The Hunger Games hits theaters on March 23, 2012.

Source: THR