[UPDATE: Lawrence has officially signed on to play Katniss.]

Earlier this month, rumors surfaced that Oscar-nominated actress Jennifer Lawrence was another contender for the role of Katniss Everdeen in the upcoming adaptation of The Hunger Games. This put her in contention with other up-and-coming young performers like Chloe Moretz and fellow Academy Award nominee Hailee Steinfeld.

After impressing audiences with her performance in True Grit, Steinfeld seemed to emerge as the fan-favorite of the group. Those familiar with Suzanne Collins’ original three-part book series noted that Lawrence was probably a little too old for the role. However, others argued that the acting chops she displayed in Winter’s Bone negated something as seemingly superficial as Lawrence’s age.

It looks like Hollywood agrees – according to Variety, one of their sources can confirm that Lawrence is about to receive an offer for the role of Katniss in The Hunger Games. It isn’t entirely official yet, but the implication is that there’s no reason this deal shouldn’t go through.

This would be another high-profile project for Lawrence, whose star continues to rise thanks to her participation in projects like the greatly anticipated X-Men: First Class. Although it doesn’t sound like she’ll have much time to prepare since The Hunger Games is expected to begin shooting in just a few weeks so that it can make its March 2012 release date.

For those who aren’t familiar, The Hunger Games takes place in a dystopian future (is there really any other kind at this point?) where every year one girl and one boy from each of the 12 districts of Panem (formerly the United States) are chosen by the government to fight to the death. The event is then broadcast to the country’s citizens. Collins’ has revealed that her inspiration for the story came from flipping between reality television and news reports on the war in  Iraq.

Despite its PG-13 rating, director Gary Ross insists that The Hunger Games will retain the brutal tone of the source material. This was viewed as a somewhat controversial decision, but Cross is adamant that the teenage audience the books were intended for should be allowed to “access it completely.”

Casting Lawrence in the role of Katniss is bound to inspire some strong and divisive opinions, but I personally think that she’ll have no problem believably portraying a sixteen-year-old. Of course, there are the two sequels to consider as well. The Hunger Games novel is followed by Catching Fire and Mockingjay – and Lionsgate is no doubt hoping to use those stories as the template for a franchise.

If the first film is successful, it will be interesting to see how much time elapses between installments – but again, it’s not like Lawrence is 29.  She reportedly gave an incredible audition and when we’re talking about a property as beloved as this one,  I think the actress who delivered the best take on the character trumps the one who’s closer in age.

I’m not trying to take any credit away from the extremely talented Hailee Steinfeld – I’m just urging fans of The Hunger Games to stay optimistic. Even if you’re not a supporter of Lawrence yet, I think she might surprise you.

UPDATE: According to The Wrap, Lawrence has now officially signed on to the film.

The Hunger Games is scheduled to hit theaters on March 23, 2012.

Source: Variety.