Actress Jennifer Lawrence emerged as the frontrunner to star in Lionsgate’s adaptation of The Hunger Games last weekend. Now the 20-year-old Oscar nominee has officially been confirmed for the lead role of Katniss Everdeen in director Gary Ross’ cinematic take on Suzanne Collins’ young adult bestseller.

Word leaked out a few days back that officials were very impressed with Lawrence’s audition, which ultimately won her the lead role in the film over the likes of early favorites like Chloe Moretz (Kick-Ass) and True Grit‘s Hailee Steinfeld.

Collins’ Hunger Games is the first in a trilogy of novels that Lionsgate officials hope to turn into a blockbuster franchise to rival the likes of the Twilight and Harry Potter series – both of which will be concluding in the next two years. Although The Wrap says it’s unconfirmed for the time being, the general consensus is that Lawrence will be signed on to also star in the sequels Catching Fire and Mockingjay, should Hunger Games prove to be sufficiently profitable.

Lawrence received a Best Actress Academy Award nomination for her performance in last year’s Sundance Film Festival award-winner Winter’s Bone. She’ll be appearing in two fairly different titles over the next few months as well: this spring’s The Beaver with Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster, and X-Men: First Class, in which Lawrence plays a young Mystique.

Lawrence in ‘Winter’s Bone’.

The Hunger Games will revolve around Lawrence’s Katniss, a sixteen-year-old girl forced to enter the titular competition – a futuristic televised event in which teenage individuals from different regions of Panem (the former United States) are forced to battle one another to the death, as a means of illustrating the ruling government’s might.

Equal parts Battle Royale and The Running Man, Collins’ Hunger Games series will be a far cry from similarly popular young adult literature adaptations like the recently released I Am Number Four, in terms of both tone and content. Ross is planning to deliver a PG-13 rated film version that will allow young Hunger Game fans to still see their favorite character brought to life, but also remains true to the feel and design of the source material.

Lawrence is older than the likes of Steinfeld or Moretz, which is thought to have played a role in her ultimately snagging the role. She’s also a very capable and expressive actress, as she demonstrated in Winter’s Bone, ably playing a young woman who is forced to confront dangerous and potentially life-threatening circumstances. So Lawrence is definitely a solid fit for the role of Miss Everdeen.

Now that the role of Katniss has been settled, the next big Hunger Games casting announcement will be for the part of Peeta Mellark – a comrade and love interest of sorts for Miss Everdeen. Number Four‘s Alex Pettyfer has been rumored as a contender for the role, along with Josh Hutcherson (The Kids Are All Right) and Hunter Parrish (Weeds).

Look for one of these gentlemen or another young actor to sign on as Peeta in The Hunger Games soon, as the film is slated to begin production in the near future in order to make its scheduled March 23rd, 2012 release date.

Source: The Wrap