A handful of the newcomer character roles in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire have been filled, including Jena Malone as Johanna Mason, Philip Seymour Hoffman as Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee, and Amanda Plummer as Wiress. There are still a few fan-favorite roles to be cast, most notably that of the 65th Hunger Games victor, Finnick Odair.
Oscar-winner Melissa Leo was shortlisted for the part of Finnick's elderly mentor Mags (another past Games winner), but a deal failed to materialize. The role has instead gone to Lynn Cohen, a lauded character actress who's worked with people like Woody Allen (Manhattan Murder Mystery), Steven Spielberg (Munich), and Charlie Kaufman (Synecdoche, New York) over her twenty-years of screen acting (some readers may be better familiar with her as the Ukrainian housekeeper Magda on Sex and the City).
Previously-shortlisted Finnick candidate Sam Claflin is close to locking down the role, according to Deadline. Claflin's played minor roles in recent big-budget extravaganzas Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Snow White and the Huntsman, though perhaps his most substantial (and well-regarded) role to date is that on Starz' Pillars of the Earth mini-series. Numerous rising actors/stars with breakout potential have been rumored to play Finnick, but Deadline's indicating that Claflin's been the frontrunner for a while (his confirmation has been delayed due to contractual obligations that threatened to end his candidacy).
Director Francis Lawrence has arguably been given the most mixed reception, as far as new personnel for Catching Fire goes. Lawrence is less of an accomplished filmmaker than Hunger Games helmer Gary Ross (as far as critical accolades go), but he has demonstrated an understanding for how to properly mix character beats with visual splendor - so as to produce a final film that transitions with (relative) ease from set pieces to moments of personal drama (see: I Am Legend, Water for Elephants). That ability is called for, when it comes to an adaptation of Suzanne Collins' source novel that's loyal in spirit (take that for what it's worth).
THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE begins as Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has returned home safe after winning the 74th Annual Hunger Games along with fellow tribute Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). Winning means that they must turn around and leave their family and close friends, embarking on a “Victor’s Tour” of the districts. Along the way Katniss senses that a rebellion is simmering, but the Capitol is still very much in control as President Snow (Donald Sutherland) prepares the 75th Annual Hunger Games (The Quarter Quell) – a competition that could change Panem forever.
Look for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire to open in regular and IMAX theaters on November 22nd, 2013.