Lionsgate's drip-drip-dripping of supporting cast updates for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (a technique the studio perfected with the first Hunger Games film) continues with today's news that (former) Sons of Anarchy costar Patrick St. Esprit has been tapped to join the sequel's cast.
Other thespians boarding the Hunger Games sequel train include Oscar-winner Philip Seymour Hoffman, Golden-Globe nominees Jena Malone and Amanda Plummer, as well as character actress Lynn Cohen (Munich). Snow White and the Huntsman's Sam Claflin remains a frontrunner for the fan-fave role of Finnick Odair, but there's been no official confirmation on the situation yet.
Catching Fire follows Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) as they grapple with unexpected consequences from their joint survival in the Hunger Games arena. That includes: relationship complications between Katniss and her hunting bud Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), underground rebellion forces in Panem rallying around Katniss and Peeta, hoping to bring about the downfall of the Capitol - and President Snow (Donald Sutherland) initiating even harsher security measures, so as to quell the unruly lower-class masses.
Suzanne Collins' Catching Fire novel arguably lends itself to a movie interpretation the least, out of the three Hunger Games books. It's conceivable that influenced the decision to recruit Oscar-winner Simon Beaufoy to pen the Catching Fire script, given his past success translating tricky literary narratives into film (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen). Collins provided Beaufoy feedback on his script, prior to Toy Story 3's Michael Arndt doing a rewrite.
Snow's strategy for retaining control includes beefing up security around District 12, instating the remorseless Romulus Thread (Esprit) as Head Peacekeeper. It's familiar acting territory for Esprit, following his turns as military men in such films as United 93, Green Zone, and Super 8, among others; he shouldn't struggle to portray the minor Catching Fire player, for that reason.
UPDATE: Criminal Minds and Dark Blue alum Meta Golding has joined the Catching Fire cast as Enobaria, a onetime District 2 career tribute"known for the particularly brutal, disturbing way in which she came to win The Hunger Games."
Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend) begins shooting Catching Fire soon, with Esprit, Golding, and (surviving) members of the Hunger Games cast reprising their roles. Lawrence is getting a bigger paycheck, thanks to her rising stature and the combination of big box office returns (coupled with critical accolades) the first film reaped. There's a good chance Catching Fire will replicate that financial/artistic achievement, given the talent involved.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire opens in U.S. theaters on November 22nd, 2013.