While rumors have been swirling for months over possible candidates for some meaty roles in the upcoming The Hunger Games sequel, Catching Fire, today brings the first news that even remotely resembles a casting confirmation. THR reports that Jena Malone is in talks to play tribute Johanna Mason in the upcoming film.

“I volunteer as tribute!” says Malone.

Sigh, say fans of the franchise.

The role of Mason is a key one – along with fan favorite Finnick Odair, Johanna is one of the most essential new characters we meet in Suzanne Collins‘ second novel in her three-book series. Snide, snarky, mean, and biting, Johanna is one of many other former tributes who get introduced in Catching Fire, and she’s one of the most complex and confusing. She’s also one of the most severely damaged.

If you’ve yet to read “Catching Fire,” beware of spoilers ahead.

The second book in Collins’ series fast-forwards us to just before the next round of The Hunger Games – but this time around, citizens of Panem are in for a Quarter Quell, an extra-special Games that takes place every twenty-five years. Each Quarter Quell comes with its own gimmick – the first one saw the citizens of Panem forced to vote on who had to compete, and the second Quell doubled up on tributes (that’s the one that Haymitch won).

For the Third Quarter Quell, the field will be made up of only former victors (consider it an All-Stars Edition). Thus, both Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) get tossed back into the arena (a particularly wicked one at that) and come face-to-face with other winning tributes – many of them well-known to them, thanks to Panem’s reverence for their winners. Johanna is one of the most notorious – and not just for her outlandish behavior (she frequently gets stark naked), but for her shocking acumen for killing competitors. Is Johanna friend or foe? Well, that’s just one of the neat subplots of Catching Fire, but rest assured, Johanna comes back for more in the third book, so get ready to see lots of Malone in the near future.

Malone is a dark horse pick for the role – fans of the series have long championed actresses like Kristen Bell or Mila Kunis for the part, with other names like Naya Rivera, Phoebe Tonkin, and Olivia Wilde popping up as well. Malone doesn’t appear to have been on fans’ radar – which is the sort of thing that could go either way in terms of fan acceptance. This fan isn’t digging it.

Model Zoe Aggeliki had also been rumored for the role. The film is due to start filming in September. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire will open on November 22, 2013.


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