When it was reported that John C. Reilly was being courted to take on the role of the drunken lout Haymitch Abernathy in the upcoming film version of The Hunger Games, I let out a squeal of delight that probably would have been more appropriate coming from a tween girl hugging a poster of Justin Bieber. Haymitch is maybe the most fun character in the books, a hopeless drunk who is haunted by being the survivor of one of the past Hunger Games that ends up getting tasked with training the new recruits for the deadly Games from District 12 Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). That’s not very good news for the kids because not only does Haymitch not really care about anything; he also spends the entirety of his days too drunk to function. Reilly would have been perfect for the role as he is hilarious whenever playing the inebriated fool, but he also has the dramatic chops to pull off the dangerous edge of a man who has survived a battle royal to the death. After hearing his name mentioned for the role, I imagined that I would be extremely disappointed if anyone else ended up getting it. The new news is that John C. Reilly won’t be playing Haymitch after all, but they went and hired maybe the one guy who doesn’t come off as a disappointment to me at all.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Woody Harrelson has officially signed on for the role. Holy crap, talk about a guy who has the chops to seamlessly merge comedy with a dramatic edge. I’ve long considered Woody to be one of the most highly underrated actors working, and with amazing turns in recent years in things like No Country for Old Men, The Messenger, and Zombieland, it finally feels like he is getting work worthy of his talent and that his career is coming into it’s own. If The Hunger Games is as big as all of the production news makes it seem like it’s going to be, and if Harrelson knocks Haymitch out of the park and steals the movie like I think he probably will, then upcoming years might see the sky being the limit for this veteran actor. Could we see Woody in a big budget superhero movie next? Will he finally get the starring role in a worthwhile action film? I’m giddy sitting here thinking about a world where Woody Harrelson is one of the biggest stars on the planet. People of Earth, let’s make this happen.