We’ve had some fun here this week casting Catching Fire, the sequel to the smash hit kid-killing thriller The Hunger Games. Ryan Kwanten currently holds a significant lead in the informal race to play trident-carrying man-candy Finnick Odair, although the comment boards lit up with the notion of casting Armie Hammer, a.k.a. evolution’s proof of concept. Meanwhile, a majority of voters think the beloved Glee uber-bitch Naya Rivera would make a great axe-murdering Johanna Mason. But another character introduced in Catching Fire plays a small but pivotal role in the franchise. Who should play Plutarch Heavensbee, the boisterous Capitol citizen who takes over Gamemaker duties from Seneca Crane? (Warning: A few SPOILERS follow, so maybe you should just read the books already. Or, if you’re one of our younger readers, tell your parents to work Suzanne Collins into the nightly bedtime-story rotation. That way, they can put the story into the proper meta-sociopolitical context.)
Unlike Seneca Crane — a vain toady who doesn’t seem to realize how much danger he’s in until it’s too late — Plutarch seems keenly aware of the brutal core of violence lurking beneath the candy-colored veneer of Capitol culture. He is neither a true believer nor an open skeptic; he’s more like one of those old Communists in the mid-century U.S.S.R. who knew just how much they could get away. For that reason, even though there’s almost no physical description of Plutarch in the books, I always pictured him as a bit older and grander than Seneca Crane — a middle-aged partisan who played up his decadent vapidness to hide his deeper intentions. I’d like to say I was visualizing Charles Laughton in Spartacus, but actually I was picturing Hedonismbot from Futurama.
So I’m on the lookout for an actor who can play grand gestures as well as subtle humor. An actor who is oddly lovable even when his actions are amoral or outright evil. An actor with a voice that sounds like expensive cigars and a perfect cocktail-party buzz. I can think of no one better suited to the role than Jared Harris. Best known as Lane Pryce on Mad Men and the villainous David Robert Jones on Fringe, Harris was the best thing — only good thing, rather — about Sherlock Holmes 2: Secret of the Ooze, which indicates that he possesses the peculiarly British talent of over-delivering in franchise material.
Let’s stick with the Brits for a second. If you’re envisioning a slightly older Plutarch, then you might be dreaming of Bill Nighy, a scene stealer who is the only good thing about this weekend’s Wrath of the Titans. The brilliant comedian Steve Coogan seems to have lost interest in his quixotic crusade to translate his U.K. fame into Hollywood glory, but you can easily see him essaying Plutarch’s self-aware patrician prickliness. If you were going for a slightly more subtle (and younger) interpretation, Chiwetel Ejiofor has shown himself more than capable of hiding a host of ulterior motives behind an impassive smile.
But why should British people have all the fun? Philip Seymour Hoffman stole Mission: Impossible III with a character that bordered on an abstraction; think of the fun he’d have here. John Malkovich has lately started a mini-career for himself as a batcrap-crazy supporting actor for hire. (Tell the truth: Aren’t you already picturing Malkovich in a blue Mozart wig and a blinking neon toga? Because I am, and I’ve only had three cups of coffee today.) Recent Best Actor winner Jean Dujardin made a great Funny or Die video which also doubled as a demo reel for every sequel currently in production, and his rakish trust-me charm would be a natural fit here. And while we’re getting concept-y, why not throw Dwayne Johnson into the mix? Adding Johnson to a franchise instantly makes it at least 27 percent better, and although his comedies aren’t that good, he’s a great comedic actor in short bites — think Be Cool, or The Other Guys, or his SNL turn as “The Rock Obama.” (Listen, all I’m saying is: Paul Verhoeven would’ve cast the Rock, and if it’s good enough for Verhoeven, it’s good enough for me.)
But don’t take my word for it, people. Who’s your pick to play Plutarch in Catching Fire? Do you go Brit or American? Old or slightly less old? Vote in our poll below, and please, tell us anyone and everyone we missed in the comment boards. Who were you picturing as Plutarch? Kanye West? Tom Hardy? Cross-dressing Linda Hunt? Nothing is too crazy anymore.
Follow Darren on Twitter: @EWDarrenFranich
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