Ben Child 

Hammer, Kitsch and Hedlund tipped for Hunger Games sequel

As Robert Pattinson rules himself out of key role in Suzanne Collins's Catching Fire, Armie Hammer, Taylor Kitsch and Garrett Hedlund are the new names in the running
  
  

Armie Hammer, Taylor Kitsch and Garrett Hedlund are the names being tipped to take the key role of Finnick Odair in the sequel to this year's science-fiction blockbuster The Hunger Games, according to E! Online.

Catching Fire, based on the second book in Suzanne Collins's trilogy about a dystopian north American society in which children are forced to fight to the death in the titular annual televised event, is set to go into production in the autumn for a 2013 release date. Jennifer Lawrence will reprise her role as teenager Katniss Everdeen after drawing strong reviews for her performance in The Hunger Games, which is on course to be one of the year's most successful films.

Speculation about casting for the sequel has already led Robert Pattinson, star of the Twilight series of vampire romance films, to rule himself out of the running to play Odair. Now E! Online says Hammer, Kitsch and Hedlund are being lined up to take the role. Hammer rose to fame after playing both Winklevoss twins in the Oscar-winning The Social Network and will star opposite Johnny Depp in the new Lone Ranger film, playing the masked hero to Depp's Tonto. Kitsch appeared recently in two relative box office duds, John Carter and Battleship, while Hedlund headlined the Tron sequel Tron Legacy. E! Online says studio Lions Gate could make a final decision on the casting as early as this week, but is also eyeing the possibility of recruiting an unknown.

In Collins's books Odair is a previous Hunger Games winner encountered by heroine Katniss Everdeen in Catching Fire. An almost impossibly handsome young man who won the games at 14, he has since spent his time romancing influential citizens of the ruling Capitol metropolis. Odair initially appears supremely charismatic and full of himself, but turns out to have hidden depths that are vital to the storyline.

Pattinson, speaking in Cannes recently to promote the new David Cronenberg film Cosmopolis, said: "I woke up this morning and saw all these things about me being cast in The Hunger Games. I was kind of curious for a second. So I called my agent. My agent was like, 'No ... no one's going to offer you that part.'"

The Hunger Games has so far taken $642m worldwide, a figure beaten this year only by comic-book behemoth Avengers Assemble. It will be directed by Water For Elephants' Frances Lawrence, who was drafted in after The Hunger Games' Gary Ross said he was unhappy with the limited timeframe to shoot the sequel.