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After what's seemed like months of run-arounds and rumors and shortlists and wishful thinking, we finally have what looks like a frontrunner to play Finnick in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire…. and it's probably not who you're hoping. Not to say anything against Sam Claflin, who Variety reports is the choice to play Finnick in the sequel, but you probably don't know who he is, even if you caught his performances as very similarly handsome young men in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End and this year's Snow White and the Huntsman. Claflin has the good-looking side of Finnick nailed, but as for the unbridled charisma and sexual appeal… well, if it's there, he hasn't managed to show it onscreen just yet.
Luckily there are two more actors you're guaranteed to recognize who also may get on board-- Melissa Leo is reportedly the frontrunner to play Finnick's former mentor Mags, while Tony Shalhoub could play Beetee, the electrically-ingenious former tribute who is paired up with Wiress, the character Amanda Plummer signed on to play just hours ago. As with Wiress, it's hard to explain how all these characters fit into the story of Catching Fire without spoiling too much, but all of them interact with our heroine Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), and eventually become her allies in both surviving the Quarter Quell and the tentative steps she takes toward a rebellion that will transform the entire nation of Panem.
Mags is a slightly bigger part than Wiress or Beetee, which makes it a meaty one for Oscar-winner Leo, but the character is also written as incredibly old, practically decrepit, with no teeth and no ability to survive any sort of physical challenge. Leo is 51, and far younger than I ever imagined the character to be; will they be aging her up with makeup, or simply making this version of Mags younger for the sake of casting someone as prominent as Leo?
Because these actors are just on a reported shortlist, and Lionsgate has been incredibly tight with casting announcements, we likely won't hear anything official for a while. In the meantime I'll be grateful that they at least don't seem to be looking at Alex Pettyfer for Finnick anymore, but also wondering what it is everyone keeps seeing in Sam Claflin. Is he the next star they're just going to force up on us whether we like him or not-- a la Orlando Bloom-- or is there some real appeal hidden in there that he hasn't shown off yet?