Debra Zane talks Hunger Games auditions

Inside an art-deco office tower in Los Angeles, casting director Debra Zane puts Katniss candidates through their paces. The script is secret and hasn’t been finalized, so actresses read dialogue typed out from the book. On hand is a Nerf bow-and-arrow set, one of several toy weapons Ms. Zane bought from Amazon.com to help actors slip into character.

Ms. Zane says about 50 actors have tried out in person for role of Katniss (though she declined to name them) and that so far they’ve come through traditional channels. They have included ascendant stars, clients of persuasive talent agents, or actors Ms. Zane has encountered during past jobs.

In an office across the hall, however, submissions are literally piling up from Katniss hopefuls working outside the system. Several plastic tubs hold waist-high stacks of puffy envelopes with handwritten addresses from places such as Swan Lake, N.Y., and Cedar City, Utah. Ms. Zane opens a box from South Korea containing glossy headshots and a neatly penned three-page letter. From another envelope (one that did not include any photographs) she reads from a typical pitch, “I want to be that girl. I can be her! I just have to dye my hair.”

Ms. Zane’s staff is opening every piece of mail, she says, but she’s skeptical that a star is waiting to be discovered in the pile. “If you have that thing, you do find your way here,” she says, referring to Hollywood.

An adjacent office holds yet another potential entry point for aspiring Katnisses, one that reflects the technical changes sweeping the business. On a wide computer monitor is a website run by Breakdown Services, where Ms. Zane’s staff has posted the single paragraph laying out the filmmakers’ broad criteria for Katniss. She should be Caucasian, between ages 15 and 20, who could portray someone “underfed but strong,” and “naturally pretty underneath her tomboyishness.” Since the notice was posted two weeks ago, more than 1,600 resumes had been submitted for the role of Katniss. So far, 25 of these submissions had been moved to a “selected” heading for potential contenders. {Source}

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