Last week, YAngelist and frequent commenter Alix sent us this article about a class of 8th graders who read The Hunger Games then wrote letters to director Gary Ross about what absolutely MUST be included in the movie. Major props, btw, to the teacher, Lenzi Hart, for assigning such a kickass book instead of the crybaby shizz I had to read in junior high. So anyhoo, not only did Gary Ross read the letters, he actually carries them around and raves about them and even wants to meet with these kids! What what!
Ok, that's like great and heartwarming and everything, but GARY. Dude. Who cares about the opinions of 8th graders? They don't have jobs, and it's not like their crappy allowance is gonna cover a movie ticket along with whatever Hunger Games trinkets the theater is shilling out. See, it's not about making the kids happy, it's about making the ADULTS happy. We're the ones bringing the kids (or, the FYA equivalent, champ cans) to the theater, and we're the ones who will be buying the Mockingjay pins and the Mrs. Peeta Mellark t-shirts and the DVDs, and then more DVDs after we wear down our original copies from playing the drinking game far too often to admit in mixed company.
My point is, 8th graders aren't the only ones who've got opinions you need to hear. And so today, I present to you letters from your most vital demographic: adults who read YA. Please read these letters carefully, and keep them close to your heart. In fact, you might want to laminate this shizz, cos IT'S THAT IMPORTANT.
Can I call you G-Ross? It isn't very flattering, I know, but I am trying to keep it real. When I first heard you had been picked to direct the Hungry Games movie, my first thought was Who is Gary Ross!?! And then I went to your Wikipedia page, which didn't exactly leave me with very much confidence. Don't get me wrong, Big is a great movie! But do you know what Big didn't seem to have? Child murder. I may need a re-watch to make sure, but I'm pretty confident about it.
I've never seen your most famous movie, Seabiscuit, because I have a (perfectly rational) hatred toward horse racing movies. Why is that even a genre!? With very little knowledge of your career, I suppose you have the opportunity to pleasantly surprise me! So here are my tips to help you make the best Hungry Games movie you can:
1. No horses. District 12 is too poor for horses. Just don't do it!
2. No Tobey Maguire. Just don't do it!
3. Katniss can't suck. Find a girl who can act!
4. Peeta needs to be perfect. Don't fuck this one up.
5. If you cast a Gale whose hotness doesn't cause an AOE panty melt, the Team Gale ladies (and Henri) may destroy you. They are still fragile after Mockingjay!
6. I know you're going for the whole "PG-13" thing, but give me as much child murder as that rating will allow!
7. Please, no CG fail on the muttations. (again) Just don't do it!
8. Read the book. It isn't very long. It might give you tips!
Please feel free to use any (all) of my advice. No need to personally thank me, a dedication in the opening credits should suffice.
Megan (no h)
Dear Mr. Ross,
Everyone has their ideal Hunger Games film, and it will be impossible to ensure your version is all things to all people. And there is a lot in the Hunger Games to catch the imagination of a filmmaker - gritty images of poverty, extreme hand-to-hand violence, raw emotions, pretty young teenagers. What makes the books so successful is we are able to get inside Katniss (ok, yeah, it's a first person narrative, so duh), and you'll need to convey her conflicts on the screen. Don't be in too much of a hurry to get to the killing -- show us Gale (please, oh, please show us Gale!), show us Buttercup and Prim and how fragile Prim is, show us the Hob and Greasy Sae, show us Peeta's dad bringing Katniss cookies and Katniss getting the Mockingjay pin from the mayor's daughter. Show us the television promos, and maybe even show us the games from the viewers' at home perspective. And please, for the love of all that's holy, cast William Moseley, Ethan Peck, Hailee Steinfeld, Christoph Waltz and Randy Quaid. And stay away from anything related to Twilight. And as much as I love Tom Hanks, he's really not right for this movie, no matter how long he grows his hair.
Dear Gary Ross,
I have a lot of things I feel like we need to talk about right now. Like, what's going on with your hair? Do you think that facial hair is a good idea? Also, why are you always billed as "Gary Ross, writer of Pleasantville and Seabiscuit" instead of "Gary Ross, writer of Dave and mother-effin' BIG, aka one of the few movies starring Tom Hanks that is actually AWESOME, and also: DAVE"? I mean, have the people who write out short bios even SEEN Dave and Big? They are WAY better than Pleasantville and Seabiscuit!!!!!
Anyway. Anyway. Let's move on. Let's talk about a movie you're actually going to be DIRECTING. And that movie is called The Hunger Games. It's based on a book, but we all know that no one reads those things anymore.
Here's how you can make sure that your movie adaptation of The Hunger Games is FAR SUPERIOR to more recent film adaptation of beloved books, such as Twilight or Harry Potter:
1. Stop. Your source material is far superior to Twilight. You should pat yourself on the back! Even if you totally screw this up, there will still not be any instances of anemic old people stalking young girls under the guise of romance!! YOU ARE WINNING!
2. DON'T FORGET ABOUT NEVILLE!! Oh, wait, what? There's no one named Neville in this book? I actually meant, DON'T FORGET ABOUT BUTTERCUP. Buttercup, just like Neville, plays an incredibly important role in this series. That cat is the Cat That Comes Back, time and time again. There's not a lot of hope in this series. Don't cut out the one bit we can all cling to (presuming that Buttercup would let us cling to him, which obviously he wouldn't).
3. Rue isn't white.
4. Katniss is YOUNG. Please remember that. I don't want to see a 25-year-old playing a kid. I want to see a kid.
5. I swear to God if you forget about Madge or Greasy Sae, I WILL CUT YOU. (Okay, obvs I won't cut you. But I will CUT YOU OUT OF MY HEART!)
6. Let's talk about Katniss's mom for a second. You may be swayed to soften her edges a bit, make her a bit more functional in this movie. I urge you not to. One of the key factors in Katniss's personality is the responsibility she feels to her family. Not just because her father has died, but because her mother's subsequent mental illness has left Katniss and Prim emotional orphans. Additionally, one of the best subplots in this series is the subtle redemption of Kat's mother.
7. I swear to all the supreme beings ever recorded in human history, if you screw up Rue's death scene, I WILL BE WRITING A LETTER.
8. Please don't skimp on the costuming. The Girl on Fire should BE on fire.
Okay, I could go on and on, obviously. But, look, dude. I have faith in you. You love the books. Your kids love the books. Just do right by them; do honestly by Katniss as a hero to millions, and you'll be okay.
And, when in doubt, just have Katniss and Rue play a giant keyboard with their feet. It'll go over like gangbusters! Shimmy-Shimmy-cocoa-pop!
Eyes narrowed in a slightly suspicious and threatening manner,
Dear Mr. Ross,
What you are about to read is very, very important. It could be the most important thing you read all day. It concerns The Hunger Games, and choices you could make that will make you forever beloved among its fans, instead of disappointing them.
The first thing I must stress is this: Don't change things up. The characters and story work as they are. This is not the time for brilliant adaptations. Stick to the source material.
Now, about important scenes. The most important scene for you to get right will be the scene in which Katniss sings after Rue's death. Focus on that one.
On to casting. Honestly, if you get the casting right, all of your worries will be over. And if you'll take my advice, I promise I'll give you all the credit. #1 Most important: Katniss. She should be played by Hailee Steinfeld. Just do it. You'll thank me. Other #1 Most important: Peeta. Please, please, please listen to me, and cast William Moseley. There is no one else on earth who could play Peeta. Trust me. Also #1 Most important: President Snow. I think you'll agree that Christoph Waltz is the OBVIOUS choice.
I have other ideas, too, so if you want, you can email me at this site, and I'll be happy to share.
Down with the Capitol!
Dear Gary Ross,
Please don't make this movie. If it's successful, the studio will pressure you into making Catching Fire and Mockingjay, and those books suck. Seriously, have you read Mockingjay? NO ONE LIKES THAT PIECE OF SHIT. If you make the Hunger Games movie, you're basically guaranteeing that everyone on the Internet will hate you in a few years when you complete the trilogy.
Unless Suzanne Collins dies and then you can completely change the second two movies. If you do that, you'd better have Gale end up the coolest. No one wanted to see Leia end up with Luke, and Peeta's a fucking pussy. Possible casting choices for him: the Gerber baby, the kid who played Donkey Lips on Salute Your Shorts, and the Pilsbury Doughboy.
Alrighty, YAngelists, it's your turn! Now that we've got Gary's attention (Right, Gary? You're still there, aren't you? Don't be rude, Gary. Put your cell phone down and FOCUS), send him yr own letter in the comments!
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