Good news: Finnick Odair has been cast for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire! And he is British! [The bad news is that the film is still fourteen months away…]
Seeing the above headline on IMDB, I immediately investigated further. Imagine my disappointment when I saw nothing but angry comments! Nothing but angry comments – this is actually surprising, since usually there are some positive comments thrown in. Fans are angry that he is British, or that he has the wrong look, or that he will be terrible in the role. I realise that this is par for the course online, particularly with fans of film franchises, but it still saddens me. Can’t people reserve their negativity until after the film is released?
Really, what people are judging are headshots from IMDB, past performances in different roles – which is particularly unfair for younger actors who have smaller repertoires, and their own image of the character from when they read the book. The former is ludicrous, as we have invented more than enough ways to alter someone’s appearance and photos can be drastically out of date. Dye, coloured contacts, and physical training could have transformed any actor of at least partial Caucasian descent into Finnick Odair in appearance.
Judging an actor’s worth based on previous roles has some merit, but is not practical for younger actors or for actors one has hardly heard of. Actors grow into their craft like any professional; likewise, if you have only seen an actor in one film, how do you know the depth of their acting skills? Also, actors do not perform in a vacuum. They are not performing their own material on a street corner. The dialogue comes from writers – no matter what an actor does, poor dialogue is poor dialogue and that is not the actor’s fault. Other elements of an actor’s performance are heavily-influenced by the director, the costumer, the cinematographer, the makeup artist, the music, and the editor of the film. Sadly, the actor is the one that we all see, so the actor is the one we judge the most.
The final reason why people are complaining is that the actor chosen to play Finnick is nothing like the image of the character that they have in their mind from their reading of the book. Every individual reader of Catching Fire and Mockingjay has a different image of Finnick Odair, even if Suzanne Collins tells us what he looks like. Incidentally, my image of Finnick was British, as the name sounds Celtic and when I think of actors in their early twenties, British ones come to mind (thank-you, Harry Potter). As Suzanne Collins never specified where District 4 is on a modern map of North America and only mentions that they have a certain accent, I would expect that Finnick would speak differently than Katniss. I do look forward to hearing what they come up with for the film! A deep drawl, suggesting that District 4 is on the Gulf of Mexico? A nasal lilt, suggesting that District 4 is around Maine? (Highly unlikely due to the placement of the other districts, but still a possibility.) Or a more generic American accent, making District 4 more likely to be in former California or the Pacific Northwest?
But a film can’t please every reader of a book. I eagerly gobbled up information about the Harry Potter films between new installments, but I reserved my judgement of an actor’s suitability for a role until I had seen their performance. I waited to be pleasantly surprised as the chosen actor brought a character to life – I do not recall being disappointed with anyone. I know there were others who were not so lucky. Perhaps a character was shown to be too aggressive or too much of an imbecile for their liking, or perhaps they had fixated on a different actor in their head so much that another actor just could not fulfill the role.
Unfortunately, no filmmaker can make the film in his or her own head, let alone the one in someone else’s. In order to present something beautiful, coherent, and entertaining, they have to make choices that cannot please every individual viewer. These are not reasons to throw a hissyfit before the production has even started. I like to believe that I can trust filmmakers to do their job and then judge the results. Was the film enjoyable? Was the story coherent? Did the character make an impression with me? Were they given enough screen-time? (I don’t know if that would be possible for Finnick Odair, but I digress.) Did the nuances of the character come through? Is any of this the actor’s fault, or did the script cut too much, or did the director decide that the character needed a different direction?
Ultimately, this is not my film. I look forward to watching it next year. If it is as good as The Hunger Games or new director Francis Lawrence’s Water for Elephants, I know I will not be disappointed with the overall show.