I certainly hope that Peter Dinklage enjoys a tipple or two. Otherwise, I’m not especially sure why the actor, after playing Tyrion Lannister, the fan-favorite lush of Westeros, in Game of Thrones would want to play an arguably more infamous boozehound in another major genre series.
That boozehound is specifically Casca Highbottom of The Hunger Games prequel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Dinklage joins this adaptation no one seems particularly excited for (other than Lionsgate). This casting news is all well and good, but, having not read the prequel before I was absolutely agog at the discovery of how the man created the Hunger Games, in which a bunch of kids are drafted to murder each other until the last one standing manages to bring home extra food for their home district. Casca was just... drunk. From the fan wiki:
“In his youth, Highbottom attended the University with Crassus Snow, the father of Coriolanus Snow. While studying under Dr. Volumnia Gaul, whom he loathed, Highbottom came close to failing her class. For the class’s final project —which saw him paired up with Snow—the students were challenged to create a punishment for the districts so extreme that they would never be allowed to forget how they had wronged the Capitol. This suited Highbottom, as he had always excelled at puzzles, and in a drunken stupor he conceived what would become the Hunger Games. In the process, Snow got him even drunker, playing on his vanity as he fleshed out the project, all the while assuring him that it was just a private joke. The next morning, Highbottom awoke, horrified to find that Snow had turned in the project to get a good grade. He never forgave Snow for this betrayal.”
I... I honestly have no words at this revelation. In terms of prequels undercutting the narrative power of their original stories, this isn’t on the level of proclaiming “wizards used to shit where they stood” but it’s... not good. It relegates what should be—and is—a horrific celebration of fascism that inspired Katniss Everdeen and others to fight for freedom, and turns it into a drunken prank gone wrong. It’s also very stupid.
If you’re wondering whether Dinklage had had a drink or two before he accepted the role, the film’s producer, Nina Jacobson, isn’t saying. Instead, she told Deadline: “I cannot think of an actor more perfectly suited to inhabit the role of Highbottom. As the man credited with conceiving the Hunger Games and the Dean of the Academy, Casca Highbottom is a character with secrets. Peter’s magnetism, intensity, and dark humor will infuse him with the intelligence, depth, and pathos that the role demands.”
That sounds better than “drunk man who created an incredibly powerful tool of fascism as a lark” but maybe those “secrets” mean something more is going on here? Lord, I hope so.
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes will lurch into theaters on November 17, 2023.
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