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As the debut of "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" approaches, the franchise's filmmakers reflected on how the stars aligned for the series once it cast Jennifer Lawrence as leading lady Katniss Everdeen.
More than 50 actresses were vying for the coveted role when auditions began in March 2011, according to a new story in Variety. But for producer Nina Jacobson, as soon as Lawrence read the scene where Katniss says goodbye to her sister Primrose before heading off to the Games, she knew they'd found their star.
"I teared up," Jacobson told the trade. "We had a lot of wonderful actresses at the audition, but it was game over at that point."
Director Gary Ross, who helmed the first "Hunger Games" film, was also present for Lawrence's audition, and had the same reaction as Jacobson.
"I got choked up," Ross told Variety. "You only see that kind of talent once in a generation -- that kind of intensity and emotional power. If you don't find the right performer, you don't have the movie. So I felt like, 'Now I can make the movie.'"
At the time, Lawrence was still a relatively unknown commodity in Hollywood, though that was changing rapidly, thanks to her Oscar-nominated turn in 2010's "Winter's Bone." Jacobson called that film "an incredible audition" for the part of Katniss, adding that they were looking for someone not already strongly associated with one role who was also "nurturing, with a sort of feminine ferocity."
Filmmakers found that and more in Lawrence, and her casting as Katniss -- and the subsequent success of "The Hunger Games" -- made her a superstar. But Jacobson was quick to note that Lawrence's fame hasn't changed the actress.
"She's not a diva -- she's the anti-diva," Jacobson told Variety. "One of my favorite moments is where she has the wedding dress on for the interview (scene) in 'Catching Fire.' It's a big cumbersome dress, and she fell down, so we played that over and over on the monitors. There's such a lack of pretense with Jen; she's more than happy to laugh at herself."
For her part, Lawrence told Variety that she's "grateful" for her success -- including her Oscar win earlier this year for "Silver Linings Playbook," where she took a similar tumble in a giant dress -- but is still getting used to the responsibility of shouldering the towering "Hunger Games" franchise.
"It's weird dealing with this being as big as it is," Lawrence told the trade. "I've never been on another film where we actually talk about the fan base. It's sort of like this Big Brother looking over us."
Judging by Lawrence's success so far, it doesn't seem like she has too much to worry about. Plus, Variety reports that industry analysts are expecting "Catching Fire" to rake in $950 million at the worldwide box office, including a $375 million domestic haul.
Looks like the odds might be ever in her favor. "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" opens nationwide on November 22.