Thesp to play Johanna Mason in 'Hunger Games' franchise

Jena Malone has been cast in Lionsgate’s “Catching Fire” as Johanna Mason, a past victor of the Hunger Games.

Lionsgate made the announcement Monday. Filming of the sequel is expected to begin September.

Malone recently starred opposite Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton in the History Channel’s “Hatfields & McCoys.” Other credits include “Sucker Punch,” “The Messenger” and “Into the Wild” and she will soon begin production on “Lonely Hunter.”

Studio signed Francis Lawrence to direct “Catching Fire” in early May and Lionsgate has set a release on Nov. 22, 2013. “The Hunger Games” director Gary Ross ankled the sequel on April 10, citing a “fixed and tight production schedule” as his key reason for exiting.

Suzanne Collins’ “Catching Fire” story features a special edition of the Hunger Games every quarter-century in which tributes are “reaped” from the victors of past games. “Slumdog Millionaire” screenwriter Simon Beaufoy is crafting the “Fire” script.

Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Lenny Kravitz, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Toby Jones, and Woody Harrelson will return in their roles. The film will be produced by Nina Jacobson’s Color Force with producer Jon Kilik.

Recent “Catching Fire” castings include Amanda Plummer as Wiress and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee.

Lionsgate has set the release dates for the final two films in the franchise, based on the concluding “Mockingjay” tome in Collins’ trilogy, for November 2014 and November 2015.

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