4 YA Adaptations Lionsgate Should Consider & Casting Ideas
Lionsgate is under the impression that The Hunger Games & Twilight still have a lot of story left to tell. Which is strange since they are currently sitting on the final chapter of the Divergent series, and have failed to green light the sequel to Power Rangers, two franchises that indeed have a lot more story to tell. They were not the strongest adaptions at the box office, but have an eager and anxious fanbase. No one can blame Lionsgate for wanting to go back to the cash cows, but spin-offs of these franchises might not be a good idea.
Lionsgate may not see why its a bad creative idea to dive back in, the box office returns could be blinding them. Twilight was released in 2008 and opened it with $69 million, and earned $393 million worldwide. A year later New Moon was released and nearly doubled the previous films box office. New Moon opened with $142 million, and earned $709 million worldwide. Eclipse was released the year after, and opened lower than New Moon. Eclipse opened with $64 million, and earned $698 million worldwide. Breaking Dawn Part 1 opened at $138 million, and grossed the highest worldwide box office with $712 million. In 2012 The Hunger Games joined the fun and was an instant hit. It opened bigger than any Twilight film before with $152 million, but it garnered $694 million worldwide. Twilight ended in late 2012 with Breaking Dawn Part 2 which opened with $141 million, and garnered $829 million worldwide. The Hunger Games followed the massive success of Twilight in late 2013. Catching Fire was the most successful Hunger Games film. It opened with $158 million, and earned $865 million worldwide. 2015’s Mockingjay Part 1 opened with $121 million, and earned $755 million. The final entry to the franchise was the lowest earning film. Mockingjay Part 2 opened with $102 million, and earned $653 million.
The box office numbers are great, but there are clear signs of disinterest with some of the entries, but overall these franchises have a profitable fanbase. However, a fanbase that might turn against any future entries, because it will not star the leads they are used too. Spin-offs have had little success, Fantastic Beasts looks to break the curse that plagues spin off series’, but they are still a gamble.
I would suggest Lionsgate look at the franchises they currently have on their slate. It is best to make sure all their efforts are put towards making these new adaptations the best they can be. Lionsgate is sitting the final entry or entries of the Divergent series. Those films were not nearly as successful as Lionsgate had hoped, but they need to finish that series. Power Rangers is in the same camp, it was not as financially rewarding as Lionsgate had hoped, but perhaps giving a sequel a chance is what they need to do to get a return on their investment.
Lionsgate also is investing in the adaptation of the Chaos Walking trilogy from Patrick Ness. The film series will star Daisy Ridley and Tom Holland. Already, this trilogy looks to be a hit. Rey and Spider-Man will surly be a big box office draw. The trilogy gained positive reviews and received several awards. It is a well known trilogy that is set in a dystopian world. This will be a hit. Lionsgate should work to make sure every detail is perfect. Don’t go backwards, movie forward with new faces and new stories.
Since Lionsgate is eager to build a YA cinematic empire here are a few YA series’ they should consider adapting, with a few casting ideas too.
Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me series. Mafi’s series is tailor made for a cinematic adaptation. It is The Hunger Games meets X-Men. Juliette is a young woman who is locked up because her touch is fatal. The world is in ruins and her power may be used to bring more devastation. Like Katniss, Juliette is a pawn in a bigger game. The series also has a hunky love interest in Adam, and an unsuspecting love-interest later on. Love-triangles are a staple in the YA adaptations. Again, this series was made for a cinematic adaptation due to its superhuman element and with it’s similarities to The Hunger Games.
Casting idea: Medalion Rahimi as Juliette and Matthew Daddario as Adam. Juliette is said to be extremely beautiful with long dark hair, and Adam is tall, muscular, and blonde. These are character descriptions found far too often in YA novels, so I would like to change that up. I would love to see Rahimi play the character for her stellar acting capability, her beauty, and because she is of Iranian descent, like author Mafi.
Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles. Disney is making bank off classic fairytales, it is about time another studio profits off that too. Warner Bro is trying, but failing miserably. I suggest the best way to tackle the genre is to appeal to the YA crowd, and to add a new spin. The Lunar Chronicles offers a new look at our fave fairytales, picture Cinderella as a Cyborg. Cinder finds herself in the centre of a intergalactic struggle and her life becomes intertwined with Prince Kai. These novels are perfect for a film series, or a television series. There is so much about this world that needs to be explored, and Once Upon a Time has proven there is a demand to see more of our favourite fairytale characters in very different contexts. An appealing aspect of these novels is that the material opens up the opportunity for racial diversity.
Casting idea: Lulu Antariksa as Cinders and Remi Hii as Prince Kai. Cinders is described as biracial (Asian/Caucasian) with tan skin. Prince Kai is also Asian. Antariksa is a Nickelodeon star who is half Indonesian and German. Hii starred on Marco Polo and is Chinese-Malaysian and English.
Amanda Sun’s The Paper Gods series. The Paper Gods follows Katie Greene who moves to Japan after a family tragedy. She lives with her aunt and feels lost and confused in a country she knows nothing about. Katie than meets Tomohiro, a mysterious young man who is connected to ancient Japanese beings. When it comes to casting I would suggest a half-Japanese actress. We have had stories about protagonists living in foreign countries they have no connections to. In an effort to diversify the leading ladies in these YA adaptations it would be best to shake things up and have a protagonist be connected to her homeland, but feel like a complete stranger.
Casting idea: Hayley Kiyoko as Katie Green and Kento Yamazaki as Tomo. Kiyoko ha been building a solid career as an actress and singer for the past couple of years, and it is about time she get a starring role. Yamazki is a Japanese teen star, who works and lives in Japan. It is important that whoever plays Tomo be Japanese, not only would it benefit the box office but it would be authentic to the story.
Marie Lu’s The Legend Trilogy. The film adaption is currently in the works. CBS Films hired a writer in 2011, Jonathan Levine (Warm Bodies, 50/50), and producers of the Twilight films are also behind the adaptation. Lionsgate needs to get in on this project as soon as possible. The dystopian young adult series is the closest Lionsgate can get to recapturing the magic of The Hunger Games series. In this story the US has become The Republic, a nation in a perpetual war. June is a military prodigy, and Day is a criminal. Their paths cross when Day becomes the prime suspect in the murder of June’s brother. This is the classic opposites attract story line, complete with political intrigue and teen melodrama.
Casting idea: Amber Midthunder as June. Unknown male actor of Mongolian descent. This series is quite clear that June is mixed race, but her dominant ethnicity is Native American. There is barley any roles for Native actors, most of them were in the Twilight series. Midthunder is mixed race and is an enrolled member of the Fort Peck Sioux Tribe. She can be seen on FX’s Legion where she is a series regular. Day will be a tricky casting, but with a worldwide casting call a young man of Mongolian descent will be cast.
Lionsgate could be the leading studio in YA adaptations. They have a solid foundation, and the worst thing they can do is go back to Twilight and The Hunger Games, they should move forward and adapt YA series’ that tap into some the major trends in Hollywood. Adapting The Lunar Chronicles will corner the live-action fairytale market. The Shatter Me series will appeal to the YA crowd that are fans of X-Men and the comic book crowd. Lionsgate doesn’t need to go backwards, they just need to be savvy moving forward.