Karen Valby
April 08, 2011 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The love triangle is complete. Lionsgate announced on April 4 that it had cast two key players in director Gary Ross’ highly anticipated film adaptation — due out March 23, 2012 — of the Suzanne Collins YA thriller The Hunger Games. Josh Hutcherson (The Kids Are All Right) and Liam Hemsworth (The Last Song) will flank Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen throughout the trilogy. Presumably both actors will dye their hair to appease Collins’ vigilant fans.

Hutcherson, 18, was tapped for the role of Peeta, Katniss’ fellow District 12 tribute who accompanies her into the titular reality TV battle-to-the-death. Hemsworth, 21, will play her childhood friend, Gale. ”It’s very easy to be in the camp of ‘Oh, I’m a Peeta person’ or ‘I’m a Gale person,’ ” producer Nina Jacobson tells EW. ”I think Gary understands what Katniss sees in both of them and knows how to build a movie which is both an epic adventure but also a very intimate love story.”

When EW sat down with the affable Hutcherson at March’s South by Southwest film festival, he spoke to us about what a thrill it would be to win the role every man of a certain age in Hollywood wanted. ”That would be very, very cool,” he gushed. ”I love Peeta. The character is so much who I am — self-deprecating, a people person. There’s a lot of things that I see of myself in Peeta. And he’s such a great character! Like in the third book, oh my God. One can only dream.”

With production eyeing a late-May start date, Hunger Games fans can look forward to a steady stream of casting news. ”We’re very, very close,” Ross told EW recently. Fan favorite Robert Downey Jr. as Katniss and Peeta’s sodden adviser Haymitch? Kristin Chenoweth as Effie? Kiernan Shipka as Prim? One can only dream.

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