Adam B. Vary
May 10, 2011 AT 12:00 PM EDT

At long last, The Hunger Games‘ director Gary Ross has found his Haymitch Abernathy: Actor Woody Harrelson (Zombieland, 2012) will play the crucial role of the only living resident of District 12 ever to win the titular to-the-death games and the mentor to current District 12 tributes Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). Initially a burnt-out drunk, Haymitch ultimately begins to see to Katniss and Peeta as his poverty-stricken district’s best hope for winning the games.

“Haymitch is such an unforgettable character: funny cranky outrageous, sarcastic, impatient, biting but ultimately kind,” Ross said in a statement. “I’m so grateful we have Woody Harrelson to play him. I can’t wait for us to get to work.”

Harrelson joins Lawrence, Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Wes Bentley, and Stanley Tucci in the highly anticipated adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ best-selling thriller. The production will officially start this month, and is due in theaters March 23, 2012.

Read more:

‘Hunger Games’ Central

‘Hunger Games’ casts unknowns for tributes. Why this is a smart strategy.

‘The Hunger Games’: Meet the Cast

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