After months of rumors, Lionsgate has chosen Jennifer Lawrence as the leading lady in the highly anticipated "Hunger Games," the first film of a potential franchise. 

Lawrence was nominated for an Oscar in last year's indie drama "Winter's Bone," and will soon be seen in Jodie Foster's "The Beaver" and as Mystique  in "X-Men: First Class."

"Hunger Games" has been adapted from Suzanne Collins' best-selling young adult sci-fi novel (the first of a trilogy) by Collins and Billy Ray ("Shattered Glass"), and will be directed by Gary Ross ("Pleasantville," "Seabiscuit"). Nina Jacobson is producing.

In the book, 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence is actually 20) is chosen to take part in a to-the-death gladiatorial battle in a post-apocalyptic dystopia.

Before the official announcement, some of the other young Hollywood names rumored for the role included Saoirse Ronan ("Hanna"), Chloe Moretz ("Kick-Ass") and Hailee Steinfeld ("True Grit").

"I’m so excited work with Jen and see her bring this character to life," said Ross in a release. "Katniss requires a young actress with strength, depth, complexity, tenderness, and power. There are very few people alive who can bring that to a role. Jen brings it in spades. She’s going to be an amazing Katniss."

"Jennifer’s just an incredible actress," added Collins. "So powerful, vulnerable, beautiful, unforgiving and brave. I never thought we’d find somebody this perfect for the role.  And I can’t wait for everyone to see her play it."

Audiences have to wait a while to get that chance; the film is scheduled to open nationwide on March 23, 2012.

Dave-lewis-med
Dave Lewis has been a Los Angeles-based entertainment writer and editor for nearly ten years. Originally hailing from Minneapolis, he moved to L.A. in 1996 to attend USC, before working for various periodicals and web sites including a lengthy stint at Variety.com. He joined the HitFix staff in 2011.