Among the hottest open roles in Hollywood right now is the young male lead in the Weinstein Co. and Walden Media's "The Giver," the long-gestating adaptation of Lois Lowry's acclaimed novel that will star Jeff Bridges as the title character.
Over the weekend, rising stars Nick Robinson (left), Tye Sheridan, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Dylan Minnette and Brenton Thwaites were asked to test with Jeff Bridges for the role of Jonas, the young protagonist who was 12 years old in the book but will likely be aged up for the movie, according to individuals familiar with the project.
Miles Heizer ("Parenthood") and Dylan Sprayberry (young Clark Kent in "Man of Steel") earned callbacks from a prior casting session and read again for the coveted role on Saturday.
Smit-McPhee ("Dawn of the Planet of the Apes") and Thwaites ("Maleficent") were unavailable due to prior work commitments. It's unclear if the duo will test at another time.
Robinson and Sheridan (right) seem to have the most heat at the moment, fresh off well-received turns in the coming-of-age films "The Kings of Summer" and "Mud," respectively. Minnette (below), for his part, starred on NBC's "Awake" and will surely get a career boost from his upcoming work in Jason Reitman's "Labor Day" and the Hugh Jackman thriller "Prisoners."
Unlike action-heavy YA properties "The Hunger Games" and "Harry Potter," "The Giver" is a largely introspective fantasy tale set in a colorless dystopian society that enforces Sameness and fears freedom. All memory of human history has been erased, emotion does not exist and citizens' professions are chosen for them.
Jonas is the community's Receiver of Memories who spends his days being mentored by the Giver, who teaches him to confront and understand the lies that inform society. As Jonas comes to grips with living an unsheltered existence, he begins to acquire a taste for freedom and honesty, becoming an outcast in the process.
Hollywood has been trying to bring Lowry's celebrated 1993 children's book to the big screen for the better part of two decades. The movie has been a passion project for Bridges, who is producing with Nikki Silver of Tonik Productions.
Long attached to play the title role, Bridges bought the rights to "The Giver" two decades ago, originally envisioning it as a vehicle for his father Lloyd. Bridges was introduced to the book, which has sold more than 10 million copies and won the 1994 Newbery Medal, by his daughter, who was reading it in high school.
Vadim Perelman ("House of Sand and Fog") penned the most recent draft of the script and had been eyed to direct back in 2006 when Walden Media ("The Chronicles of Narnia") and 20th Century Fox nearly greenlit the movie before deciding against taking the risk.
Times have changed and studios are now high on branded properties including "The Giver," which also offers franchise potential. Lowry wrote two loosely-related companion novels, "Gathering Blue" and "Messenger," while a fourth novel, "Son," ties all three storylines together in an epic conclusion.
With casting under way, director Phillip Noyce, whose last movie "Salt" grossed $300 million worldwide, is one step closer to bringing "The Giver" to life. Production could begin as early as this fall in South Africa.