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Francis Lawrence on Mockingjay Part 1, Philip Seymour Hoffman and THAT SPLIT in Total Film

Francis Lawrence is still trying to say as little as possible about Mockingjay Part 1, but he gives a fantastic interview about both MJ1 and 2 in Total Film's December issue:

Last time we spoke, Catching Fire was yet to open. Having now seen it - did you have trouble getting the studio to sign off on such a bleak vision?

No. People think doing a big studio movie will be a controlling environment but the experience has been the exact opposite, I've felt so free. When I cam in to meet on Catching Fire, I had a very specific point of view - I think, partially, because I didn't think I'd get the job. I just walked in and said what I liked about the first movie, but what I would do going forward. And they all went 'Great!' We shook hands and I was hired within a week. It's been a really good, collaborative process - with the studio, the producers, the actors, and the author Suzanne. [Collins].

You shot Parts 1 and 2 of Mockingjay back to back. Presumably you didn’t shoot chronologically?
The efficiency of doing two movies back to back, even though it’s one long story, is that if you have built a set, you shoot the scenes for both movies on that set. But we primarily worked on Part 1 first, for the continuity of the story and also because we have to turn that one over faster. We need the editors to be cracking away at Part 1 and we need to be turning over visual effects while we’re shooting Part 2.

How does Mockingjay differ from the first two THG movies?
Catching Fire ratcheted up from The Hunger Games, and I’d say Mockingjay ratchets up from Catching Fire. We’re getting closer to war. We’re not in the Games anymore. But it’s the same story and heading towards the resolution.

It must be bigger in scale than the first two films, which were primarily set in District 12, where our heroine Katniss Everdeen lives, and the Capitol and the Games stadium.
You get a whole bigger picture. At the end of Catching Fire, Katniss realizes that District 13 hasn’t been destroyed, there’s a civilization living underground. So we spend a fair amount of time in District 13, and we get to spend a lot more time in some of the other districts. We see some of the uprisings there. And finally, in Part 2, we’ll make our way into the actual streets of the Capitol. Part 2 is a war movie, and Part 1 is, in a weird way, a propaganda movie. (Yay, says PP)

Is it the evolving story, it's intelligent treatment and emotional heft, that make THG franchise work where other YA adapts haven't?
I would have had a really hard time if this was another one where somehow they figure out a way to get Katniss back in the Games, and she has to go back to The Capitol, and back into training. That structure would have driven me away. But this is a big step forward from that.

Mockingjay Part 1 is where the politics really move to the fore....
At the end of Catching Fire you realize there's this big plot [to overthrow the authoritarian government] and the revolutionaries want to use Katniss to be the Mockingjay - the symbol of the revolution. But she's damaged from the Games. This is about Katniss being convinced she should be that symbol. It's about her taking on the responsibility and joining the fight against The Capitol.

Katniss was damaged in Catching Fire. She must be totally screwed-up now!

Yeah, she’s worse [laughs]. Oh yeah. She’s not in good shape! But Jennifer [Lawrence] has a good time with that, and luckily for her, it doesn’t take too much of a toll because she’s able to jump in and out of it. Which is kind of amazing. Some people would have to live it all the time and they’d be miserable to be around for the whole 10-month shoot!

Doing two movies isn't as simple as splitting the book in half. Have you shuffled scenes?

We went through a debate, and even now, there's wriggle room as to where we separate. We have the zone, but in terms of fine-tuning, in terms of how Part 1 goes out...[smiles] But that's fun....

Losing Philip Seymour Hoffman must have been such a blow, both personally and for the Mockingjay films. He was great as Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee in Catching Fire

He’s better in these. We had not finished but we were almost done. We had about eight days with him left, but the bulk of his scenes were done. It was tragic, and it threw everyone off for a long time. We didn’t shake the feeling off until we moved to Paris, and then Berlin.

How are you getting around the eight lost days?

We gave a few things to other characters, and we had some footage of him where we can make it feel like he’s in a scene where he’s not.

Finally, can you give us a hint, action-wise, of what to expect in Mockingjay – Part 1?

There’s a lot of action. We get to see more of the uprisings and there’s a rescue sequence that’s very cool – it’s in the book, but we got to expand on it. There’s a lot of cool, fun stuff. But these movies are very emotional too.

The December issue of Total Film is on UK and select US newsstands now, and the digital edition is available in the US. Thanks a million to QuarterQuell for finding the article first! 


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