Francis Lawrence is the director behind Constantine, I Am Legend, Water For Elephants and now The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the sequel to 2010's The Hunger Games. This time, Jennifer Lawrence's (no relation) Katniss Everdeen is pushed back into the arena once more as Donald Sutherland's President Coriolanus Snow decides to dispose of her in the most public way possible. In addition to our Empire Podcast interview, we also spoke to Lawrence (the director - it's confusing, we know) for this special spoiler feature, where he talks about what he changed from Suzanne Collins' original text, and explains just who 'Mini Mags' is...
"The ending comes from the book, of course, but the big difference with the very last scene is really the nuance in Jen’s performance. I think that was something that she and I worked on and saw something happen on the day, and that changed the way I shot it a little bit. Other than that, the dialogue comes straight from the book.
"I remember specifically that even when we had some different dialogue, and there was a different interpretation of the scene, we just said, ‘You know what? Let’s do what’s in the book.’ And we word-for-word picked the dialogue out of the book, so it’s all pretty close. The book does take a little more time getting to that last scene, though. We didn’t want to do that, but we went for the book ending."
Were you worried about Return Of The King syndrome?
"That’s a great series of movies, but yeah, those endings do go on forever. Forever? Maybe it’s just forty minutes of endings."
"There’s a section in the movie that even Suzanne – and it’s safe to say this because Suzanne Collins, the author of the novel, said this herself – called the 'Cinematic Dead Zone’. There’s a part that really works in the novel, but it was going to be hard to put it into the movie.
"If you look at it structurally, it’s the second quarter of the film, so it’s basically back from the Victory Tour but before they’re called back in the Games. There’s a stretch of the story from the book there that is almost entirely lifted out. We discovered, quite honestly, that in the movie we really didn’t need it. There were a couple of pieces of information that we had to figure out where to plant in other spots, but this way we could keep the urgency up in a much stronger way by excising that. And there are a couple of really cool moments in the book that we were sad to lose, but that’s the biggest difference."
"That was the toughest stuff to track, I have to say. There are just so many things happening [in the scene where Plutarch dances with Katniss at a Capitol ball] and man, you know what? I actually felt bad for him, because that is a tricky, tricky thing to play. When you go back and really think about any one of those moments with Plutarch, it’s pretty remarkable and he did an amazing job. He’s manipulating on another level, whereas in the Arena it’s a little different. They’re all, in a way, still figuring it out too, whereas Plutarch is the mastermind."
"It’s funny: our visual effects supervisor, Janek Sirrs, he did I Am Legend with me and he also did Avengers. So right after that finished and came out, he joined us, and the only thing I was concerned about – because I knew that our hovercraft ships weren’t going to look like aircraft carriers – were the engine mechanisms looking the same.
"There was a similar physical design to them for a while, and we had to make sure we tweaked them enough. Then the production designer ended up using an illustrator who was also on Avengers – it’s all very incestuous, by the way, all these movies – and he had done all of the illustrations for that on the Avengers, so he could make sure he didn’t cross over."
"I have to say, we had this amazing costume designer, Trish Summerville, who I’d worked with before doing some of the music videos Jennifer [Lawrence] loves. We made our careers, early on, doing videos together. She came from a fashion background, an editorial background sort of, rather than movie costumes, and she did an incredible job. She had her work cut out for her because all within the first three or four weeks, she had to do 24 individual costumes for the Tributes in chariots, 24 individual costumes for the Tributes in the interviews, 24 individual training outfits, and the arena outfits that were going to get shot. All the Capitol party stuff, a whole bunch of Effie dresses… the number of very specific things. Sometimes you just think of crowds, but it’s more than that.
"We’re doing Dictrict 13 now for Mockingjay now and everyone dresses the same, so you can 10,000 people and it’s not that hard. Here, she has all these super-specific things, and one of them is working really hard to get this arena costume right. The designs were great pretty much right away. There was a little trickiness in terms of the fit, especially in the crotch and being able to move without zippers tearing, and hiding zippers, all that kind of stuff.
"Also, what I found surprising is that they all looked good on everybody! Even Lynn Cohen, who plays Mags, looked great. You don’t know what an 80-year-old woman is going to look like in a wetsuit, but she looked good, she really carried it off! Or, rather, someone else carried her off. Or her stunt double did, who we called ‘Mini Mags’."