The adventure with Katniss Everdeen has now come to an end.
With the Blu-ray/DVD release this week of THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 2 and the complete special edition of THE HUNGER GAMES set, Latino-Review had the opportunity to sit down and interview director Francis Lawrence, who directed three of the four movies.
Lawrence spent three and a half years directing the last three movies, including THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE and both parts to THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY.
We discussed many topics including his dedication to this project, handling the passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman and any extras for the Blu-ray/DVD.
THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 is now available this week on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD.
Read the full interview below.
Latino-Review: Well, it’s all over for you, right? [Laughter]
Francis Lawrence: [Laughter] It is. For me? For me in general. My career. My life. [Laughter]
Latino-Review: Right? It’s the wrong question to start this conversation. How does it all feel for you?
Francis Lawrence: It’s good. I had time to decompress. It’s all good and getting ready to move into new things.
Latino-Review: Now it’s some dedication that you committed not with one, not with two, but with three films. Not to mention they’re all consecutively. How did all of this processed with you and your career? It all took a huge chunk of your life.
Francis Lawrence: Originally, when I signed on—I signed on for one movie. Pretty quickly, [I] saw that the group that was on the movie together—producers, key crew members, actors and I—were getting along really, really well. So they asked me to stay on for the next two [films].
The big thing to think about is whether or not as a group that we can do it. Can one director do all that schedule-wise? We had meetings and meetings about the schedules. We were looking at calendars to on how it was all going to overlap, how it works and can it be done. Once we all said that it can and we’re all in this together—we all put our hands into this. We said, “Okay, let’s do it!”
It was great to live in this world for three and a half years. We lived and breathed THE HUNGER GAMES and these characters.
Latino-Review: Don’t you ever get sick and tired after three and a half years?
Francis Lawrence: No, no. There was definitely some time where THE HUNGER GAME: CATCHING FIRE was coming out and we were shooting THE HUNGER GAME: MOCKINGJAY movies. We were posting CATCHING FIRE and prepping the MOCKINGJAY movies, in which they were all on top of each other. It was the time when all three movies were being made at the same time. There was a lot of work. Those were crazy and intense days. But again, we definitely believed in the stories and with the group were so great. It ended up being really fun.
Latino-Review: Since this series had such a huge fan base, there must be a lot of pressure on getting everything right. Talk about getting that vision from book to screen. Which one is the most challenging to get it right for the fans?
Francis Lawrence: I think the most pressure I felt was on THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE. I was the new guy. People were worried, because they obviously loved the books. They loved the first movie. They didn’t know on what I was going to do with it. But, I think the fans ended up embracing THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE. It gave me a little leeway going into the next movies.
Now the toughest movie was definitely THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1. I had to figure this one out, because it’s a tricky spot in the story and with the characters. It’s the first big tonal shift in the story since it becomes more political. That was the toughest adaptation.
Latino-Review: With the Blu-ray/DVD being released, were there anything that you filmed or from the book that you wished it was in the theatrical release?
Francis Lawrence: There were very few deleted scenes on THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 2. It’s partially because we cut a very few scenes from the movie. There were a very few small bits that were cut. I think the movie is better without them. If I thought they were better with them in [the movie], then I would left them in. I’m very happy for fans to see the small amount of scenes we’ve cut. There’s nothing big that should’ve [be included into the original movie].
Latino-Review: Talk about this intense, grandiose scale of sets and production for the movie. There was a massive number of the cast in nearly two dozen main characters and not to mention the crew numbering into the hundreds. How did you keep all this together?
Francis Lawrence: Again, it’s all with the group. They’re a great group of actors. They’re all very professional. They’re very good at what they do. They’re very good people. We don’t have any sour apples in that bunch.
That’s where it gets really tricky when you have a bunch of egos and problematic people in the mix. It would poison the well a bit if you have [someone like that]. We didn’t have that. Everybody really believed in the stories and their characters. They liked on what they were doing and everybody around them. It made it into a great working environment.
In term of crews, I had a great team. I hired great people and they hired more great people with them. Then you’ll get this great group of crafts people that really worked well together to keep the systems running. To say for the most part, it was pretty much a smooth shoot. The challenges we had was probably all weather related.
Latino-Review: One of the most challenging things will have to be with Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Francis Lawrence: Yes, yes. Honestly, that’s less of production issue and more of an emotional issue. It’s really hard to get over the loss of anyone who we were working so close with for so long.
Latino-Review: Not to mention in the Blu-ray/DVD extras, you managed to re-adjust certain scenes for it.
Francis Lawrence: He had two big scenes and a handful of scenes that he hadn’t completed yet. The two big scenes were from THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 and the other with THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 2. In THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 2, it was with the final scene we’ve shot. It ended up being the scene with Haymitch reading the letter.
Like I said before, he died in early February while we were in Atlanta. It took us a very long time to get the wind in our sails after that. It really wasn’t until we moved to Europe in late spring to get some renewed energy. It took with the changed environment for everybody.
It brought it all back emotionally when the final scene was supposed to be his. Everyone knew that it was definitely the scene for him to do. You’ll always have that specter hovering over that scene.
Latino-Review: How do you balance everything with those extravagant sets and the CGI? This must be all time consuming.
Francis Lawrence: It is. It’s all in the planning. Part of the fun with world building is working with the production designer on what we wanted it to look like. We wanted to figure out on how to make it look as realistic as possible. We wanted to make the sets as immersive as possible. It meant that we had to try to find as many real places as possible.
That’s why we flew to Europe to get that scene with the oil crashing down on them. It was filmed at an apartment complex outside of Paris. It was all real. It was there. We dressed it up and we shot there for two weeks. It makes the place completely immersive. In that way, the CG elements were just completely additives to a real place. You have to raise the bar on the quality of the CG, because you filmed it in a real environment. It also made it a much impressive place for the actors to perform.
Latino-Review: Talk about the tone for the very last movie. This movie had a war, a post-war and essentially a farewell tribute to the characters. How did you approach with all that?
Francis Lawrence: Yeah, the one key is that we’re always anchored with Katniss. It’s all about her journey. It becomes very quickly a revenge story. She wants to go after President Snow. It was all that damage done to all of the districts. It’s very much on what Snow had done to Peeta. They’re all unforgivable. She wanted to go after him personally and also to take control of her own life. She goes into the Capitol and obviously experiences war. She sees the consequences of loss. That’s a huge arc of the story. It’s a great look at the consequences of war and the consequences of loss.
Latino-Review: By dedicating more than three years of your life to this project, are you on an extended vacation now? Not obviously with me right now. [Laughter]
Francis Lawrence: No, not at all. I’m not in an extended vacation. I did take some time off and I’ve rested for a while. So when the new year came around, I was trying to figure out on what’s next.
Latino-Review: That is true. So what is next?
Francis Lawrence: I don’t know specifically yet. There is this spy-thriller with Fox what I’m pretty close on.
Latino-Review: No more franchises that will take 3-5 years? You will never close the door on that?
Francis Lawrence: Not necessarily. I would never close the door on that.
Latino-Review: If you had a chance to talk to Suzanne Collins again—would you convince her to write another book so that you would direct?
Francis Lawrence: I don’t think so. We would probably talk about stories. I think she needs some time. If I’ve spent three and a half years and the actors spent five years on the movie—she spent ten years on these stories. I’ll be happy to let her take some time away and let her do some other things that she’s interested in.
Latino-Review: One last question, given a rich world and numerous characters—who would you like to see having a solo movie?
Francis Lawrence: I don’t know. I think the movies are done for now or at least for a while. That’s a tough one.
Latino-Review: Alright. Thanks for this interview.
Francis Lawrence: Thank you.
THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 is now available this week on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD.