This is the interview we’ve been waiting for; the new director of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Francis Lawrence on taking on the sequel and the Mockingjay movies! MTV has put up a wide-ranging interview that covers everything from what it was like taking over from Gary Ross, to which scene he’s most proud of.
You can read the whole interview at MTV, but here’s some of the best bits:
Francis on taking over from Gary Ross:
“I liked what Gary did a lot, but I have a different style than he does,” Lawrence explained. “So it was very easy for me to come in the room and sit down with the people involved in the movie and sort of say, ‘Here’s what I like about what Gary did that I would latch on to and hold onto and embrace, and here’s the way I would do it differently.’ The trickier thing, honestly for me, was sort of stepping into a world, and there’s crew members that were on the first movie, obviously an entire cast, all the people that are returning that I inherited. I was nervous about what they were going to feel… I think everybody in general was really gracious and worked really hard and ended up being really fun to work with. I think there were a couple of people that were really bummed that Gary wasn’t doing it, and it had less to do with the choice of me coming on than just Gary not doing it. They signed on with Gary; they’re friends with Gary; they like Gary. And I think there was definitely some sadness there.”
On casting Sam Claflin as Finnick Odair:
“[Claflin] is very athletic, which is great. He’s in great shape. He’s very charismatic,” Lawrence said. “But I was also looking in the long term. There’s kind of a rouge-like quality to him in this book. And long term, he’s actually an emotional character and a very loyal character and a character who’s in love; a character who experienced quite a lot of sadness. And he was really able to tap into that, as well as being really charming and sexy and handsome as hell.”
What happens to Haymitch?
“One of the things that we wanted to dive into a little more… is the whole idea of PTSD, and one of the big things for [author] Suzanne[Collins] is just sort of the idea of the consequences of war as kind of one of the backbone theme of the entire series,” Lawrence said. “One of the things I really like about this book is you start to see kind of why Haymitch is the way he is, why people are the way they are, so he and I did a fair amount of work in terms of that, in terms of understanding PTSD and how to work with somebody with post-traumatic stress. Also we started messing around a lot with some real humanity in Haymitch because he can be quite cynical and sarcastic at times. But I think there’s a more human side to him in this one as well.
On whether he ever called Gary for advice:
“No, no, I never talked to Gary about anything. For no reason other than I had Nina [Jacobson], the producer, and John [Kilik], the producer, and [author] Suzanne [Collins], and there were a lot of people with a lot of knowledge of the material, especially Suzanne. One of the first things that I did when I got the job—I think it was five or six days after I got the job—I got on a plane to New York and sat in a room with Suzanne, and she and I basically went through the book together. And just kind of created a beat sheet over the course of three days that became the basis for the script.”
Are there major changes from the book?:
“No, not really, I would say that it’s a really faithful adaptation. You know, whenever you’re adapting something that’s a 12- or 14-hour read down to something that has to be around two hours, there’s going to be some cuts. We definitely made some cuts. I don’t want to go into that, but we did it with Suzanne, and I would say that it’s very, very faithful. We tried to get as much as we could in there.”
Which scenes is his most proud of?:
“It’s interesting because there’s a very small blur—I want to say it’s a paragraph long in the book—but the moment in the arena when the gamemaker starts to spin the cornucopia, and I’m very proud of that. We designed a very cool sequence and created a spinning island, and that’s going to be very, very cool. So that’s kind of fun and very unique. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s cool.
“You know one of the very first things we shot that I like quite a lot is, there is sort of a goodbye before she goes into the arena with Liam that I like a lot. And it was actually—we shot it because we needed summer foliage and summer flowers and things like that. We actually shot it while we were in prep. Very first thing we sort of went out into the meadow, out in the mountains in north Georgia and shot this sequence over three or four hours or so, and I really like it. I think it’s really nice. Jennifer and Liam are really good in it. It’s very nice.”
“Nina, John, Suzanne and I have gone through the book and created the beat sheets for it. And started going through all that and at least marking our initial ideas of what the moments would be and how it all breaks down. And Danny Strong, who’s writing the first one, is working now. So yeah, we’ve actually done a fair amount of work. We’re starting to think about where we could shoot it and all of that.”
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