When dealing with a massive franchise such as The Hunger Games, there’s a certain amount of pressure that comes with the job. Francis Lawrence is an accomplished filmmaker who’s worked on films such as I Am Legend and Water for Elephants. Now he’s following in the footsteps of Gary Ross with the sequel, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. He’s joined by producer Nina Jacobson, who helped him maintain the aesthetic of the previous movie. ScreenCrave spoke to the duo about the creative process and how they pieced together this highly-anticipated story.
What similarities will we notice between the first Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay?
Francis Lawrence: One of the things I wanted to make sure of was that there was still an aesthetic unity to all the movies. I thought Gary did an amazing job with the world-building in The Hunger Games, so we worked with the same production designer to make sure that it was still all built from the same architecture, that District 12 still almost had the same 1930s Appalachian feel. We’re going to do the same with Mockingjay. The fun thing about Mockingjay is that we actually get to see the Capitol in a very new way. We’ll actually be down in sort of the middle of the streets of the Capitol which will be fantastic. But we worked with the production design team to make sure there was an aesthetic unity all the way through.
Nina Richardson: I think the heart of these movies is Katniss’s point of view, and we remained firmly in her shoes. I think that’s what will always be the consistency throughout because she’s a complex character, she changes but she sort of grounds us throughout the series. This movie opened up a lot of new opportunities for us because we spent so much more time in the Capitol and we have an arena which is itself the opponent as opposed to the characters being each other’s opponents. With Francis, he was able to expand the world enormously while still staying very true to what was that character based emotionally honest approach that the first movie took.
What did you find so appealing about the books and its political themes that you managed to translate into the films?
Nina Jacobson: One of the things that I think Suzanne tried to do in her books and the actors have really been inspired by is, we really ask ourselves what would happen if these things really did happen. Even though it is a dystopic future and even though it is a popcorn movie that many people – based on a book that a lot of people love – we try to ask ourselves really how would you be affected by these events if they happened to you? Not if they happened to you in the book, not if they happened to you in the movie, but if they actually happened to you. Subsequently you see the effects on them as human beings, the way that humans are effected by violence and by war.
Was there any part of the script that you thought would be particularly hard to adapt?
Francis Lawrence: That’s kind of the fun for me, just figuring out the puzzle of making a movie is really the fun part. I knew very early on that the arena in this was a place that would have to be really figured out. It’s a place that doesn’t exist anywhere in the world and so we were going to have to build part of it and shoot in different parts of different locations. We ended up building the island and the cornucopia in Atlanta and unfortunately in 40 degree water. So the actors had to jump in and out of that. Then we did the jungle in Hawaii but I always take those kind of moments in filmmaking as a really fun challenge.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire opens in theaters Nov. 22.