‘Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ director: Katniss wants her life back

Nov. 25, 2013 | 10:59 a.m.

Jennifer Lawrence stars as Katniss Everdeen in "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." (Murray Close / Lionsgate)

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) in "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." (Murray Close / Lionsgate)

Mags (Lynn Cohen), left, and Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin) in "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." (Murray Close / Lionsgate)

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) in "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." (Murray Close / Lionsgate)

Josh Hutcherson, left, Elizabeth Banks and Jennifer Lawrence in "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." (Murray Close / Lionsgate)

Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) and Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) in a scene from "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." (Murray Close / Lionsgate)

President Snow (Donald Sutherland), left, and Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) in "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." (Murray Close / Lionsgate)

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), front, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) and Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) in a scene from "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." (Murray Close / Lionsgate)

Stanley Tucci and Josh Hutcherson in "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." (Murray Close / Lionsgate)

Jennifer Lawrence and Willow Shields in "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." (Lionsgate)

Jennifer Lawrence, Elizabeth Banks and Josh Hutcherson in "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." (Lionsgate)

Philip Seymour Hoffman and Woody Harrelson in "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." (Lionsgate)

Sam Claflin and Jennifer Lawrence in "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." (Murray Close / Lionsgate)

Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson in "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." (Murray Close / Lionsgate)

Sam Claflin, left, director Francis Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Jennifer Lawrence on the set of "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." (Lionsgate)

"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" actress Jennifer Lawrence, left, and director Francis Lawrence on the film's set. (Lionsgate)

Director Francis Lawrence, center, with actors Liam Hemsworth and Jennifer Lawrence on the set of "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." (Murray Close / Lionsgate)

"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" director Francis Lawrence on the film's set. (Murray Close / Lionsgate)

Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark and Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in a poster for "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." (Lionsgate)

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in a poster for "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." (Lionsgate)

Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark in a poster for "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." (Lionsgate)

Stephanie Leigh Schlund as Cashmere in a poster for "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." (Lionsgate)

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in a poster for "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." (Lionsgate)

Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark in a poster for "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." (Lionsgate)

Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne in a poster for "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." (Lionsgate)

Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket in a poster for "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." (Lionsgate)

Sam Claflin as Finnick Odair in a poster for "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." (Lionsgate)

Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy in a poster for "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." (Lionsgate)

Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman in a poster for "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." (Lionsgate)

Jena Malone as Johanna Mason in a poster for "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." (Lionsgate)

Donald Sutherland as President Snow in a poster for "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." (Lionsgate)

Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark and Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in a poster for "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." (Lionsgate)

Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark and Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in a poster for "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." (Lionsgate)

“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” broke box office records this weekend, raking in an estimated $161 million, and falling just short of beating out “Iron Man 3” for the best opening of the year. The second film in the series adapted from Suzanne Collins’ best-selling young adult novels, “Catching Fire” arrives not only as an outsized success for distributor Lionsgate but also for director Francis Lawrence, who stepped in to helm the blockbuster sequel after “The Hunger Games” director Gary Ross left the project.

Known for meticulously crafted films such as the Will Smith-led futuristic action adevnture “I Am Legend” and the literary romance “Water for Elephants,” Lawrence retained Ross’ naturalistic visual approach. However, the director opted for a cooler color palette that would show the world of Panem in the winter and reinforce the darkening cast of the story, which sees Jennifer Lawrence’s resourceful Katniss Everdeen summoned back to the arena for an anniversary edition of the brutal games pitting past survivors against one another.

Prior to the release of “Catching Fire,” Hero Complex caught up with director Lawrence to chat about his approach to translating Collins’ beloved fictions to the big screen — which he’ll do twice more, directing “The Hunger Games” upcoming two-part “Mockingjay” finale.

Hero Complex: You were hired to direct “Catching Fire” just 20 weeks before shooting began. Is that correct?

Francis Lawrence: It happened very, very quickly. They were sort of under a time crunch. I’d read the news about Gary leaving the project and then about a day later I got a call from my agent that everybody involved in the project wanted to see if I was interested. Within about a week, I had the job. I had been under even a stricter time crunch once before on “I Am Legend.” We actually had about 12 weeks to prep [before shooting began on that film] … This was a little more luxurious than that. The nice thing was we had a book that was really cinematic already, so there was a lot that I kind of just pulled straight from the book.

HC: Did you have distinct ideas about what elements you wanted to retain from the first movie and what you wanted to do differently?

Jennifer Lawrence in "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." (Lionsgate)

Jennifer Lawrence in “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.” (Lionsgate)

FL: I’d never stepped into a sequel before. I definitely wanted to make sure there was an aesthetic unity between the first movie and my movie. I would say photographically I really liked what Gary did in terms of approaching it from a naturalistic style. My own personal version of naturalism is different than his… Most of my visual approach was born from the kind of story it is. This is the portion of the three books where the story really kind of opens up, the mythology opens up. We get to see a lot more of the world, a lot more of the Capitol, a lot more of the districts. I definitely wanted to mine that. We were going to a lot of new districts and seeing more within each of those districts and seeing the Capitol in a different way. So, [we were] making choices like, OK, if we have a chariot parade and they had one for the last one how can we do it differently? Let’s do it during the day this time so we can see more. There were a lot of choices that I made that were just based on season. This movie starts about six months after the last Games, which places us in winter, so I got to do District 12 in the winter as opposed to District 12 in the summer. That drove a lot of decisions as well in terms of color and the sort of look of the entire district — bare trees and cooler tones.

QUIZ: Test your ‘Hunger Games’ knowledge

HC: What sorts of conversations did you have with the actors, specifically Jennifer Lawrence, prior to filming?

FL: We talked a lot about PTSD. I had her speak to somebody about PTSD. Jena Malone, who plays Johanna, she spoke to somebody. Woody [Harrelson], we start to discover [his character, Haymitch, is] a drinker because of PTSD. It was those kinds of little things because that was the element in terms of Katniss’ character that we wanted to explore – what that does to somebody and how a girl like Katniss really, she doesn’t want the responsibility that’s about to be laid on her shoulders. She just wants her old life back. Even if it’s not what most people would think is a great life, it’s a lot better than being under the thumb of President Snow or being asked to be a symbol for a revolution. That’s just a lot of responsibility that a 17-year-old girl wouldn’t want. That’s what most of our conversation were about.

HC: That notion of connecting the story back to the real world — talking about issues such as PTSD — is that one of the things that intrigued you about directing the film?

FL: One of the great things about this project is that Suzanne Collins wrote these amazing stories that have crossed over into the commercial world and have become this pop cultural phenomenon, but they’re really about something. I think it’s why people have really gravitated to it, that it was sort of born from a theme and an idea and not backwards engineered where some themes tried to be wedged into a world. It’s really a cool thing that you can make a movie that so many people are going to see that has those themes and ideas within it. I’m most proud of the moments in the movie that are really moving. I love the sequence in District 11 when she gives the speech about Rue and then the old man salutes… I think it’s very powerful. It’s a very key moment in the movie where the stakes for the world are raised. I’m really proud of how that came across. It was exciting to see on the day.

HC: What is the experience like, standing on the set watching the actors perform a scene that is as moving as that?

"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" director Francis Lawrence on the film's set. (Murray Close / Lionsgate)

“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” director Francis Lawrence on the film’s set. (Murray Close / Lionsgate)

FL: When a scene is firing emotionally you might be watching something on the monitor and being moved by Jen’s performance or by what’s happening on screen, but technically it’s kind of euphoric. You’re thinking, “Oh, my gosh, this is working.” It was one of those exciting things where it’s a very important scene, it’s very important to the story for all three books. You see it come together and it’s  thrilling. In the moment when you’re watching it, sometimes it hits you as being emotional and very intense. I have to say it’s fun. That’s when filmmaking is at its most fun.

HC: Would you say this is the most technically challenging film you’ve made?

FL: By far… Just the arena itself, forget all the sequences in it, just the moment when she comes up the tube and she’s in this place that doesn’t exist and putting that puzzle together — how is an elevator going to come up and be out in the water and look out at this volcanic island with this cornucopia on it and be surrounded by water and be surrounded again by jungle that’s all in a big bowl shape? To try to make it look real, that was pretty tricky. We shot in this water park just south of Atlanta, so we had water slides in the background — water slides and cement buildings and green tarps to prevent paparazzi from shooting us while we’re shooting the sequence. It couldn’t look anything further from what it does in the movie. Then we had this great effects team from Double Negative in London, and they shot all these plates of jungle in Hawaii and created this digital jungle and added bugs and atmosphere and mist and wind to the leaves, all this incredible stuff that just made it so realistic.

Mags (Lynn Cohen), left, and Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin) in "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." (Murray Close / Lionsgate)

Mags (Lynn Cohen), left, and Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin) in “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.” (Murray Close / Lionsgate)

The water was also 40 degrees, I’ll mention… the park didn’t close until Labor Day, so we didn’t have access to it until after Labor Day, which was almost mid-September. Then we had to drain it, we had to dredge out certain areas, we had to build a scaffolding, put the little platforms in, build the island, do all that kind of stuff, fill it back up. So, we didn’t shoot it until almost mid-November, at night, it’s dropping down to freezing. We had these massive water heaters in running full blast for weeks, and the water never got above 42.  Lynn Cohen, who plays Mags, we weren’t allowed to put her in the water. It was just too scary how shocking 40-degree water is to the body to put her in it. It’s a little disheartening because you think about the look of the movie and then here you are shooting these little elements that look nothing like you imagine them to be in the movie. You just put all your trust and hope in the effects department.  They really pulled it off.

– Gina McIntyre | @LATHeroComplex

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Comments


7 Responses to ‘Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ director: Katniss wants her life back

  1. Banish U says:

    To mention Will smith and legend in the same context. Shame for shame, It was so bad, well the acting for certain.

  2. leana says:

    did katness die i wonder

    • Truth says:

      Read it.

      • rosa says:

        This was so disappointing after Hunger Games1. There were big flaws in the direction of the film. I almost fell asleep as the first part was dragged out and the way the film just ended was pitiful. You were always waiting for something to happen and nothing ever did!

  3. AyannA Costa says:

    Wasn't that happen with Hunger Games 2 but I know they had to set it up for the next 2 installments which is Mockingjay Part 1 and Part 2 which will be 2 individual films, I have no idea why everyone hated I am Legend, I thought it was a dope film, I'm assuming if some lilly white Brad Pit and the chester the molester Woody Allen would have directed it, maybe people would have liked it better.

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