‘Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ director Francis Lawrence on film’s look

Nov. 22, 2013 | 12:32 p.m.
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Jennifer Lawrence stars as Katniss Everdeen in "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." (Murray Close / Lionsgate)

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

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

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

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

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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)

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

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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)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When it came time for Francis Lawrence to dream up his vision of Katniss Everdeen’s bleak, brutal world, the director of “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” didn’t find inspiration in the famous sci-fi landscapes of cinema past. Instead, he reached back to movies steeped in real-world history to infuse the new sequel with emotional weight.

“I looked a lot at movies like ‘Apocalypse Now’ and ‘Platoon,’ movies about Vietnam,” Lawrence said. “One of the things that really appealed is the idea of the consequence of war and the consequence of violence and many of the aspects of that, including things like PTSD.”

The new film, which opens in theaters Friday, arrives as the second installment in the blockbuster adaptation of novelist Suzanne Collins’ YA adventures. The young heroine Katniss (played again by Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence) has survived the events of 2012′s “The Hunger Games,” in which she was selected to participate in a battle to the death against other teenagers.

The annual televised competition is designed to entertain the wealthy citizens of the Capitol of the world of Panem and to instill fear in the residents of the impoverished outer 12 Districts. Katniss’ ingenuity in winning the match and saving the life of her fellow tribute Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) has made her an enemy of cruel President Snow (Donald Sutherland), who fears, rightly, that she will become a symbol for those who seek to rebel against his authoritarian control.

In “Catching Fire,” Katniss and Peeta are summoned back to battle in a special anniversary edition of the contest that pits surviving champions against one another. Katniss finds her life in jeopardy once more and her resolve tested as she and Peeta must continue to feign the romantic relationship that helped transform them into beloved celebrities during the first competition.

QUIZ: Test your ‘Hunger Games’ knowledge

"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)

Taking over the franchise from Gary Ross, filmmaker Lawrence said he hoped to carry forward some of the aesthetic choices that shaped the look of the first movie. But with the story expanding and Katniss seeing more of the world of Panem through the lens of her own traumatic experiences, Lawrence (“I Am Legend,” “Water for Elephants”) wanted to fine-tune the visuals of “Catching Fire” to reflect the evolution of the narrative.

“Katniss is different,” he said. “Now that’s she’s been through the games once, she’s changed. There’s a darkness to her that might not have been there in the first movie. So, having it be winter and having the landscape be bleaker and bare and barren and cold, those kinds of choices helped me visualize some of those feelings.”

Although the cool color palette at the beginning of the movie eventually gives way to the lush green jungle where Katniss is forced to fight the other previous victors, Francis Lawrence, who is also set to direct the saga’s two-part finale, “Mockingjay,” consistently opted for an unfussy, naturalistic approach. For instance:

Victor’s Village

As the film opens, Katniss and Peeta have relocated from their modest homes to a more upscale area of District 12 reserved for winners of the games dubbed Victor’s Village. The scenes were shot on stages and on location at an Atlanta artists’ colony called the Goat Farm. Production designer Philip Messina, who also worked on the first “Hunger Games” film, said he consulted reference books on Georgian homes in Ireland to help craft accommodations that could feel luxurious yet not seem out of place in a community ravaged by famine and extreme poverty. “I kept going back to classical elements, period elements, to fill in the blanks,” Messina said.

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

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) dons an elaborate wedding dress for an interview with showman Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) in “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.” (Murray Close / Lionsgate)

Capitol couture

Of the many costumes Trish Summerville (“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”) was tasked with designing, few were intended to have the eye-popping effect of the gown Katniss dons for an interview with Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci), a sort futuristic Ryan Seacrest who chats up the tributes before they head into the arena. Lawrence’s heroine takes the stage in the elaborate wedding dress that she would have worn for her wedding to Peeta — with both characters summoned back to the arena for another fatal battle, their nuptials will never go forward. The gown, the work of Indonesian designer Tex Saverio, featured a metal bodice layered with silks and decorated with Swarovski crystals and weighed close to 25 pounds.

“We needed something that was functional, that she could actually spin in and that caught a bit of air and twirled very nicely,” Summerville said. “Construction and fabrication mean so much in the way of building these huge dresses, because it changes the movement of it, it definitely changes the fit and the silhouette. Luckily, Jen has an incredible figure so it was great to have all these corset pieces on her because she has the tiniest little waist.”

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

Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark, left, Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket and Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen approach President Snow’s mansion in “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.” (Murray Close / Lionsgate)

Presidential palace

As part of the festivities leading up to the games, Katniss and Peeta attend an opulent soiree at President Snow’s mansion that points up the excessive wealth and hedonism of the Capitol lifestyle. Director Lawrence said some 400 extras were brought in for the scenes at the Swan House, an Atlanta landmark constructed in 1928 and designed by architect Philip Trammell Shutze. “It had a Romanesque style, almost neo-classic,” Messina said of the historic residence.

Inside the Arena

Lawrence and his crew filmed the majority of the scenes inside the arena over six weeks on Oahu. Lugging large, bulky IMAX cameras through the jungle wasn’t easy, but cinematographer Jo Willems said that the unmatched image quality the format affords helped enhance not only the overall look for the film, but also married well with the actors’ performances.

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

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

“What you see feels very real,” Willems said. “It’s hyper-real almost. The close-ups become so big, every single little bead of sweat on their faces is bigger than life. Some of those close-ups are my favorite stuff. It’s very artful, it draws you in. It’s the same with all the performances. The way [Lawrence] performs is very naturalistic, you believe everything she experiences. That was the strength Francis brought to the film, to keep it real, you never feel it’s artificial.”

– Gina McIntyre | @LATHeroComplex

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Comments


3 Responses to ‘Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ director Francis Lawrence on film’s look

  1. K GO GO says:

    Loved the post. Heard that the trailer was better than the first one. With a new director, surely this second sequel should received better views. The utopian reality has come to life.

  2. The katniss plant is also known as “arrowhead” and belongs to the genus Sagittaria. It is both ornamental and useful.

  3. thejustavenger says:

    Some of the best acting work i have seen in years, Lawrence and the rest were wonderful to watch. The whole film just pops.

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