Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
It’s a bittersweet time for fans of THE HUNGER GAMES franchise. On one hand, when it comes to MOCKINGJAY – PART 2, we’re super excited to see Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and her rebel squad storm the Capital to rid Panem of President Snow (Donald Sutherland). On the other hand, we’re deeply heartbroken to see the series come to a close. Compared to the HARRY POTTER series, which had eight films and seven books, we only had four films and three books to come to terms with our beloved revolutionary departing the pop culture zeitgeist. But, as they say, all good things must come to an end and they do in a spectacular grand finale.
At the film’s recent Los Angeles press day, stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth and their affable director Francis Lawrence sat down to discuss everything from how they dealt with Philip Seymour Hoffman’s untimely death, to their morale during the sewer segment, to whose family members make a cameo in the film.
7. A few of the cast have felt their personal and professional growth as a result of these films. Jennifer Lawrence says, “It’s probably too soon to reflect. I hope I’ve grown up. We all helped each other get a handle on things. I guess going off and doing movies without them is like losing training wheels.” Hutcherson answers, “For me, this was like a college experience in many ways.” Hemsworth adds, “Getting used to your world constantly changing over the part six years gets easier. At first, it’s really overwhelming. But over the years, you learn to let it go and not be attached to having a routine or feeling safe.”
6. Liam Hemsworth did question Gale’s journey in the cinematic adaptation. As many fans of the books know, each character experiences a remarkable journey. Gale has a very specific evolution. He says, “I don’t feel down. I read the books too so I always knew that was going to happen in the end.” Francis Lawrence adds, “You did question it though. I remember in rehearsal you going in saying, ‘I don’t get it.’” Hemsworth mimics, “He’s a good guy! He gets pretty angry towards the end. For this last part, he’s really front and center and able to make an impact. It all kind of goes to his head a bit.”
5. Jennifer Lawrence can’t allow herself the fan experience. Katniss ushered in the era of the “strong female character” on the silver screen and her time flew by far too fast. She states, “I feel the impact of being a part of such a huge movie that does so much for so many people. It would be impossible not to. This character is overwhelmingly so supportive of women and is iconic. I don’t feel a personal impact. I think if you do become aware of that, I think it takes away from it. It’s the movie and the characters – they have their own life. It’s kind of like your AVATAR self.”
4. They figured out a creative solution to one significant change from the book. Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays Plutarch Heavensbee, tragically passed away in 2014 when filming hadn’t been completed. As his character had a few scenes left to shoot, the filmmakers had to come up with a way to still include Heavensbee at the end of the film. Director Lawrence says it was really just about having a full circle moment in the series for Katniss. “Yes. Phil was supposed to be in that scene with Katniss. That was one of the changes – one of his big scenes that he had no completed when he died. That was our change because of that.”
3. Jennifer Lawrence sings the closing credits song. It’s not because of the international radio success of “The Hanging Tree,” that Lawrence was tasked yet again to stretch her song pipes for “Deep In The Meadow (Lullaby).” Director Lawrence explains, “Having Jen sing the lullaby at the end had nothing to do with the success of ‘The Hanging Tree,’ and entirely to do with the idea of Katniss singing the same song she sang to Prim in the very first scene of the series. It was about seeing that connection with family.”
2. Jennifer Lawrence’s nephews make a cameo. Lawrence was able to say goodbye to her character at least twice. She says, “I feel like I had two final endings with Katniss; the one when we wrapped the film in Berlin with everybody. I was kind of saying goodbye to the movie. I had a last scene about a year later with my nephews which was so special. It was this amazing closure to the character, who I loved for so many years, to have my family there – my blood family instead of this family. I got to say goodbye to both.” A third time to say farewell might still be in the future. “I think it will be pretty bizarre when it’s finally out and we finish this press tour and everything is officially done. That will be a weird feeling on a personal level. This movie has been my life for so many years.”
1. That intense sewer sequence wasn’t fun for anyone. Director Lawrence elucidates, “It was absolutely the most miserable 3 weeks.” Lead Lawrence chimes in, “I’m so happy you said it.” Hemsworth sarcastically questions, “Was it only three weeks?’ His director clarifies, “Well, it was nine weeks. It was truly miserable. It’s a fun sequence to make – to put together and see how it comes together. These tunnels, we had to duck. We all had to wear hard hats. The water was heated.” Leading lady Lawrence adds, “Liam couldn’t stand up straight for three weeks.” Lawrence continues, “It was wet. Everyone was miserable.” Hutcherson says, “The thing is the costumes were not at all waterproof. They had pockets and would fill with water. That sequence – it felt like it was never ending.” Jennifer Lawrence picks back up, “When we get to the fight sequence, all of our gear and costumes were completely waterlogged so it was an extra twenty pounds. I don’t know math, but it felt like an extra 2,000 pounds. It was rough, but Francis is so organized.” Francis Lawrence continues, “It’s something they don’t really teach you in film school. When you get to a certain point in you’re seven months into an eleven month shoot and you hit a sequence like this, the mood and morale of the crew and the cast hits a rock bottom, what it’s like psychologically to push through those kinds of experiences to get what you need.”
THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 2 opens on November 20.
Feature Photo: Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth, front left), Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin, back left), Messalla (Evan Ross, back right) and Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence, front right) in THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 2. Photo Credit: Murray Close.