I am a huge fan of both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire movies! My question is were you a big fan of the books when they came out in 2008? And were you expecting the films to become as popular as they have?
I was a big fan of the books. I was actually making Water for Elephants when I read the first book. And I enjoyed it a lot. I thought it was a really interesting world, really great story and great characters, but no one can ever guess that something is going to be as big of a phenomenon as something like the Hunger Games series. You can never predict those things. You really can’t. I imagine you can guess a little from book sales and the kind of book sales data that can gather, but you can’t really predict it, it’s a mixture of themes, ideas, stories, the cast that is in the movies, all of that somehow comes together and either creates magic or it doesn’t.
How was it working with IMAX cameras on Catching Fire?
The results are amazing. Working with them was tough. We were working in the rainforest, which is a tough environment anyway, but then lugging these two IMAX cameras around the rainforest wasn’t easy. They are big, heavy, they run through film really quickly, and they are very loud, so all dialogue shot using IMAX cameras has to be replaced. So it’s tough, and it’s slow, but the results are amazing.
Hi. I wanted to know what was the reasoning behind leaving out the scene where Plutarch shows his watch to Katniss during the ball?
And what was the reasoning for completely changing the type of cat use for Buttercup? Yes, the THG: CF cat was closer to the correct type for Buttercup but he’d already been established as a different cat in the first movie.
There’s a very easy reason. We shot the watch, we tried the watch in the cut, and we took it out. Because we don’t have the option of having Katniss wonder and doubt the meaning of the watch in the film, it becomes way too clear what the watch means in the movie, and that would have been a mistake.
This was a request by both Suzanne Collins and Nina Jacobson that they wanted the cat situation to be fixed, to cast the appropriate looking cat, and I was happy to oblige.
Judging by Catching Fire, you seem like a really faithful fan of the books. What’s your own personal favorite scene from the book and was there one favorite you wanted to bring to the screen but for whatever reason, couldn’t make it work?
Again I’ve always been attracted to the first stop on the Victory tour. I think that’s where the story really kicks into another gear and you start to understand that the stakes are far greater than just Katniss’s. And there were some scenes with Peeta and Katniss on the roof of the Tribute center that I always liked from the book that we were unable to get into the film.
Just wondering why there was no other mention of ‘the baby’ during the games. In the books Peeta was supposed to play up the whole ‘star crossed lovers….with a baby’.
There’s a few moments in the book where the baby gets brought up again, usually in a sarcastic manner and usually by Finnick. And it was scripted, but it was cut, usually during rehearsals, because we found that when approaching a scene and trying a scene that is scary and where the stakes are life and death, it was hard to work in humor in those moments and maintain any sense of reality. So some of those moments were cut.
What was your reasoning for leaving Haymitch’s hunger games out of the book? Will you try to make up for his characterization at all in Mockingjay?
Time. Hard to say yet.
I just wanted to mention that the final closeup of the film on Jennifer’s face was so haunting that I have not been able to get it out of my head. I need to see it again! Was there anything about the final scene / shot that is noteworthy in mentioning or sharing? Thanks.
The scene at the end of the film is straight out of the book, and was scripted (dialogue included) pretty much straight out of the book (maybe one additional line), and Katniss’ response at the end of the scene was to break down in the book. And partway through shooting the scene, I caught a glimpse of Jen doing something different. I saw that she started to break down, and then shifted into anger, and defiance, and I liked it, I thought it was better, and I then came up with the idea of the final shot looking straight down with her look nearly into the lens for the final moment. So the ending beat of the film was a circumstance of happy, on-set accidents.
What was the most difficult scene? Why?
Anything around the water in the Arena was probably the most difficult to shoot because we shot a lot of that in Atlanta at a water park and it was nearing winter and very cold, and the water was 40 degrees, and so the actors had to spend some time in the water and it was very brutal. Just working around water is tough to begin with. It was supposed to be a tropical setting and there would be some mornings when we’d show up to work and there would be frost covering the set.
Will we ever see the story behind the second Quarter Quell in the movies?
Hard to say. I would love to be able to tell that story.
How did you manage to get such emotion in the movie? I was paralyzed the whole time because I didn’t know how to feel. It was also a terrific book adaptation!
Wow, how did I get emotion is a pretty tricky question. I think that I personally felt emotional towards the subject material. I emotionally connect to the characters in the movie and the situations they become involved in, so instinctually I shoot them in ways that make me feel the way I do when I read the story. It’s hard to break an emotional scene down technically. But I will say that I think most of it has to do with the investment that one has with the characters, especially Katniss, and allowing time to sit and be with them as people while they’re onscreen.
As a director, how did you approach taking over the Hunger Games franchise from Gary Ross? Did you feel an obligation to be respectful to choices Ross made in the first movie and continue that style, or do you try to distance yourself from it and proceed with your own vision?
The decision to take on a sequel was probably the thing I had to think about the most. I had never taken on a sequel or taken on an episode of television where I did not create the pilot. So I knew there would be certain parameters I would need to exist within. So I re-read the book, and very quickly saw that there was going to be plenty of room for me to grow, and although I was going to stick to certain aesthetic choices Gary had made so the world would feel the same, I felt that Catching Fire offered me a lot of opportunities to grow and to create and to world-build. So I found it quite easy to take on this sequel. I inherited an unbelievable cast. I got to add a bunch of new amazing actors to the mix. I got to build a brand-new arena. I got to create new portions of the Capitol, New Districts, see District 12 in a brand-new way and especially see the characters themselves grow and change.
Will we get Catching Fire bloopers on the DVD?
Oh man, I wish! Jen is always after me for a blooper reel. There would be a lot of funny stuff that would happen before “Action” and after Cut, Jen would always be falling… She is still mad at me that the editors never put together a blooper reel for Catching Fire, but we could probably have a good one for Mockingjay, and we’ve only been shooting for five weeks.
Greatest Experience working on a movie? I love The Hunger Games and I Am Legend, and I am going to see Catching Fire for the 6th time!
Only 6 times?
The movie’s been out since Thursday night! You should easily be at 9 or 10 viewings by now!
I would have to say that I loved shooting the entire movie, but I think the cast and crew got along so well and we spent half the movie shooting in Hawaii. The time spent shooting in Hawaii was really bonding and really fun, and we got to do a lot of amazing things together, so one of my favorite moments was when some of the cast and crew went swimming with sharks off the north coast of Oahu together.
Did you or any of the cast pull any great pranks while on set? Which was the most fun? Also, thanks for making a cool movie!
There were lots of pranks onset. Josh is a great one for pulling pranks. But I think the best one was pulled by Jeffrey Wright who plays Beetee. This was after Jen won her Oscar. Jeffrey got a box from Tiffany & Co. and pretended to give her a present for winning the wayward, but inside the box was actually a bunch of crickets. And Jen is terrified of pretty much any kind of bug, and so she opened the box thinking Jeffrey had been really sweet and gotten her a piece of jewelry as a congratulatory gift but instead it was a whole mess of crickets!
Regarding Mockingjay: In CF you have already managed to show the Capitol “behind the cameras” with the added scenes of Plutarch, Snow and his granddaughter (excellent touch, by the way). In Mockingjay, how do you plan to achieve this balance of what Katniss can and can’t see, does and doesn’t know, specially now that she’s so excluded in the far, underground District 13?
Well we will be taking the same approach that we did with Catching Fire in terms of world growth. Like the scenes with Plutarch and Snow that did not existing in the book, there will be moments like that in Mockingjay, and even a slight more opportunity for that kind of growth because we’ve split the book into two separate movies. So there should be plenty of surprises for people that really know the books. What I WILL say is the rule for us, because the stories are so Katniss-centric, that whenever you cut away, it always has to be about Katniss. Either somebody talking about her, thinking about her, or seeing something that has happened or is happening because of her. It always has to be connected to Katniss, even if she’s not there.
I’m a huge fan of both the novels and the film adaptations of the Hunger Games trilogy – one of the most special parts of the series to me is Katniss’ deep connection to music in the novels.
Are there plans to feature Katniss’ musical interactions with the mockingjays in the coming films? (i.e. will she be singing “The Hanging Tree” like she does in the novels?)
I don’t want to give anything away, but I will say it’s one of my favorite scenes in the book.
Do you plan on/how do you intend to tackle the backstories of the other tributes in Mockingjay, such as Finnick? His Capitol history is especially tragic and I am intrigued to see how it’s handled on the big screen.
We will definitely get a sense of Finnick’s backstory in Mockingjay, I just don’t want to divulge how, but there are very specific scenes where we learn about his past.
Gale is my favorite character in the series (an unpopular opinion, I’m sure), and I’m worried about his portrayal in the Mockingjay films. Many fans who prefer Katniss and Peeta together disregard, even discard, Gale and villify him for a reason book readers can infer. I think that view has always been unfair to who he is as a character and what his motivations are.
I was wondering how he will be presented in Mockingjay – will it be a nuanced depiction, just as the message in the book is about war and collateral damage? Or will he be villified for simplicity’s sake? (I think that’d be a disgustingly gross cop-out.)
No, I think it will be a nuanced depiction. But I think what people are picking up on is that both Peeta and Gale begin to represent very different ideals as the story progresses. Peeta starts to speak for peace, and Gale starts to speak for war, and both believe that their path is the right path, and each of those paths has consequences.
How will ratings (PG-13, R, etc.) affect showcasing the violence in Mockingjay? Will Mockingjay 1 end with Peeta attacking Katniss?
Don’t know yet, but I have no plan on being gory. I just want it to have the most emotional impact. No comment.
What, if any, do you think the actual underlying themes in The Hunger Games series are? I’ve heard them compared to 1984, to Battle Royale, to a lot of other things.
Why is Mockingjay being split into two parts, if you know?
For me, Suzanne Collins set out to write a series of books about the consequences of war and the consequences of violence, and to me those are the overarching themes throughout the entire series. Beyond that there are facets of the books and the movies that definitely one can see in the world around us. These themes may not be happening necessarily in our own backyard but we are all so globally conscious now because of social media that we know these ideas exist around us, like totalitarian governments, haves vs have-nots, the exploitation of celebrity, surveillance, post-traumatic stress, etc. And it’s these ideas and the fact that they exist in the world around us right now that makes these stories so powerful.
The decision to split the book into two parts was made before I signed on to do the films, but I liked the idea. Whenever one adapts a 400+ page novel down to a 2 hour-ish movie, there’s a lot of loss. By splitting this into two movies, more of the book can be maintained and more world growth can be added, so more surprises for the fans of the book.
Since death is such a huge theme in the film, I was wondering if you could have any quote from any film written on your tombstone, what would that quote be?
“Or maybe it was Utah” from Raising Arizona.