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VIDEO: Francis Lawrence: “I’m Really Happy and Satisfied That We Were Honest To The Books”

Francis Lawrence talks about how he became the director of three Hunger Games films incrementally and the gigantic amount of work that went in to making Catching Fire, Mockingjay Part 1 and Mockingjay Part 2 – for one period in 2013, all at the same time. Juggling post-production, promotion and pre-production for two further films? Now, that’s impressive. He discussues the stories he is drawn to that just happen to be big stories; he is always attracted to world building and lone characters in large landcapes from Katniss in Panem to Robert Neville in an empty New York. He reminisces about wanting to be a director when he was a kid, rediscovering his ambition in high school after watching Citizen Kane and Battleship Potemkin and working his way up through the ranks of the crew to director. He talks about signing on to Catching Fire and not feeling bound by the first installment because there was so much creation from the second novel up for grabs for him to sink his teeth into including the characters’ vast changes and growth throughout the series.

And finally, music to fans’ ears, Francis has always maintained that he wanted to make the book on film rather than reinvent the story. He confesses that perhaps looking back the studio would have preferred the final films to be livelier, funnier and a little more entertaining. However his goal to stay truthful to the books won out and he talks of how the audience dwindled due to the increasing darkness and tonal shift after Catching Fire.

I think we can speak for every fan when we say thank you, Francis! I always presumed going in, way back in 2011, that it was impossible for big budget cinema to stick to Suzanne Collins’ template but they managed to hold on and see it through. Thankfully they did because this story was too important to lighten and I am still a little in awe that all four films retained the bleakness and truthfulness of the novels.

About Ciara McIntyre

Ciara works as a Script Supervisor, part-time film reviewer and full-time cinematic nerd.
  • TeamButtercup

    I personally thought that were major pacing issues with Part 2 but at the end of the day Francis Lawrence kept the soul of the books in tact and gave it an emotional conclusion. HG fans will forever be grateful for the work he done over the years and I will definitely support his future projects.

    However, the full blame for depreciating box office was on the Lionsgate studio for not aggressively marketing Part 1 and 2. The HG 2012 marketing set a new template for non-blockbuster movies to follow but studio failed to innovate and capitalize on new social media trends. The legacy of the HG will live on no matter what.

    • Zack

      Yep. Lionsgate’s peak marketing was for Catching Fire. I don’t know what happened between that film and MJ1 (perhaps they weren’t sure how to market the tonal shift between the two films?). That, and as Francis said, some audiences did not want to stick around for the more serious stuff that Mockingjay throws at us. Which is a shame, but there it is.

      Two of three things I’m so thankful that we have in this film series are Nina Jacobson and Francis Lawrence. They just really, truly GOT what this story is all about. Just so thankful that they took care of these films. Like you, I’ll be following both of their projects from now on. (The third thing, btw, is Jen, obviously :D).

  • Louise Mossige

    Impressed with and proud of Francis now. I didn’t know his schedule had been quite that grueling. And that integrity and loyalty to the books he’s shown throughout. Wow.
    As always, however, I wish he would talk less about “world building” and more about characters. Gary Ross did beat him when it came to human emotions and psychology. Then again, Ross apparently had a lot more time.
    And Mockingjay Part 2 remains my second favorite HG movie.

  • Pulchritudinous

    Fascinating that Lionsgate originally wanted the Mockingjay movies to be happier. And I fully agree with that last paragraph, Ciara. 🙂

  • Buttercup

    They didn’t lose the audience because they thought it was too dark, they lost the audience because they thought mockingjay part 1 was “boring”. And if the audience thought the first two movies were fun, that’s the fault of the movies themselves. I liked mockingjay part 1 because it more closely matched the tone of the books than catching fire, which was too flashy and glamorous in its action. If they wanted to go the same lengths as the books, they should have ditched the imax cameras, sweeping crane shots and pulse pounding battle music and shot the movies realistically, like in band of brothers.