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Adapting Mockingjay Part 1 with Francis Lawrence, Peter Craig and Nina Jacobson

peter craig nina jacobson francis lawrence

Buzzfeed has an extensive interview with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 director Francis Lawrence, screenwriter Peter Craig and producer Nina Jacobson. Splitting Mockingjay in to two distinct movies was a tall order. Suzanne Collins was on hand to define character arcs and create a through-line for Part 1 and Part 2. Because of this, Collins has an ‘Adapted By’ credit for both films.

One of the biggest challenges for the team was turning a very introspective Katniss in the first half of the novel and making her a little more active. For example, asking for a rescue at the earliest opportunity rather than amnesty for the victor hostages; having her race up the stairs to find Prim during the bombing on District 13 instead of waiting by the blast doors; talking to Snow during the rescue and deciding for herself to film a propo in District 12. Rather than internally deciphering things, Katniss had to be apart of it.

“We wanted to make sure that it never felt that Katniss’ sole motivation for being the Mockingjay and participating in the rebel effort was just to get her boyfriend back,” said Jacobson. “That was trivial and beneath her. … She also sees what’s happening in the country, and that people are rallying for change, and she wants to be part of that change.”
“She’s the emotional catalyst of this entire revolution,” said Craig. “When she sings something, it becomes a fight song, and when she yells something, those become battle words.”

Seeing the fight in the Districts was one of the most important elements for Peter Craig and he soon realized in the writing process, that the bombing of the Dam in District 5 wasn’t just a thrilling action scene but integral to the whole story. The loss of power in the Capitol allowed Beetee to hack in to the system, which then caused the bombing of District 13 and a chance to rescue Peeta:

“The goal was to effectively match Katniss’ arc with what was going on outside in Panem,” said Craig. “She’s giving so much of herself. She’s actually sacrificing herself kind of emotionally and spiritually to inspire all these other people. We wanted to show that it was effective and that people were really needing her in all the other districts. They were responding to it and they were also making sacrifices… I actually had, like, way too many,” he said with a laugh. “I had, you know, the fishing district rebellion and everything. They got to cull what they thought were their favorites… Suzanne knows the world so incredibly well, and we talked about how the electrical system worked in Panem, and how the communications system worked in Panem,” said Craig.

For all of us, the inclusion of Elizabeth Banks’ Effie is a no-brainer. But during pre-production for Mockingjay, before Catching Fire was finished, Suzanne Collins took some convincing that she should replace Fulvia. It took a rough cut of Banks’ surprisingly emotional and caring portrayal in the second film that swung it. After the screening Collins told the filmmakers, “Fulvia who?”

Many fans were unsure of President Coin being warmer and District 13 being a much less violent place than in the book but Craig has an appealing arc in mind for Coin:

“She’s someone who really believes in her cause,” he said. “I don’t think she’s somebody who really intends to mistreat anyone. And over the course of the movie … she gets a little bit seduced by some of the power. She gets better at selling things. I think we’re watching her transform into the Coin that we recognize right away in the book. … Slowly, over time, you start to wonder, who are these people? You get that they’re dangerously of one mind. It’s at about the halfway point of the movie, where you just start to wonder, who exactly are we selling this war to?”

For the end of Part 1, the Breaking Bad theory that was applied to Catching Fire was mulled over again. For those who did/do not watch Breaking Bad (um, why not?!), Francis Lawrence was a huge fan of the tantalizing cliffhanger that most episodes ended on; and cutting right when Boggs smashes Peeta’s head, like so many of us were momentarily tricked, was a definite possibility for a long time:

“Nina and I and Peter used to all talk about Breaking Bad,” said Lawrence with a laugh. “And for a while we were talking about, like, that’s kind of the Breaking Bad ending. But you [only] have to wait a week, and if you binge-watch it, you don’t have to wait at all before the next episode.” Lawrence chuckled. “To me, there’s a difference between ending on a note that really makes people want more, and ending on a note that just makes people angry.”

The full interview includes much, much more like Suzanne Collins fleshing out the missing pieces of the puzzle for the rescue, and Peter Craig discussing District dissent ideas with his daughter among other fascinating tidbits. Make sure you head over to Buzzfeed now to brush up on your Mockingjay adaptation knowledge.

About Ciara McIntyre

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

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