On the December issue of Empire magazine, Jennifer Lawrence graces the cover as Katniss Everdeen from Mockingjay: Part 1 movie! Check out the cover scans and interview transcript below.
(they think this is at least part of the article. It will be released digitally on Oct. 30th)
Jennifer Lawrence looks younger than her 24 years and a bit terrified at the thought of being that big a deal. “It’s…Exciting?” she says after some hesitation. “It’s hard sometimes when you’re in it to step back and see it. You’re right there in the nucleus of what’s happening but at the same time you’re blind to the actual impact that it has. I feel relieved, I guess? I love those books. They were very good, very entertaining, but they’re also important… I had to ask myself before I said yes to this [whether I was prepared to be known as this character forever]…
But I thought this was a character I would be proud to wear for the rest of my life. Now I’m in it and can’t see as clearly anymore, but that was a decision I made before when I could see clearly. So I’m going to trust it and go with it.”
For those making the series, Mockingjay is the one they’ve all been waiting for. It’s where the meat really sticks to the bones. If you thought the first two, with all their child murder and revolution, were a bit dark, then you may have to start popping happy pills before this one. The last shot of Catching Fire showed Katniss (Lawrence) screaming directly into the camera. She had been rescued by aircraft from the Hunger Games arena, which had just been blown up. Peeta (Hutcherson), her possibly-true-love, was on another ship, captured by the villainous Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland), along with the surly Johanna (Jena Malone). Katniss is now in the midst of Panem’s rebels, the people of the presumed mythical District 13 who want Katniss to become ‘The Mockingjay’, a figurehead of an uprising against the repressive dystopian form of government, The Capitol. Battle is no longer contained within specially designed arenas. War is coming.
“Evil? I don’t think Snow is evil,” says Donald Sutherland incredulously. In Mockingjay Part 1, Corialanus Snow kidnaps and tortures two Hunger Games champions in order to use them as propaganda puppets, and sanctions more killing to keep the rebels down. He’s not what you’d call nice. “He’s an oligarch,” insists Sutherland, who in person has the same magnetic elegance of Snow, if not the suggestion that he might at any second stab you in the eye. “Lyndon Johnson didn’t think he was evil. He’s a war criminal. Putin absolutely doesn’t think he’s evil. Nobody thinks they’re evil.” This is a bit heavier than intended, but okay, evil doesn’t think it’s evil, yet that doesn’t make it any less evil. “Snow is just a man doing his job as best he can,” responds Sutherland. “He’s at the end of his life. He’s looking for someone he can groom for that job and the only person he’s found is Katniss Everdeen, but she won’t be able to do the job. So it becomes a fight. But it’s a chess game.”
That game is going to have more than two players, which collapses the chess analogy – maybe Hungry Hippos? – though we won’t tell you where the other challenger or challengers for Snow’s seat come from. It’s a bad time for The Capitol in Mockingjay, with cracks starting to show and the other districts threatening to break through. There seems to be no happy ending possible for Snow. “He wants to live forever,” says Sutherland, “to fight Katniss.. But he can’t.”
Having perhaps an even more miserable time is Effie Trinket, Elizabeth Banks’ Capitol dress-up doll. “Oh, she is very unhappy,” says Banks, of Katniss and Peeta’s chaperone. “It’s so sad. The revolution has ruined Effie’s wardrobe.. She’s still pretty damn fabulous, but she has literally one wig and one outfit.” Effie won’t see her home again until Mockingjay Part 2, and then not under the best of circumstances. In a departure from the book, in which Effie was imprisoned and largely ‘off-screen’, she has now been “whisked to District 13 with nothing but the clothes on her back” to join the rebels. “Essentially, I’m taking the role of Fulvia,” says Banks. “Fulvia’s sort of Plutarch’s [Philip Seymour Hoffman] right hand in [the novel]. Rather than introduce another new character, Effie takes that role.”
Mostly, though, her role is still to look as remarkable as she can against the stressed drabness of her co-stars. “Everyone in District 13 is given a standard jumpsuit thing, but obviously that won’t work for Effie,” says Banks with a mock-appalled clutch of her necklace. “She will make couture with whatever she has. We called her approach, ‘The Project Runway of District 13.'”
“I think some people will read the last book as bleak, and I don’t necessarily. I think it’s tough, but it’s not bleak,” says Jennifer Lawrence’s director, Francis Lawrence, who returns from Catching Fire to helm both Mockingjay movies. “With Part 1, which we’re saying is most of the first half of the book, we’re dealing with the propaganda war. This is the beginning of using Katniss as the Mockingjay, as a symbol for rebellion.”
Unlike his star, Francis Lawrence is bullish about the series’ growing stature. “That part’s actually exciting to me,” he says. “I was hoping Catching Fire would be received well and do well. But in my mind I always thought, ‘God, getting over $400 million [in the US] again is kind of unheard of’, I couldn’t imagine it would. And because the first movie had done so well in terms of reviews, I also couldn’t imagine surpassing that. I also had in my head that people just really liked the first book. There were a lot of unknowns for me. So the success (Catching Fire received better reviews and outstripped Hunger Games’ domestic box office by $20 million) was great, but then suddenly it raises the bar even higher… Actually, I am a little bit anxious about that.”
The Hunger Games has always been able to attract a stellar cast, but the triumph of the first two instalments means that now big-name actors are begging to be part of it, rather than being wooed. “Julianne Moore came to use,” says Francis Lawrence. “I couldn’t believe my luck.”
“I was dying to be in it,” says Moore, who takes the role of Alma Coin, the president of District 13 who masterminds the rebellion and repeatedly clashes with Katniss. “I read the books on vacation a while ago. My kids had read them and I hadn’t brought anything to read, so I picked them up. I tore through them. When I knew they were making a movie I thought, ‘Hmm, I wonder who’s playing Coin…’ So I put in a call to make it known I was very interested in playing the role.”
While it welcomes new cast members, The Hunger Games also represents a sad but hopefully triumphal, final chapter for one of its company. As the final two films were shot as one, 2015’s Mockingjay Part 2 will be the last time we see Philip Seymour Hoffman in a new film. The actor, who plays gamemaker and secret rebel Plutarch Heavensbee, died on February 2, 2014, of combined drug intoxication, during a weekend break from filming Mockingjay.
“It was a horrible time, losing a friend and also someone we were working with,” says Francis Lawrence, his tone soft and measured, his eyes down. “He died on a Sunday and he was supposed to shoot the next day. Once we heard, we just shot down for the day… It was a really hard thing to adjust to.”
As the leader, it fell on Lawrence to guide the cast and crew through a personal loss and somehow still finish the film. “You could hear a pin drop that first day back… We all gathered and said something about him and for him. It was tough… I found too that we had to take our time at the beginning of every day for maybe three or four weeks, because every day there’d be someone starting back, someone who’d been around and this was their first day back since he’d died and they needed their ramp-up time. So we were cautious to be sensitive to everyone’s emotions.”
There were rumours online that Hoffman would be digitally recreated to complete his scenes, something which Francis Lawrence insists was never considered, “He had two substantial scenes left and the rest were appearances in other scenes,” he says. “We had no intention of trying to fake a performance, so we adjusted those scenes to give to other actors. For the rest we just didn’t have him appear in those scenes. There’s no digital manipulation or CG fabrication of any kind.”
The role of central dude in distress in Mockingjay falls to Josh Hutcherson, who as Peeta was left on the wrong ship at the end of Catching Fire, on his way to The Capitol to be the victim of who-knows-what at the hands of Donald Sutherland’s Corialanus Snow. An who-knows-what turns out to be a great deal of torture and mind-shattering misery, as he is primed to be the spokesperson for The Capitol’s fight against the rebels, an opposing mascot to Katniss’ Mockingjay.
“Yeah, Peeta’s not having a great time in this,” says Hutcherson on the phone from LA. “But it was actually the one I was looking forward to the most because Peeta gets brainwashed and tortured and goes a little crazy, and all that fun stuff… Not fun in the same way that the others were, but in terms of getting to do heavy stuff with the character.”
And the horrors exacted on Peeta will go even further than those in the the novel. “The book doesn’t explain everything that happens to Peeta,” says Hutcherson. “So we were at liberty to create that ourselves. We’re putting him through food and water deprivation, sleep deprivation, various forms of brainwashing.”
Peeta is joined in captivity by Johanna Mason, who seemed like the Mean Girl of the victor group in Catching Fire, but turned out to be selfless, throwing herself into danger to save Katniss. Her reward is brutal torment, being waterboarded and subject to electric shock, and perhaps even death. “Before I auditioned I remember reading the book and just crying in bed,” says Jena Malone, who plays Johanna. “These are films that are asking important political questions now. It’s asking all these dark questions in a way a younger audience can understand…” In Mockingjay, Johanna’s steely resolve is severely tested.
Like his co-star Sam Claflin, Hutcherson undergoes a dramatic physical change in Mockingjay, the rigours of torture and mental anguish withering his frame. Unlike Claflin, this didn’t involve Hutcherson going on a starvation diet. “Oh, Sam did that?” he says, with a slightly guilty laugh. “No, I had help from CG. I went on a diet of post-production effects… But my change was so drastic that it probably would have been a dangerous thing to do in real life. Maybe Sam didn’t know the CG option was available…”
Having such a tough part for the last two movies didn’t lessen the sorrow of leaving Hunger Games behind. “It was really sad to finish,” Hutcherson says. “We’ll still see each other of course, but it’s bizarre that it’s over… We were looking at pictures of us when we started and we look so young! That’s what brought home how much of our lives has been spent making these movies.”
The other subject [Jennifer Lawrence] doesn’t like to discuss is the end of The Hunger Games, even though The Hunger Games has, for her, already ended. “I can’t,” she says, waving her hands in front of her and shaking her head. “I don’t feel that [it’s behind me] at all. It hasn’t hit me. At all. I can’t tell you what it feels like because I haven’t felt it yet. I think that when it hits me will be when I go to shoot another movie and I don’t have these [films] to come home to. These always felt like coming home.”
She will acknowledge, at least, that shooting has ended. The final day of principal photography was in Berlin, with a scene between Lawrence and Woody Harrelson. “I remember Francis crying,” she says. “I remember Woody, Josh, Liam and I just held each other for so many hours. I think that people go their whole lives without finding something like we’ve had. I’m just so grateful to have that in my life. So the last thing was us just holding onto each other like puppies.”
“She told you I cried?” says Francis Lawrence, mildly incredulous. “It’s a lot like the last day of college. You have all these great friends and you’ve spent a really intense amount of time with each other and everybody’s swearing they’re going to hang out all the time, but you sort of know it’s not going to be the case…”
It’s not entirely true that the Hunger Games production is complete. There is, Lawrence lets slip, one last scene to complete for the very end of the series, possibly featuring her nephews in roles we won’t spoil. But after that, the saga of Katniss will be at an end. However, movie studios, when they find a franchise that reliably delivers over and over again, are understandably reluctant to let it die. […] Since Hunger Games can take Katniss and Lawrence no further, is there any chance that the Hunger Games ‘brand’ could go on in some way? Francis Lawrence answers in a manner that suggests this isn’t the first time he’s been asked to consider it.
“It’s a tough thing. It’s a weird thing,” he says. “That world of Harry Potter, there’s a lot to that world that you can explain. You can understand the appeal of telling another story, but can you actually do it without Harry and Hermione and those characters? Will people care as much? And I guess you can say the same thing about the Hunger Games world. There are a lot of past games and a lot of this world, but without Katniss, is it the same? Part of what I like about the series is the connection to things we think about and talk about now. What’s the new version of that? That would be the tricky thing.” Well, it’s not a no…