Director Francis Lawrence is both a little happy and a little sad that “The Hunger Games” series will wrap up with the release of “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2.” Lawrence directed three of the four movies in the film franchise, including the two-part finale.
“It was great material to be working with and a great bunch of people,” Lawrence says. “But, I feel like three movies in three years is a lot of work and I’m glad to see that we are at the end of that road and can move on to different thematic material.”
Before becoming the king of the Hunger Games, Lawrence (no relation to star Jennifer Lawrence) worked on a variety of projects, from video documentaries on Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears to the TV series “Kings.”
All other projects were put on hold while the Austria native put Katniss Everdeen through her paces.
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Wrapping up the series was difficult because the finale features some of the most difficult scenes physically and emotionally.
Cast and crew spent weeks in water up to their waists filming long fight scenes with the mutated creatures known as Mutts. The filming process was complicated by the water-filled sets, numerous special effects and having to work in a confined space. There are also big emotional moments (well known to those who have read the books) that were equally as demanding.
How well his cast and crew responded to all the challenges makes it difficult for the director to say goodbye. One of toughest farewells he has had to make is to Jennifer Lawrence, whom he considers a one-in-a-million kind of person. As far as he’s concerned, she’s been the anchor to making the series work so well.
“A person like her comes around very rarely. It’s hard to pinpoint what makes people like her so special,” Lawrence says. “She’s obviously really talented. It’s all instinctual. She understands humans and human behavior. There’s also something that makes her so watchable.”
Lawrence may not be able to completely define what it is about the actor that makes her so watchable, but he has not hesitated in taking advantage of whatever it is. He’s been content in all three of his Hunger Games offerings to let the camera linger on Lawrence’s face.
Those moments work because she conveys so much with a single look.
There also are practical reasons for keeping the camera on his star’s face – this is really a movie about the journey of Katniss Everdeen from quiet country girl to the face of a revolution. And, Everdeen is a character of few words. So she has to relate a lot of what she’s thinking through a very small and controlled performance.
The other thing the director likes about working with Lawrence is that she delivers when he needs a huge emotional moment. There was a very specific emotional arc for this character that ends with one of the biggest twists in the books. When Katniss falls apart, it’s a powerful emotional explosion. It is one of the most important scenes in the finale. Lawrence was able to give the director the perfect performance in one attempt.
“She had us all in tears,” he says. “I wasn’t going to put her through that again.”