Exclusive: Mockingjay director Francis Lawrence reflects on the blockbuster film series

Not many directors get to helm multiple sequels within a blockbuster film franchise, much less shoot three in a short span of 18 months. Francis Lawrence was given that opportunity when he took over The Hunger Games series from Gary Ross, directing Catching Fire and Mockingjay Part 1 and Part 2. Critics and the very demanding book fandom embraced his visual prowess and attention to book details which made the films global powerhouses as the box office.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, as well as all four films in a complete set, are available on Blu-ray this week. It's been four months since Lawrence officially locked the last film and took some much earned personal time. Now back in the fray to promote the home video release, Blastr was given an exclusive opportunity to reminisce with Lawrence about how the films have changed him as a director, if there's a mega cut of the last two films waiting to be made and what his favorite scene in Mockingjay Part 2 ended up being.

Contributing Editor Tara Bennett interviews director Francis Lawrence about The Hunger Games franchise. 

Below are some more questions that didn't make it into our edit, but add more to the conversation.

With hindsight now, how did the marathon of shooting these films change you as a director, or how you approach your craft?

Francis Lawrence: I'm sure that it's changed me. I don't know if I'd be able to gauge how just yet, but for the most part it's changed me because not many people have the opportunity to shoot this much back to back to back to back and do these many kinds of things in this contained amount of time.

You had a tremendous amount of source material in Suzanne Collins' novels. Was there anything, or anyone, that was excised you wish had made it into your films?

Yeah, the only thing that sticks out, and this goes back to Catching Fire, is a sequence in the book where Katniss goes to a cabin on a lake she used to go to with her father, and she runs into the characters, Bonnie and Twill. It was a big setup for District 13 and I really wish we could have figured out how to get it into the script. We could never figure it out without it feeling like a bit of a diversion. It's probably my only big regret. Looking at the Mockingjay movies, I wish in Mockingjay Part 2 we could have figured out a little more Prim (Willow Shields) presence but we're away from her for so long, it was a little impossible.

Do you have a scene in the last film that you were particularly proud of when all was said and done?

There's lots of things I'm proud of in the end. The scene with the vote is a huge reveal and turning point for the movie. I remember shooting it in a chateau in Paris and just feeling it on the day, after we had rehearsed and started shooting, feeling that all this work we had put into it was really coming together. I was really pleased with the way the scene turned out because it was an accumulation of everything we had been juggling up to that point.

Unlike a lot of current blockbuster films, you included a lot of practical effects instead of just relying on 100% CGI. Why go that direction, and did you have to fight to go that route?

I think people appreciated it. I think it makes a big difference to the feel of the movie, the scope of the movie and the tangibility of the movie. It was a little bit of a fight only in that there are places in the world that have much better [tax] rebates than Berlin and Paris, even though they were great to us, so there's always a little bit of a battle with the studio over going somewhere like that versus just making it work in Atlanta, which we knew we couldn't do. If did that, it would have been much more reliance on visual effects. In the end, they were supportive.

After such an intense stretch of work, you recently had some down time. What did you do to recharge?

There's a few things. One is just watching movies again. And I took some time to not do anything. Usually I can't sit around and not do anything but I was just fine sitting around for a good couple of weeks. I stayed out of the office and didn't deal with anything regarding the business. Then you start to get back into making some phone calls and reading.

What films did you love from the catch up?

I really loved Ex Machina, Brooklyn and Carol.

You created some strong bonds with your producers and cast. Are you trying to reunite with any of them for your next endeavor?

I would love to work with any of these people again. Jen (Lawrence) and I have a few things in development together. 

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