"Hunger Games" fans now have their first taste of "Mockingjay Part 1," the initial installment of the two-part finale to the blockbuster dystopian franchise starring Jennifer Lawrence and based on Suzanne Collins' bestselling young-adult novels.
On Thursday, Lionsgate launched a new website offering a glimpse of "Mockingjay Part 1," which opens Nov. 21. The site features an interview with series newcomer Julianne Moore, who plays President Coin, leader of the renegade District 13, as well as a roundtable discussion in which the filmmakers discuss numerous aspects of production, including how they're dealing with the death of cast member Philip Seymour Hoffman.
"I was very impressed with the books," Moore says in the video, which you can watch above. "They're political. They're kind of a political tract with adolescent overtones. In a larger scope, it really is about, What is our political system, how did we arrive at it?"
As in Collins' books, the "Mockingjay" movies promise to expand the scope and darken the tone of the "Hunger Games" world, particularly in District 13, the insurrectionist faction thought to be have been destroyed by the totalitarian Capitol but actually moved underground.
"It's not a place where there's a lot of light," Moore says. "There's not a lot of laughter, there's not a lot of fun. I think it's people just barely getting by."
In the filmmaker roundtable published on the site, director Francis Lawrence, producer Nina Jacobson and screenwriter Peter Craig offer a few more tidbits.
Speaking about the decision to split the book into two films, which are shooting back-to-back, Jacobson says, "The advantage is that it is still one book, and by making all of it at once, we're able to know where the characters are relative to where they need to be. Especially since there are major transformations for Katniss [Jennifer Lawrence], for Peeta [Josh Hutcherson] and for Gale [Liam Hemsworth]."
The filmmakers also address the loss of Hoffman, who plays Gamemaker-turned-rebel leader Plutarch Heavensbee. Hoffman died of an accidental drug `overdose in February, partway through filming.
"This is the movie where Phil shows us who Plutarch really is, and he is great in this movie, hitting on Plutarch's sense of humor and his political maneuvering," Lawrence says.
"We finished the majority of his work," the director adds. "I think he might have had eight to 10 days left in our schedule. In most of those scenes, Phil didn't have any dialogue. We are going to put him into those scenes, but we're only using real footage. We're not creating anything digital or a robotic version of him."
Some of Plutarch's lines might be given to other characters when narratively appropriate, Jacobson adds. "There's no question that shooting these scenes is painful without him."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times