When Philip Seymour Hoffman died unexpectedly nearly two years ago of a drug overdose, he was midway through filming the final two "Hunger Games" films. Many were left wondering how director Francis Lawrence would handle the sudden passing of an actor who had played a significant role in the franchise as gamemaker turned resistance leader Plutarch Heavensbee.
At the time of his death, Hoffman had nearly completed all of his work in "Mockingjay — Part 1," released in November 2014, but one key scene toward the end of the final installment between his character and Jennifer Lawrence's Katniss Everdeen remained to be filmed.
Some speculated the "Hunger Games" director would be forced to resort to a combination of CGI and stand-ins to insert Hoffman into that and other scenes he had not finished, a delicate prospect with any departed actor but particularly so in the case of an Oscar winner and four-time nominee who was often heralded as the finest actor of his generation.
After the 2013 death of Paul Walker, Universal Studios was forced to use extensive special effects and the actor's two brothers to complete his scenes in April's “Furious 7.” The movie, which broke box office records over the summer, was Walker’s final film and ultimately became a kind of send-off to him. A story line was devoted to his character lovingly exiting the franchise, and the end of the film featured an emotional montage of the actor in all of the “Fast” films.
In the end, Francis Lawrence chose instead to rework the "Mockingjay – Part 2" script so that a critical exchange near the film's conclusion in which Heavensbee offers parting wisdom to Katniss is now conveyed in the form of a letter read by Woody Harrelson's Haymitch Abernathy. While it may have seemed a slightly awkward solution for fans of Suzanne Collins' bestselling books, it carried special resonance for the cast and crew of the "Hunger Games" films.
"It added an extra layer of emotion to the experience," the filmmaker told The Times. "To be shooting this scene that has this meaning, that's important for the movie in terms of thematics and ideas, and was a scene that Philip was supposed to do.... And also to end, after such a long time when we've been away from home for so long, with the lines, 'What now?' 'We go home.' It was really just strange and poignant."
In the end, Hoffman's appearance in "Mockingjay — Part 2" is limited to just a few minutes. But as the actor's fans know, he never needed much screen time to leave a lasting impact.