My goal was to focus on the emotional impact, the emotional consequences
Violence is the key word. Collins’ novel is a famously brutal kiss- off to the world she created, a bloodbath unafraid to take its readers, let alone its characters, to the edge of trauma. Was Lawrence concerned about bringing that kind of carnage to the screen? Or was he determined not to flinch?
“I was both concerned and determined not to flinch,” he admits to SFX. “One of the big themes of this story is violence – the effects of violence and the consequences of it. These books are targeted at teenagers. Part of the reason they appealed is that Suzanne didn’t flinch. And luckily people have embraced it. You also don’t want to flinch. But you don’t want to get an R rating and alienate all the teenagers that the books are meant for. My goal was not to focus on the carnage, on the bloodbath aspect of it, but on the emotional impact, the emotional consequences. We did the things that are in the book. It needs to have impact. That’s where you don’t want to flinch. You just don’t need to fetishise the blood and the carnage and the gore.”
So he hasn’t gone full Tarantino, then? “No, definitely not!”
“We’ve been faithful from the beginning and we’re never going to stop being faithful,” insists Nina Jacobson, the powerhouse producer behind the franchise. “It is the power of the series that Suzanne doesn’t pull her punches at the end. You may not get everything you wanted… As a reader you’re taken on a very emotional journey yet it feels deeply satisfying and complete as a story because of the choices she’s made. We were never going to pussyfoot around the subject matter, just as we haven’t from the beginning. That was always the point of doing them – to follow her lead.”
LET ITS NOW
Crucially Mockingjay Part 2 brings us the final confrontation between Katniss and Donald Sutherland’s silky despot Snow. It’s here that the filmmakers took licence to go beyond Suzanne Collins’ words.
“The book has a scene where they get together,” says Lawrence. “Of course we have that scene in the movie. But there was some development needed for the Snow character. So there are some scenes in the movie – scenes that I quite like, actually – that are not in the book. They’re the imagined scenes happening behind the scenes.
“It was fun to create the world of Snow as the Capitol crumbles. It really helps in terms of his mindset. I thought a lot about Downfall – sitting in the bunker and watching Hitler fall apart. This is a very different version of it, and there’s a lot less Snow than that, but we had an opportunity that we got to play around with a little bit. And of course Katniss and her presence becomes a part of that story.”
Collins ended her saga on a dark, heartrending note. Does the movie version embrace that? Or do films have a duty to leave their audience in a happier place when the exit lights come up?
“I’m pretty happy with the way this movie ends,” says Lawrence. “Yes, the book has a bleak ending. And we are making the book. But there’s a way of landing the movie where the sacrifices that people have made should not be for nothing. And yet those people will forever be changed and damaged because of what’s happened. Ideally we’re landing in that zone.”
The world may be preparing to say farewell to Panem but you suspect Hollywood won’t easily relinquish such a bankable box office brand. There are already rumblings of potential sequels, prequels and universe extensions.
“The truth is that for any of those stories to really happen they would have to come from Suzanne,” says Lawrence. “I can’t speak for her but I think she’s interested in other things right now, which I totally get. It’s been a huge chunk of her life. If she wanted to come back to this world and tell more stories I’m sure they’d be great. Personally I think it would be tough to do these stories and not have Katniss. Some movies you can keep going based on the world and people will go and see them. I think people see these movies because of Katniss. Could you just go back to somebody else’s games? I don’t know. It would take some real thought into what the stories would have to be.”
Maybe Katniss Everdeen is the true legacy of these movies. A firebrand whose real revolution was proving that female- led action films could own the arena. As Nina Jacobson tells SFX, the Mockingjay is an icon whose time has come.
“Many of us have a longing for social change and a notion that the system is broken. This is a character who changes things without setting out to be a hero and I think that resonates with people. A person who acts from her gut and ends up changing the world is something that I think people aspire to.”
“Well the sat- nav says we’ve reached our destination…”
“Just because I’m dressed like a flamingo doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take my advice.”