LOS ANGELES — The color wasn’t finished. The visual effects were not complete. The score, temporary. Yet those details seemed to be of little consequence to director Francis Lawrence, who chose a fine summer day to open up his edit bay and show off his work in progress, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.”
While other filmmakers might be stressed over the work to be done on such an eagerly awaited film — let alone the inherent pressure of taking over a beloved franchise — the 42-year-old Austrian director gleefully cued up scene after scene of heroine Katniss Everdeen facing the repercussions of having manipulated a government-sanctioned death match in the first film.
And condensing a 143-page script into a 2-hour, 15-minute movie is going to call for hard decisions.
His sanguine disposition is a far cry from April 2012, when he was waiting to hear whether he had landed the coveted job of replacing “Hunger Games” director Gary Ross as the helmer of the series. Ross had abruptly dropped out of the sequel, citing unrealistic time constraints from Lionsgate.
The second film in the series was a chance to expand on a world that already meant so many things to so many people, and Lawrence specifically connected to author Suzanne Collins’ overall themes about the consequences of war. (Lawrence is also on board to direct the next two films.)
In “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” Katniss (played by Jennifer Lawrence) must contend with her time in the arena, where she was forced to kill other teens or be killed herself.
When Lawrence was hired to direct, Lionsgate Studio had a hard start date just 20 weeks out. But he felt the original script, commissioned by Ross for writer Simon Beaufoy (“Slumdog Millionaire”), was too far afield from the original “Catching Fire” text. So he and Collins spent a weekend in New York poring over the book, creating an outline of all the moments the duo wanted to hit in the film.
Coupled with a $140 million budget (far more than the first film’s $80 million), the result is a film with broader scope and scale that expands on author Collins’ themes and the physical world of Panem.
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