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SPOILER WARNING: This article contains spoilers for “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2.”
With the last film in the “The Hunger Games” franchise poised to arrive in theaters this month, the movie’s three main stars, producer and director gathered for a press conference this past Saturday in Los Angeles. And while Hollywood has seen its share of high-profile films tank at the box office in 2015, “Mockingjay – PArt 2″ remains about as sure a hit as you’re liable to find. After all, the “Hunger Games” movies — based on the Young Adult novels by Suzanne Collins — have grossed more than $2 billion worldwide, securing a place in pop culture as one of the most successful franchises in film history.
Ahead of the film’s worldwide bow, stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth, along with series producer Nina Jacobson and returning director Francis Lawrence, were on hand to talk to press including SPINOFF ONLINE about the series’ final installment.
The stars, began by discussing acting in their final film as their “Hunger Games” characters, and how it impacted them personally.
Jennifer Lawrence: I felt I had two final endings for Katniss. One, when we wrapped the film in Berlin. Everybody was there and it was kind of saying goodbye to the movie. Then I had a last scene about a year later, with my nephews — they play my children in the scene that we shot. It was an amazing closure to a film I have loved for so many years.
Josh Hutcherson: For me, this was cool. This was the final episode that I was looking forward to when I read the books. Peeta gets highjacked and tortured, so it was cool to take a character that is loved by the fans as this golden boy, and turn him to the dark side while also having this back and forth of being somewhat bipolar from all the experiences.
Jennifer, talk about the ending, did you feel you accomplished everything you wanted to with Katniss? Was it bittersweet?
Jennifer Lawrence: I think the feeling of accomplishment will probably happen more when the film comes out. We’re not really done working on it in some ways. I didn’t feel like I said goodbye to her. I think it will be pretty bizarre when the movie comes out and everything’s officially done. This movie’s been my life for years.
Francis, there is a definitive shift for Katniss in the final installment of the series. How did you incorporate that emotional shift into the visual dynamics?
Francis Lawrence: I didn’t think of it as a shift in visual dynamics in this movie. Katniss has always been an anchor for me. She’s our eyes into this world, and we’re following her, so I’m anchored to her. We walk into rooms with her and see other people talk from her point of view. The big shift in the movie is her journey itself, but it didn’t affect my visual approach at all.
How have you three [actors] grown professionally since first starting the franchise?
Jennifer Lawrence: It’s hard to say. It’s probably too soon to look back and reflect. I’ve hope I’ve grown up. We’ve helped each other get a handle on things.
Hutcherson: It’s always a hard question. I’m constantly learning things in life. I kind of just grew as a person. It was like college for us.
Jennifer Lawrence: Except for the education part. [Smiles]
Liam Hemsworth: Getting used to your world constantly changing, going from one extreme to another over the past six years — it gets easier. At first, it’s overwhelming, but over the years it becomes normal.
What was it like shooting the action sequence in the sewer?Francis Lawrence: It was absolutely the most miserable three weeks…
Hemsworth: Was it only three weeks?
Francis Lawrence: Yes, but it felt like nine weeks. It was truly miserable. It was a fun sequence to make in a sense, putting it together and seeing how it came together, but with the tunnels, you had to always duck, we all had to wear hardhats and the water was heated, so it made everything humid and smoky.
Jennifer Lawrence: Poor Liam couldn’t stand up for three weeks!
Hutcherson: And the costumes were not at all waterproof. They had pockets that just got filled with water.
Jennifer Lawrence: So when we get to the fight sequence, all of our gear and our costumes were completely waterlogged, so it felt like an extra 20 pounds. Well, I don’t know math, but it felt like an extra 2,000 pounds.
Francis Lawrence: It’s something they don’t teach you in film school, that you get to a certain point and you’re seven months into an 11-month shoot and the mood and morale of the cast and crew just hit rock bottom — what it’s like to push through that and get what you need.
Liam, did you feel sad that you didn’t get the girl in the end? How do you feel about the evolution of your character?
Hemsworth: I don’t feel down. I actually feel pretty happy. I read the books, so I knew it was going to happen.
Francis Lawrence: He did question it, though. Going into rehearsal he would say, “I don’t get it. What’s so bad about him?”
Hemsworth: Yeah, he’s a good guy, aside from all the killing and stuff! But he does get pretty angry at the end. He didn’t have the power to do anything for a while, but for this last part, he’s front and center and I think it goes to his head a little bit. He loses sight of his own morals and values. That’s why Gale and [Katniss] part ways, I guess.
What do you hope that young people will take away from this movie?
Hutcherson: For me, a message that has always resonated was standing up for what you believe in. One person does have the power to affect something. One person can stand up and get behind a cause and fight for it, and the consequence of war. Katniss is the last person who wants war, but in the finale of the film, she sees it’s headed that way and it has to be done in order to have revolution.
Nina, what do you think the legacy is for the “Hunger Games” series?
Nina Jacobson: I think the notion of social change, the possibility of defiance in the face of injustice, and kindness in the face of cruelty is a strong message. The thing I feel that is so popular in the books and films is that you can create change. The voice of young women and their power to change the world and to be a spokesperson for that change is amazing. I think Jen has risen to the occasion. Hopefully, young people, boys or girls, will rise that occasion as well.
When they remake “The Hunger Games,” what part would you play?
Hutcherson: I’ve always loved Haymitch! Woody [Harrelson] is perfect, so I don’t know. Snow is pretty cool, too!
Hemsworth: It would be hard to top Haymitch.
Nina, what does this role mean for young women?
Jacobson: You don’t always want or feel entitled to being a spokesperson in film, and as girls we don’t always have the heart to speak up.
When Haymitch was reading the letter at the end of the film, was that because of Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s death?
Francis Lawrence: Yes. Phil was supposed to be in that scene with Katniss. That was one of his big scenes he did not complete before he died.
Jennifer, what does Katniss Everdeen mean to the world of film heroines?
Jennifer Lawrence: I think Katniss is the best female character, ever.
Jennifer, there have been rumors about you playing Captain Marvel for Marvel studios. Would you want to play in the same sandbox with Bradley Cooper and Chris Pratt?
Jennifer Lawrence: Well, yes! I would love to play in a sandbox with those two!
“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2″ debuts in theaters Nov. 20.