The final trailer for “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” gave fans an unprecedented look inside the walls of the arena — with all manner of creepy creations besieging the tributes of the Quarter Quell. So where better to begin our sit-down with director Francis Lawrence than this most pivotal of places?
Fans of Suzanne Collins’ best-selling series know the arena depicted in “Catching Fire” is much different than the one Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) faced in “The Hunger Games,” which posed a few challenges for the auteur.
“This time we got to create a very special arena on film, which is really fun,” Lawrence said. “We actually created a tropical environment that’s in a bit of a bowl, and the jungle is surrounding a circular pool of water filled with ocean water and choppy waves, and a volcanic rock island in the center of that, where our cornucopia sits and the elevators with the tributes all come up in the middle of the water. It’s a bit of a challenge because that environment doesn’t actually exist, so we had to put that puzzle together.”
The missing piece was Hawaii, which served as the setting for the jungle and beach scenes in the film, while the water scenes were shot in Atlanta with a digital jungle as their backdrop.
“We actually looked at a couple of different places that had jungles, but Hawaii had a sort of scale to it. The jungle had a scale to it that you can’t find in all jungles — sometimes the plant life and everything is sort of small or really dense. In Hawaii, you get a very tall canopy, and you get beautiful banyan trees and really lush green forests, and it also has a large variety, so that it doesn’t all become homogeneous. We can use the jungle and the variety in the jungle to create really different, separate set pieces within the jungle itself, with the different sort of shapes of trees and the graphic of the jungle.”
Another change the franchise’s new director made: keeping the point of view almost exclusively to Katniss’, instead of the broadened perspective of Gary Ross’ “Hunger Games.”
“For the most part, we’ve tried to stay true to the idea in the books that it follows a singular point of view, and that’s Katniss’ point of view through the movie,” Lawrence explained. “Once we’re in the arena, we break away very, very few times. There’s a moment or two when you see Plutarch Heavensbee, who’s watching, and there’s a moment or two when you see Snow, who’s watching, but it’s very different. We’re not cutting around to family members and things. We’re much more with Katniss this time because part of the mystery of the arena and the mystery of what’s happening to her is very important, and for that we need to stay with her.”
There’s much more from Francis Lawrence — on the arena and many other aspects of “Catching Fire” — so get clicking on the video above to watch all five segments of our interview with the director.
“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” blazes into theaters on November 22.