Hunger Games fans have been eagerly awaiting to hear more specifics about the upcoming Mockingjay film for months, and now director Francis Lawrence is finally talking. Though Lionsgate has released several buzzworthy teaser trailers in the past several months, details about the first installment of the two-part ending — including potential deviations from the book and where exactly the story will be divided — have been kept largely under wraps. Viewers are getting answers at last, though, thanks to Lawrence’s recent interview with Entertainment Weekly.
Mockingjay is the last of the smash hit YA series from Suzanne Collins. The book follows teen heroine Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence) after she is rescued from her second stint in the Games and taken to District 13 by rebellion leaders. Still coming to terms with the demolition of her home, District 12, Katniss struggles in her new role as the reluctant face of a mass revolution against the Capitol.
“It’s a very confusing, conflicted, complicated time for Katniss,” Lawrence, who also directed 2013’s Catching Fire, explained to EW. “Having gone through the games one more time and having lost Peeta and having been run through the wringer, she’s even more damaged. So you find her in a more agitated place. She’s distraught, confused, angry.”
The last book of the trilogy is arguably the darkest, with Katniss still dealing with the emotional and mental aftermath of two rounds in the violent Games as she leads a huge portion of society into a full-fledged war. While much of the grittier scenes will likely take place in Part 2 of the Mockingjay films, Lawrence confirms we will see the beginning of the rebellion battle in Part 1 as well. “There’s definitely some battles,” he said. “There’s some of the first glimpses of real war in this movie. And the scale gets quite big.”
Of course, that leaves audience members with one big question: How exactly will the story be divided over two films? Fans have been speculating over the issue ever since it was announced that the Mockingjay movie would be split. Some suggest that first film will end on an important cliffhanger, such as after Katniss gets shot while trying to overtake District 2 or when a brainwashed Peeta attempts to choke her after getting rescued from the Capitol. Unfortunately, Lawrence wouldn’t comment on any of the popular theories, instead choosing to keep the division of the story “one of the really good surprises.”
However, he does share that the films will have “two different, very distinct stories.” In good news for fans of the Mockingjay book, both of those stories will stay true to the novel with no major plot changes. But while Lawrence confirmed there will be no huge deviations from the original story, he also revealed that the movie will feature new added elements (created by himself, screenwriter Peter Craig, and Collins) that may come as a surprise to moviegoers.
“Instead of changing the plot and changing characters what we did was have the opportunity to show scenes that could have been happening at different times in the book,” he explained. “For us it’s world expansion instead of changing things.”
Some of the plot points this expansion will entail? According to Lawrence, viewers will get to see some new districts and more of the society between District 12 and the Capitol. The two-part format also allows for further development of some characters, particularly that of President Coin (Julianne Moore). Fans got a first glimpse of the new character in one of the teasers and Lawrence confirms that’s just a taste of her expanded role in the movies. As the director points out, though Coin plays a significant role in the novel, she’s not actually present in that many scenes. That’s to set change in the movies, where she will make more appearances.
As is often the case with the final book in the series, Mockingjay is probably the most debated and critiqued of the three Hunger Games novels. But that’s exactly why fans are so curious to see if Lawrence will be able to handle the adaptation as well as he did Catching Fire (which was an overwhelming success both critically and commercially). With excitement for the film mounting, however, there’s no question that Mockingjay – Part 1 is poised to easily become one of the highest grossing films of the year. The movie will hit theaters on November 21, 2014.