The odds remained ever in the favor of the cast and filmmakers of “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2” as they made their final trip to Comic-Con International in San Diego to premiere the new trailer for the franchise finale.
The ecstatic reception given to stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Willow Shields, director Francis Lawrence and producer Nina Jacobsen left the group in a particularly upbeat and reflective mood as they faced the press immediately after the Hall H presentation.
Jennifer, there are some interesting subject matters discussed in this, that you have to go to war, that you have to kill everybody.
Jennifer Lawrence: He didn’t say everybody. He said Snow.
Can you talk about that aspect of the film?
Lawrence: Well, I think that there were a lot of books that went by without a war [laughs]. We held off for as long as we could. This is, obviously, a fictional story about a fictional government. I think that at the bare minimum, we hope an audience walks away with, especially a young audience, would walk away from these movies is to think and not follow the feet in front of you. But yes, the bare minimum of what we’re trying to do is inspire people to think.
Josh Hutcherson: Also, I think it’s a lot about the consequences of war. It’s about all the efforts that were made and all the things that went wrong to get to the point where you had to go to war. And so stopping it before it gets to that point, I think, is a big message as well, seeing how everything went wrong and how extreme it had to become and how it couldn’t be stopped earlier.
Jen, what are you going to miss about Josh, and Josh, what are you going to miss about Jennifer?
Lawrence: Well, we’re best friends.
Hutcherson: You got it.
Lawrence: So we still see each other all the time. So I don’t miss seeing them because we all still hang out. But I do miss acting with them because this really horrible thing happens where we can’t make eye contact [laughs] without laughing. And I don’t have that challenge in any other movie, with any other actors that I work with. Normally, I can make eye contact with actors and finish scenes. And that is a challenge that I will miss.
Hutcherson: Jen definitely creates a great vibe on the sets.
Hutcherson: So I think that’s going to be missed on future projects. I think because she just acts so crazy and genuine, she makes other people around her feel free to be themselves. And that’s something that is kind of rare to find, especially from an actress on a set. [To Lawrence] Your hands still smell weird.
Lawrence: They don’t smell – oh, it was those ranch chips.
Hutcherson: So I’ll miss that, for sure.
For all of you, which of you is most courageous and outspoken in real life?
Lawrence: I think for some of us, we kind of had to because people were looking up to us and asking us questions, and all of a sudden, a lot of the world was listening. So in a lot of ways, we had to kind of step up to that position.
Liam Hemsworth: Doing something like this, you’re really confronted – forced to grow up in certain ways. I think we all cared about setting a good example. It’s just something that you get thrown into it so quickly.
How would you compare the intensity of Hollywood with show business to the “Hunger Games”? And were you comparable to the characters of the film?
Hemsworth: There are definitely crazy people, there and in real life.
Lawrence: There certainly are. There are people in Hollywood that have crazy hair just like in the Capitol.
Hemsworth: There’s this guy we know, Lenny Kravitz who looks just like he would dress.
Lawrence: I can’t tell when he’s in costume and when he is not.
Hemsworth: It’s the same guy.
Lawrence: I don’t know. I mean, there’s certain pressures, but we don’t really feel the pressure. Again, Josh, Liam and I live in our own island in LA. It’s not like – I don’t really feel the pressures of Hollywood. We just kind of are always out in Liam’s house in Malibu, drinking wine [laughs]. I got him hooked on reality TV. You love “Vanderpump Rules.” You do.
Hemsworth: It’s a really great show.
Lawrence: He texted me like weeks later and was like, “Kristen and what’s-his-name used to date?!” And I was like, “You’re still watching it.”
Could you talk about what it was like to say goodbye?
Hemsworth: I think it was for all of us. It was extremely emotional to have this project come to an end. And I think we’re all really lucky to have made such good friends and shared such a special experience together. I mean, it was a crazy world to be thrown into an amazing project to be a part of and to really grow up together doing. We’re all five or six years ago.
Lawrence: I don’t know. I thought it was 10.
Hemsworth: I think about the person I was then, and the person I am right now. All of us, we’ve grown up so much and changed so much. This will always be…
Lawrence: Now, I don’t go anywhere without a jet.
Hemsworth: – special moment in my life.
What do you see of our world in this movie?
Hutcherson: I think there’s a lot. I think you have the power of the media a lot in this movie and its influence over people. And then how powerful of a tool or weapon that can be – yet the dangers of extreme control and power and suppression of cultures through the government. And glorified violence, I think, is another thing. Especially in the first couple of “Hunger Games,” I think that was pretty big. And the danger of the 99 percent and the 1 percent, and that disparity and it’s growing. And it’s a bit of a cautionary tale about how the way things could go.
Nina or Francis, do you want to address the dangerous scenes?
Francis Lawrence: Well, I think some of the ideas that we really get into in “Mockingjay 2,” are the complexities of war that Josh was speaking about earlier. And the big idea is this gray quality of war too that is confusing, and it’s complex. And it’s never an easy decision whether a war is needed or not.
Nina Jacobsen: I think also that once you disrupt the story that the establishment wants to tell, anything can happen, and change becomes possible if people are brave enough to pursue it. And the Capitol has complete control over the media in the first movie. And Katniss begins to break that with Peeta in the end of the first movie. Over the course of this revolution, who is in charge of the media and what they do with it becomes enormously important to the outcome. And it is only sort of through the pursuit of truth and the defiance of the system that our characters ultimately create change, but it doesn’t come easily. But I think that mindfulness is something very potent, that this material, I think, raises and I think that audiences really understand.
Jen, I saw you ran into Bill Murray. Were words exchanged, and had you spoken to each other before?
Lawrence: [Sighs] I have been – and the rest of the world – has been a huge fan of Bill Murray for a long time, and I always wanted to meet him. And I kind of spoke to him through Woody Harrelson. I would send emails to Woody, mostly when I was drunk, of things I always wanted to say to Bill Murray. And so he received them. So just the fact that Bill Murray knows that I exist is part one. Part two, he wanted to speak to me. And then he mentioned something about us working together! I don’t know. I’m excited about that. That was cool.
Jennifer, at the end of the presentation, it looks like you were mouthing, “I am so hungry,” and do the three of you text together?
Lawrence: Yeah, and on the last day, I started a whole entire “Hunger Game” group text. We didn’t stick around with that one. Lots of group texts. But Josh and Liam and I, yes. I did say that I was hungry. And I did eat a panini and some cheese and crackers and a wrap and a bag of chips. And then I tried to grab French fries, and this stern lady literally swatted my hand away and went, “No!” And I was like, wow! I haven’t been talked to like that since the first movie came out. I kind of liked it [laughs].
Do you think that Katniss believes in the revolution, or is she just playing the role that is expected of her?
Lawrence: I think that for a long time, I wouldn’t say that it was manipulated. I would call it more of a sense of survival. I don’t think there was really believable hope of a revolution. At the beginning of Katniss’ story, I think she was trying to save her sister. And then she was trying to save herself and then Peeta. And waking up in District 13 changed things. Losing Peeta changed things. And I believe that she kind of grows into her position and takes control over her own destiny, and in that, the revolution. So I think that for a while, blah, blah, blah … Because, as I said, it was a growing, developing thing. And she was a young girl and was just trying to survive and was scared. And I don’t think that she really wanted a war. I don’t think there was ever – the whole movie is about the consequence of war and how important it is to kind of try to avoid something like that. That’s something that I really love about the second movie is that’s when she takes power and decides that she does want to be the Mockingjay, but that she does believe in that cause. But it took many years and many books to get there.
Jacobsen: And there’s also a difference between being a warrior and being a symbol of a revolution. Katniss, is inherently that character who wants to take action and to do what needs to be done. And I think that’s doesn’t have to be a sound bite or poster child. So I think she might be willing to give up being the Mockingjay, but not being a revolutionary.
This is the last time “Hunger Games” comes to Comic Con. How do you feel about that?
Willow Shields: Do you want to just make us cry up here? This is the final – it’s like, oh, no.
Hemsworth: It’s the nail in the coffin.
Lawrence: Oh, my God.
Hutcherson: It’s a little dark. I mean, for me, it’s been amazing, and coming to Comic Con is, like, the central hub for fandom, and so to kind of step into this world and get to visit the big Hall H panel, it’s so cool. And to bring these movies that people are so passionate about to them, and to have the whole cast here and to get to meet and have some kind of interaction with them, it’s really rewarding for us. For me, personally, I don’t know about these guys, but, no, it’s really great. And it’s sad to know that we’re not coming back here for this, that’s for sure.
Hemsworth: Comic Con is always fun. Good energy.
Liam, your character Gale has gone down a different path. How did that feel?
Hemsworth: I think Gale is sort of right where he wants to be right now. He’s an emotional, strong willed, independent, angry young man. A lot of things have happened to him. The feel the way he feels, and his biggest motivation, his biggest drive now is to take down the Capitol. That’s all he’s really thinking about. I think his focus becomes less about Katniss and more about being in this war. And he’s kind of a little bit of a ticking time bomb in a way, I guess, because he’s just having a disagreement and opinions between Katniss and Gale in this one because they have very different views about what’s acceptable in war and what’s still right and wrong. And he’s willing to do anything to end this problem.
For Jennifer and Josh, how do you feel your characters have evolved?
Hutcherson: I mean, for me, I was really attracted to Peeta’s arc throughout the story. And I think he starts as a more quiet and kind of not so secure in himself and had like a hard family life and everything. And then once he kind of confesses his love to Katniss and empowers himself in a way. And then in “Mockingjay 1” and 2, he gets pretty messed up. He gets taken in by the Capitol and gets tortured and brainwashed and all these things. And then to have him kind of come out of that and have the recovery process are really up and down for him. And it was great for me to play, and it was fun to show all this experience that he has.
Shields: Yeah, I mean, I think for me, I started when I was 10, so I didn’t even know how to form a sentence when I was 10 years old.
Lawrence: Oh, my God. You were giving me advice.
Shields: I was missing teeth. I was missing a lot of teeth. So a lot of things –It’s crazy to think back. Me going from 10 to 15, and playing the same character and going back and filming each movie every year is an incredible experience. It is really sad to not have that anymore because I felt like it was so – it was just something that I knew was going to happen every year. I’m going back and film next one. So it’s weird to not have that anymore. But my evolution of Prim has been really amazing for me to read the books and kind of try to portray as best as I can. I feel like her evolution is really amazing to watch because she really grows up a lot, and she’s really there for Katniss in the last two films, I think. Can I form a sentence now?
Lawrence: Oh, yeah.
Jennifer, Katniss is one of the most powerful characters we’ve seen on screen. Do you feel like there are more opportunities for women nowadays?
Lawrence: I would hope so [sighs]. Well, that’s risky, Jennifer. I’m starting this new thing. I’ve tried to develop a filter, and I’m working on it. But right now, I’m dancing on, this could blow people’s hair back, in a good way, or it could be my last time at Comic Con [laughs]. Yeah. I would hope so. I think a lot of times, there’s – somebody got a what’s app from Crewsome Taylor. I missed it.
Hutcherson: Quit stalling.
Lawrence: I am stalling. I would hope that there are more opportunities for women. Sometimes it’s hard to, once you get – I was having a conversation with somebody about the struggles of weight in the industry because I know that’s something I talk nonstop about it. And they said, “But all of the main movie stars aren’t really underweight.” And I said, “Well, yeah, because once you get to a certain place, people will hire you. And they want you to be in their movie, so they don’t care. It’s more about a struggle, I think, for the actors and actresses who have not made it to a certain place where they’re hirable no matter what.” And there’s a lot of pressure. They’re like, I’m not really at a place where I can complain or speak of not getting enough roles because I’m very lucky. I have a lot of opportunities. But I would be interested to hear someone who’s not in two franchises, answer that question because I’m not really in a place to fully understand it. Am I ever going to come back to Comic Con?
Hutcherson: Oh, yeah, that was totally fine.
“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2” opens Nov. 25.
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