Hunger Games: Catching Fire–Jennifer Lawrence

the_hunger_games_catching_fire_9The stakes have never been higher for Katniss Everdeen. It seems it was only yesterday that Katniss was battling to outlast her tyrannized nation’s infamous gladiatorial competition. But now, the time is nearing once again for the annual Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire follows on the heels of 2012’s blockbuster cinematic success, The Hunger Games – and takes the worldwide phenomenon sparked by Suzanne Collins’ best-selling books into a new chapter that deepens the story and propels it forward. Critically acclaimed, the first film introduced audiences to the intriguing dystopian culture of Panem, where every year 12 oppressed districts send a teenage boy and girl to compete in a contest of sheer survival in the nation’s glittering Capitol. Academy Award® winner Jennifer Lawrence brought to life the story’s reluctant 16 year-old heroine, Katniss, as she persevered through impossible choices in the Hunger Games arena – revealing a passionate connection with her character.

Less than a year later, as the filmmakers returned to bring the second book of Collins’ trilogy to life on screen, they had no intention of resting on those considerable laurels. They dove into a new phase of Panem’s history and Katniss’ ever more dizzying moral dilemmas with the same faithfulness to the narrative that has guided them from the start – and a desire to go the next step.

With a story that thrusts Katniss into a second Hunger Games she never saw coming, the film took cast and crew into previously unexplored emotional and technical territory.

the_hunger_games_catching_fire_4As Katniss and her fellow Tribute, Peeta, go on a Victors’ Tour through Panem’s districts, and then are reaped for games creatively designed to be their destruction, the filmmakers saw an exciting opportunity to push the storytelling, and the characters, while staying true to what Collins set off in the global imagination.

“We wanted to be every bit as ambitious with this movie as we had been with the first, and continue to take creative risks,” says returning producer Nina Jacobson. “We have tried to honor the core essence of Catching Fire in the same way that we honored The Hunger Games.”

Lionsgate’s President of Production Erik Feig adds: “Catching Fire is a very different story from The Hunger Games. Katniss is thrust, literally, into a higher arena, and we see not only pressure mounting on her, but also the scope of her caring for others broadening. We saw it as a wonderful cinematic opportunity to bring her greater inner complexities and an even bigger visual scale to life.”

As Panem is slowly revealed to be on a collision course with change in Catching Fire, so too does Katniss stand at the boundary of the hesitant girl she was and the young woman she will become.

“We’re very excited in this film to advance Katniss’s evolution as a character,” Jacobson states. “We see her growing into somebody who is much more the master of her own destiny, as opposed to a pawn in the agendas of others. We see an ethical and social consciousness awakened in her, and yet at the same time, we also see the very human resistance that she feels to having to become a hero, when all she really wants to do in her heart is go home.”

the_hunger_games_catching_fire_2The events of The Hunger Games took Katniss Everdeen to what she thought were her ultimate physical and emotional limits, and all she wanted in the aftermath was to finally be home with her family and best friend, Gale Hawthorne. But there is to be no going home for Katniss, even if she beat all the odds. She is now a different person – a girl haunted by memories, by the continuing control of her life by the Capitol, by the persistent threats that remain to her loved ones. More than that, she is now a public persona, whether or not she wants to be. Not only is she the Capitol’s celebrated “Girl on Fire” but she is becoming an inspirational symbol to some and a dangerous enemy to others.

Now, when she is reaped a second time for the 75th Hunger Games, all of that takes Katniss to a new place in her mind and her soul. As defiant and fiercely independent as ever, her journey in Catching Fire becomes about grappling with the dual nature of heroism – its burdens and its power.

Returning in the role is Jennifer Lawrence, whose career has soared since The Hunger Games, and who recently won the Best Actress Oscar, among other awards, playing the complicated widow Tiffany Maxwell in David O. Russell’s celebrated Silver Linings Playbook.

Lawrence loved creating the character for the first time on screen and in Catching Fire, she took the sometimes selfless, often cunning young woman she has embodied through dark, confusing times and evolved her to a new level of strength and maturity.

the_hunger_games_catching_fire_3“Katniss remains a character I adore but the stakes are different for her this time,” Lawrence notes. “In the first movie, she was a hesitant hero who really just wanted to save her family, but now she has a bigger weight on her shoulders. She feels a responsibility to all these people who are depending on her and yet, she is struggling with that, because it isn’t at all what she signed up for.”

As a victor, Katniss had been promised a lifetime free of being reaped for the games ever again. But the rules have changed. Each Quarter Quell – which every 25 years marks the Capitol’s triumphant defeat over the rebelling Districts – the games get special instructions, and this year they say that the competition will take place between former victors, a move Katniss suspects is aimed at her. “I think Katniss was just starting to accept that she had post-traumatic stress and was trying to get over that, only now she has to face the unthinkable: going back to the Games,” says Lawrence.

Diving back into the depths of the role, Lawrence was acutely aware that Katniss is trying to come to terms with all that she has experienced and achieved, and just as much with newfound fame and its seeming ability to wreak havoc. “In Catching Fire, Katniss becomes very aware of all the people who are watching her, who are depending on her and that all becomes very real to her,” says the actress. “She feels that she has to decide between saving her family or fighting for her people.”

Katniss is also faced with an increasingly complex relationship with her fellow Tribute, Peeta Mellark, with whom she is now pegged as an item, replete with lavish wedding plans, in the Capitol’s PR blitz – despite her unrequited feelings for Gale back at home. Much as she wants to go back to a time when things were simpler with Gale, she cannot. “Everything feels different to Katniss now,” Lawrence explains. “There are things about her life that Gale just doesn’t understand anymore, whereas he used to understand everything. And now there are parts of her life that only Peeta understands.”

These Games are also different for Katniss, in part because she is now a veteran who goes into them with her eyes wide open to the threats. She also goes into them in an unfamiliar position: as the frontrunner. “These games are definitely different because everybody has been here before.

Everybody’s experienced,” Lawrence says. This time the battle terrain is also new and unchartered – as well as mind-boggling to Katniss. “This arena is something that Katniss has never experienced before,” Lawrence notes. “She grew up in the woods, so that was always her specialty. But this is all new to her — a jungle and a very sinister jungle at that. The jungle becomes a deadly tribute in itself.”

Like Katniss, Lawrence threw herself right back into intensive training for these even more physically demanding games, spending hours on the archery range and honing an array of free-running skills to new levels. “The stunts in this movie are really fantastic, so it was worth doing the extra months of training to be able to do them,” she comments.
The intense process of entering Katniss’ weighted soul and ever-intensifying dilemmas was supported throughout by director Francis Lawrence (no relation). “He has such a huge imagination and he’s so good at creating different worlds in a way that really resonates,” the actress says. “I felt he fully understood the story and he was very freeing to work with.”

Francis Lawrence was in turn enthralled with Jennifer’s unwavering commitment to doing justice to Katniss in this new phase of her life. “Jennifer just owns this character,” says the director. “And she brings out many new facets in this movie. You get a chance to really see Katniss grow as a human being. Throughout, it was fascinating to watch Jennifer, because playing Katniss is so natural for her. Her performance style is very instinctual – and when she turns it on, she really turns it on.”

Adds producer Jon Kilik: “The most important thing to us was to maintain the truth and integrity of Katniss — and Jennifer makes that possible. She’s so deeply rooted in Katniss’ head that her every move feels real and honest. Her technique is invisible, which is astonishing at such a young age. Every day on this film she was surprising us, every day she was able to go a little further or bring another dimension to Katniss. She was always finding new things and she never repeated herself.”