Francis Lawrence and the (re)new “Hunger Games”

With nearly 3 billion US dollars collected at the box office, the saga hunger games proven, at least, profitable. All four films cemented Jennifer Lawrence’s star status and boosted sales of Suzanne Collins’ original novels. More than ten years after the release of the first part, bringing this large audience back to cinemas is one of the many challenges it faces The Hunger Games: The Ballad of the Birds and the Snakes (hunger games The ballad of the snake and the songbird). Francis Lawrence, director of the film as well as the previous three, opened up about it duty exclusively

For the record, in the dystopian world of hunger games, the rich live in a city protected by a totalitarian regime that benefits them, while the rest of humanity survives as best they can in gated neighborhoods. Every year, the “Hunger Games”, where the representatives of each district compete to the death, captivate the population.

In this pre-episode we witness the transformation of these games and, above all, the rise of the future despot Coriolanus Snow.

“When I finished the film The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (hunger games The revolt, last part), there was no doubt, on Suzanne’s part, of writing a new novel set in this universe. I wanted to explore other horizons after ten years spent in Panem (the fictional nation at the heart of the series),” explains Francis Lawrence, director of red sparrow (The red sparrow) and from Constantine (a sequel is in development with Keanu Reeves, the filmmaker confirms).

“Then, in 2019, Suzanne surprised Nina (Jacobson, the producer) and me by announcing that she was putting the finishing touches on a new novel linked to the saga, but in which she “was going to another place”. We read the manuscript right before the pandemic and spent most of it developing the adaptation. »

Give way to the anti-hero

One of the most interesting aspects of the film, and of the novel, is the total investment made regarding the protagonist. In fact, in all four hunger games previously, we followed Katniss Everdeen on her journey to greatness and nobility.

In The ballad of the birds and the snakes, rather we accompany Coriolanus Snow down the path of deceit and duplicity. From a heroine, we pass, in other words, to an anti-hero.

“This is without a doubt the aspect that most excited me about the project,” Francis Lawrence confides.

“Before reading the manuscript, all I knew was that the action would take place 64 years before the events of the first saga. When I discovered that it was the origin story of the villainous Coriolanus Snow (immortalized by Donald Sutherland from 2012 to 2015), I fell in love, among other things because it represented a real challenge. »

A potentially risky bet, but one to be happy about. In fact, Hollywood tends to hate anything resembling a risk, relying instead on what has already worked.

“The difficulty was creating a character that we know will become evil, and presenting him in a way that makes us want to know more about him, want to follow him, and even want to follow him. We feel empathy for him. That, while planting hints of what he will become. Make his travails to the dark side believable and interesting…”

Sensitivity and refinement

After having a Jennifer Lawrence who has never before carried a major film on her shoulders, the production is still trying its luck with a relative newcomer as the leading figure. His natural brown hair now a distinctly Aryan blonde in the film, Tom Blyth plays Coriolanus Snow with all the requisite ambiguity and charisma.

“We met Tom very late in the audition process and he blew us away,” reveals Francis Lawrence.

“We are completely seduced and captivated by what he brought. I admit that I myself was not familiar with his work in the series billy the boy, so for me, the surprise was total. And then, watching him, with his big blue eyes, with his features, I could easily imagine him as a younger version of Donald Sutherland. He studied at Juilliard (as did fellow Viola Davis, who plays a sort of “Doctor Terror” boss here). He has an incredible command of the game. Tom brought a rather unique blend of sensitivity and refinement to the role of Snow. »

In the film, Coriolanus Snow must act as a mentor to one of the Games’ recruits: Lucy Gray, a young woman whose determination is matched only by her vocal power. Rachel Zegler plays this competing singer with as much presence as she sees.

“Rachel, I knew it West Side Story who was an amazing singer and actress. She was the first choice of all of us. »

Differentiated identity

Before filming, one of Francis Lawrence’s main concerns was this The ballad of the birds and the snakes it fits harmoniously into the saga, while showing a distinct identity. Beautiful paradox.

“I wanted to offer something new, at all levels. But obviously, there needed to be visual reminders of what that world would be like: architecture inspired by post-World War II Berlin was a major influence…”

Otherwise, in all the artistic departments, the watchword was, to use Suzanne Collins’ expression, “go somewhere else”. agreement

The movie The Hunger Games: The Ballad of the Birds and the Snakes hits theaters November 17.

Production of the hunger games

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