The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2 has an added emotional resonance beyond the end of a fan-beloved franchise. It also marks the final film in the illustrious career of Philip Seymour Hoffman.
The Oscar-winning actor died Feb. 2, 2014, during production of Mockingjay — Part 2. But Hoffman still appears in key scenes as rebel leader Plutarch Heavensbee in the film opening Friday. There was meant to be even more of him.
"I regret to have that kind of label of it being his last film. Because obviously, there's not quite enough of him in it," says director Francis Lawrence. "I would have liked his role to be larger."
Hoffman's death from an accidental drug overdose came with eight days of shooting left from his 55-day stint for the crucial supporting role. The director allowed the cast and crew to mourn Hoffman while continuing to shoot the multimillion dollar production. He started shooting half-days with no extras on the set before slowly bringing the rest of crew back.
"It took a week when I wasn't waking up and having to remember (Hoffman) was gone. We all suffered that together," says Jennifer Lawrence, who plays Katniss Everdeen.
She recalls having the surreal experience of working with Hoffman's stunt double, who wore Plutarch's familiar garb and shared Hoffman's build.
"This was just a few days after (Hoffman) died," she says. "Nobody could look at (the stunt double). I kept thinking it was Phil, it was a constant reminder that Phil was gone. I went up to him at the end of the day and just apologized because I couldn't imagine how awful that was."
A practical film problem involved filling Hoffman's remaining scenes. Plutarch's presence was simply dropped in some group scenes where Hoffman was supposed to appear.
"When you actually have the person there and they appear in the scene, you make something of it — there would be more of (Hoffman's) presence," Francis Lawrence says.
The most clear indication of Hoffman's absence comes in a scene where Plutarch was meant to console Katniss. Hoffman had worked on the scene during rehearsals. "The ideas for the scene were Phil's, but he never got to say the lines," the director says.
Instead, the scene was rewritten, with Plutarch's words incorporated into a letter read to Katniss by Woody Harrelson's character Haymitch Abernathy. It was the final emotional scene shot for the franchise.
Even if there were tears, Jennifer Lawrence downplays the scene's impact in light of her past mourning for Hoffman.
"It wasn't Phil, that was his character," she says. "The letter scene, that was really nothing compared to what we had to deal with losing Phil."