As the film community continues to mourn the loss of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, the business side of the industry continues to roll on. Hoffman was a major factor in a massive film franchise that relied on him to complete his role. Today, we’re learning that some tricks and cheats might be necessary to bring The Hunger Games to completion in 2015.
Hoffman played the pivotal role of Plutarch Heavensbee in Francis Lawrence’s latest Games sequel, Catching Fire. As the head gamemaker, the character was responsible for creating the obstacles meant to snuff out Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence). And as a right-hand-man to the President Snow (Donald Sutherland), he played a key role in squashing the rebellious citizens of the outlying Districts… and harbored a secret that would play out over the course of the two Mockingjay sequels.
It was revealed that Hoffman had filmed the majority of his scenes for Mockingjay, and in a statement, Lionsgate confirmed that the release date for the two Hunger Games sequels would not be affected by the actor’s loss. But sources now tell The Hollywood Reporter that an important scene was left to be filmed, and that "a couple of work-around issues" would have to be employed to complete Mockingjay, Part 2.
This is inevitable. As smooth of a transition as Lionsgate would like to say they are handling, there’s no way that the death of an actor will have zero impact on a movie still in production. Those who have been following the trajectory of the Fast & Furious franchise following the death of Paul Walker understand how difficult it can be to continue telling a story – which feels inconsequential to the survivors of the deceased, but remains important to the fans of the franchise in question. There is no doubt that Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson and the Furious crew want to do everything in their power to honor the legacy of their late co-star with the next Fast movie. The Hunger Games family likely wants to do the same for Hoffman, even though he was a recent addition to the nascent series.
The difference lies in the source text. Fast is creating its narrative on the fly. Mockingjay follows the text of YA author Suzanne Collins, and the character of Plutarch can’t simply be re-written to accommodate for the loss of the actor playing him. Hoffman had filmed enough of the sequel, however, to ensure that Plutarch wouldn’t need to be recast. A studio source tells THR:
Sources with ties to the Mockingjay production hint at digital tricks that can be employed to cover up an actor’s absence, suggesting "you can have conversations where you’re not focusing on him but the people he’s talking to."
We’ll have multiple opportunities to honor Hoffman’s talent in the coming years, as he has A Most Wanted Man coming to theaters, and the remaining two Hunger Games films. Mockingjay, Part 1 will be in theaters on Nov. 21.
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Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Sean created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.