“I volunteer as Tribute!” – Katniss Everdeen
Nowadays, everyone is experiencing Young Adult novel turned film franchise fatigue, and rightfully so, as ever since Twilight, every studio is looking for the next billion dollar franchise. Which is why it is pretty shocking to realize that The Hunger Games made its big screen debut just over five years ago, in 2012. The filmmakers didn’t mess around and make fans wait for subsequent films either as the following year Catching Fire was released, followed by Mockingjay – Part 1 the year after and culminating with Mockingjay – Part 2 a year after that. Katniss became not only a bonafide hero to everyone in all 12 Districts but to everyone in the real world, too.
As film franchises go, specifically ones based on YA novels, The Hunger Games is up there with the best. Not only did it make Jennifer Lawrence a household name and a superstar but it also helped catapult the careers of other actors, like Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth. On top of that, it attracted well established and award-winning actors to the franchise like Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, and Julianne Moore. Plus, Mockingjay – Part 2 holds the honor of being the last film that the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman appeared in.
Based on a wild premise with a great political message that is more relevant today than ever, The Hunger Games franchise is one that people will remember for years to come. Here are 40 deadly facts about the Hunger Games franchise.
40. The Winner of the Hunger Games
Jennifer Lawrence beat out Emma Roberts, Saoirse Ronan and Hailee Steinfeld for the lead role of Katniss in The Hunger Games franchise. Lawrence’s role in the movie Winter’s Bone, as Ree Dolly, has been attributed to her getting the part, as there are many similarities between the two characters.
39. Add a Few More Zeroes
When Lawrence landed the lead in The Hunger Games, she was a fairly established actor but far from the superstar she is today, and her first paycheck reflected that. She got a meager $500,000 for the first movie, but went on to earn $10 million for the sequel, Catching Fire. That’s nearly 20 times more than she made for the first one. Her paycheck went up to $15 million for both Mockingjay – Part One and Part Two.
38. Worth Every Penny
Due to the fact that there was a lot of young actors on the set of the first movie, director Gary Ross decided to keep a swear jar on set to encourage everyone to keep the language family friendly. Lawrence apparently struggled the most with this rule and ended up contributing more than half of the money in the jar by the end of filming.
37. Show Don’t Tell
Since the books are framed from Katniss’s perspective, the idea was floated around before production to have her do voice over for the films to relay her thoughts to the audience. Instead, Ross, and later Francis Lawrence—who directed the last three movies—decided to use camera angles and shots to showcase Katniss’s thoughts visually. This was mainly done with close-ups and handheld cameras.
36. Not the Safest Work Environment Part One
No one was safe from injuries while filming The Hunger Games franchise, as a lot of the actors found themselves seeking medical attention and some more than once. Lawrence falls into this category, as she had a lot of ear issues while filming Catching Fire. She went deaf in one ear for six days after a water jet punctured her eardrum and she also got an ear infection from being in the water for more than 10 hours a day.
35. Not the Safest Work Environment Part Two
Lawrence wasn’t alone when it came to getting injured on set, as Sam Claflin, Liam Hemsworth, and Josh Hutcherson all got hurt at one point during production. Claflin broke his finger after slipping and accidentally punching a stuntman, but didn’t even realize it was broken until an hour and a half later. Hemsworth broke his ankle filming the bombing scene in Mockingjay – Part 1 and they had to wait a month for it to heal so they could finish shooting the scene. Finally, Hutcherson actually got hurt in between takes while he was play fighting with Lawrence. She accidentally kicked him in the head and gave him a concussion. Gotta say, not as impressive an injury as the other two.
34. Dye-ing to Play a Character
Whoever did the casting for The Hunger Games must have had a great imagination and a large budget to hair dye. Both Lawrence and Hemsworth are natural blonds, but their characters in the books are brunettes, so they had to dye their hair brown. Hutcherson is a brunette, but his character is a blond in the books so he had to dye his hair too.
33. Work Hard, Play Hard
To unwind after 14-hour day shoots while filming Catching Fire in Atlanta, the cast and crew would go dancing at an underground club. The name of the club is actually featured as an Easter egg in the movie, too. PDL-736 is spray painted above the tunnel entrance that Katniss and Peeta travel through, which stands for Ponce De Leon-736, the name of the club.
32. Bad Hair Day Part One
There was a surprising amount of money spent purely on wigs for the main cast and extras throughout the franchise. Over 500 wigs were used on the cast and extras for the Capitol scenes alone in The Hunger Games, but that number got reduced to 350 for Catching Fire. However, it was five wigs for Lawrence that ended up costing the most money, as each one cost $6,000 and were used to find the best color to dye her hair, meaning the winning wig wasn’t even used!
31. High Expectations
Before the first Hunger Games movie even hit theatres it was already breaking records. The movie set a record for first-day advance ticket sales, surpassing The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, the previous holder.
30. Second Times the Charm but the Fourth Not so Much
Catching Fire, the second installment in The Hunger Games franchise, is hands down the most successful film, both financially and critically, out of all four. It has the best rating from both critics and audiences on Rotten Tomatoes—89% from both—and it also made the most money both domestically and worldwide–$424 million and $865 million, respectively. Oh, and it was the highest grossing movie domestically of 2013. The last movie, Mockingjay – Part 2, actually performed the worst at the box office, both domestically and worldwide. King of a bummer, considering that Part 1 ended on a sort-of cliffhanger.
29. I Don’t Know What That Is but Count Me in
Lenny Kravitz—who plays Cinna the stylist in the movies—didn’t have to audition for the role. In fact, he didn’t even know what the movie was when he was offered the part! The director Ross had seen Kravitz’s performance in the movie Precious and saw similarities between his character from that movie—Nurse John—and Cinna. Ross called Kravitz and told him he wanted him to do the movie, and Kravitz responded by asking, “What is Hunger Games?” Kravitz downloaded and read the book that night then called Ross back and told him he was in.
28. You Just Made the List!
The Hunger Games script was featured on the Black List in 2010, which is a list of the best unmade scripts in Hollywood. It’s an impressive list to be on as some of the scripts featured have gone on to be nominated for and even win Oscars, not to mention topping the box office.
27. Attention to Detail
Anyone with a keen eye may have noticed that the cat, Buttercup, was replaced after the first movie. Suzanne Collins—the author of the books—and producer Nina Jacobson requested that they change the cat because it was different than the one described in the book. Buttercup is a ginger cat but was played by a black and white cat. One could say it was far from purr-fect casting. I instantly regret that pun.
26. The Weather Outside is Frightful
The epilogue for Mockingjay – Part 2 was filmed a year after production had wrapped. The director wanted green landscapes for the final scene but the weather in Atlanta at that time didn’t allow for that. So, he waited until the setting was perfect and returned later on with the producer and the actors needed to finish the movie.
25. Fresh Start
Since the books are written from Katniss’s perspective, the screenwriters had to come up with and write scenes featuring or details about President Snow that didn’t involve Katniss. One addition was having Snow’s granddaughter idolize Katniss.
24. Lighten the Mood
There were two comedic moments that happened while filming Catching Fire, one intentional and one not, that never made it to print and ended up on the cutting room floor. One happened when Hutcherson—as Peeta—bent down to propose to Katniss and ended up ripping his pants. The other was when Harrelson decided to do a spit take after Peeta claimed Katniss was pregnant. I’ll let you figure out which one was intentional and which one wasn’t.
23. Safety First
Even though a whip made out of felt was used for the scene where Gale is whipped, they spent multiple days shooting the scene and eventually welts began to form on Hemsworth’s back.
22. Bad Hair Day Part Two
A few of the main cast had to wear wigs during filming. Harrelson wore a wig that was modeled after his brother’s hair and Elizabeth Banks had to have her wig altered after the first one made her look too much like Bozo the Clown. Lawrence eventually got worried that the dye would permanently ruin her hair so before the third film she cut it into a pixie cut. This resulted in her having to wear a wig for the last two movies. Finally, Hutcherson had to wear a wig when they filmed the epilogue for the last movie because it was shot a year after filming had wrapped.
21. Snack Time
Before Leonardo DiCaprio ate raw meat for The Revenant, Lawrence, Hutcherson, and Claflin were eating raw fish for Catching Fire. Lawrence apparently struggled the most with this, as she is not the biggest fan of fish, and not even some soya sauce on it helped keep it down.
20. Right Out of the Gate
All four movies opened number one at the box office their opening weekend and had a combined gross of nearly $3 billion worldwide—$2, 968.2 billion to be exact.
19. Like a Kid in a Candy Store
Finnick Odair’s introduction in Catching Fire sees him eat two sugar cubes, something Claflin legitimately did. However, he had to do more than one take, which meant eating two sugar cubes every time. By the end of the day he had eaten nearly an entire box full. He admits, “When we were done, I immediately brushed my teeth.”
18. Waste of Money
Director Francis Lawrence had a gigantic greenhouse built for Mockingjay but the scene it was used for was cut from the theatrical version of the movie, making it—probably—one of the most expensive deleted scenes ever.
17. Roll With the Punches
Before Malone got the part of Johanna, Kristen Bell was campaigning hard for the role, as she was a massive fan of the books—and even had a Hunger Games themed 30th birthday party. Malone was far from a lock for the role, though. She sees herself as a happy-go-lucky person in real life, the complete opposite of the character. She was terrified she wouldn’t be able to come off believably angry. However, the day of her audition, everything went wrong from the second she woke up and she used that anger and frustration to nail the audition and get the part.
16. Picture Everyone in Their Underwear
The song “The Hanging Tree” was written by Collins for the book and later adapted to the screen with a melody from the band The Lumineers and vocals from Lawrence. Even though she has a great voice, Lawrence told David Letterman on his show that her biggest fear is singing in front of people and she was so terrified the day she had to sing that she cried on set. She’s clearly her biggest critic, though, as the song went on to debut at number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100.
15. That Flower Looks Fake
Most movies tend to use CGI for characters or fight scenes but for Mockingjay – Part 1, they used it for something much smaller—a white rose. The white rose that Katniss finds in her house, to be exact. The filmmakers wanted to the perfect rose but couldn’t find one so they decided to use the technology at their disposal and just make one.
14. Easiest Way to Lose Weight
Rather than have Hutcherson lose weight for Mockingjay – Part 1, the filmmakers decided to use CGI to make him look thinner. This was done because they were shooting Part 1 and Part 2 back-to-back, so it would have been hard and unsafe for him to lose all of that weight in that time period.
13. Not Another Bee Movie
There are certain factors that can’t be controlled when filming a movie on location and not in a studio, one of which is nature. This became apparent when the filming of a scene for Mockingjay – Part 1 led to several cast and crewmembers, including Jennifer and Francis, getting stung by a bunch of wasps after disturbing a nest.
12. Two Is Not Always Better Than One
Two cats were used for Buttercup in Mockingjay – Part 1 but only one was cooperative, as the other sort of marched to the beat of its own drum. They had to use a laser toy at one point just to get the cat to move and then digitally remove the laser later in post. Why they didn’t just stick with the one cat that actually listened to commands is anyone’s guess. Maybe he was busy that day?
11. 50/50 Booking
In the books, Cressida is described as being “bald with green tattoos covering her head” but in the movies, only half of her head is shaved and covered in tattoos. Natalie Dormer, the actress who plays Cressida, admitted that she was willing to shave her entire head for the role because she desperately wanted to be in The Hunger Games, but didn’t put up a fight when she was told only half of her hair had to go.
10. Odd Couple
As strange as it may sound, the movies Mockingjay – Part 1 and Inglourious Basterds have something in common—they both shot scenes at the same location in Berlin. For Mockingjay – Part 1 it was when Katniss blows up a Capitol ship. For Inglourious Basterds, it was the scene where they burn down the movie theatre.
9. Everyone Wants a Piece of the Action
The producers of The Hunger Games franchise didn’t have to reach out to big-name actors or beg them to be in the movies. Instead, the complete opposite happened. Donald Sutherland read the script for the first movie and then wrote a letter to the producers about his thoughts on President Snow before he ended up playing him. Julianne Moore petitioned for the role of President Alma Coin after her daughters recommended the books to her. Both of them also identified significantly with the political messages in the books.
8. Hanging With the Ninja Turtles
To add authenticity to the movie, or just torture the cast and crew—the reason why was never really given—a portion of the scenes that took place in the sewers in Mockingjay – Part 2 were filmed in an actual sewer. The smell wasn’t the best and the conditions were poor, to say the least.
7. More to Come
Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer has made it clear that the franchise is far from over. He sees the potential for more stories to be told in that world, either about Katniss or different characters in a spinoff, but will only move forward with a project if Collins gives her approval. The director Francis Lawrence is also open to returning for another movie as long as Collins is involved.
6. Enough Stars for a Basketball Team
The last two movies featured six actors who have either been nominated for or won an Academy Award. Hoffman, Moore, Lawrence, and Mahershala Ali have all won an Oscar whereas Harrelson and Stanley Tucci have both been nominated.
5. You Didn’t See Nothing
The filmmakers had to utilize a little bit of movie magic during the post-production of Catching Fire in order to keep their PG-13 rating. The scene where a protester is shot in front of the crowd at District 11 had to be digitally altered to have the doors close faster to shield the audience in the theater from the gunshot and death.
4. Cover Up
The scene where Johanna—played by Jena Malone—strips naked in the elevator was filmed in a real elevator in a hotel, and it wasn’t closed off during production. So, during one of the takes, when a production assistant pushed the wrong button, the doors opened on the wrong floor and a random guest standing there ended up seeing Malone topless.
3. Missed Opportunity
Nowadays, filmmakers would probably kill to have a song written and performed by Ed Sheeran on their movies soundtrack. However, that wasn’t the case in 2013, as Sheeran submitted three songs for the Catching Fire soundtrack and all three were rejected.
2. Does Anyone Have Gum?
Hemsworth revealed on The Tonight Show that he hated having to kiss Lawrence for their scenes in Mockingjay – Part 1 because before every scene she would intentionally eat food that smelled terrible, like tuna or garlic. Then, right before they had to kiss she would tell him, “I didn’t brush my teeth.” What a class act!
1. Rest in Peace
Tragedy struck The Hunger Games franchise when beloved actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman passed away before production wrapped on the last film. Hoffman had completed about 80% of his scenes but had two significant scenes left that played a huge part in the culmination of the movie. Rather than use CGI as a way to recreate Hoffman, like they did for Paul Walker in Furious 7, they decided to rewrite the script and give his lines to other characters.
Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34