Comic-Con 2015: The ‘Hunger Games’ Cast Says Goodbye to San Diego

It was a sad day for Katniss fans at San Diego Comic-Con on Thursday as the cast of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 appeared in Hall H for the very last time. The film, which is scheduled for release on November 20th, is the fourth and final installment of the popular franchise based on the novels of the same name. 

On hand were the film’s stars, Academy Award-winner Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, and Willow Shields, as well as director Francis Lawrence and producer Nina Jacobson. After the Hall H presentation, the cast gathered at the Hilton Bayfront Hotel to answer questions from the press. 

In the upcoming film, Katniss and her group finally go to war with President Snow. Jennifer Lawrence was asked about that aspect of the movie and if she thinks it mirrors real life. “Well, I think that there were a lot of books that went by without a war. We held off for as long as we could,” she laughed. “This is, obviously, a fictional story about a fictional government. I think that at the bare minimum, we hope an audience walks away with, especially a young audience, thinking that you shouldn’t just follow the feet in front of you. But yes, the bare minimum of what we’re trying to do is inspire people to think.”

Related: Comic-Con 2015: Watch the Dance-tastic New ‘Mockingjay’ Teaser

“Also, I think it’s a lot about the consequences of war,” Josh Hutcherson added. “It’s about all the efforts that were made and all the things that went wrong to get to the point where we had to go to war. ‘So stopping it before it gets to that point, I think, is a big message as well. Seeing how everything went wrong, how extreme it had to become and how it couldn’t be stopped earlier. I also think you have the power of the media in this movie and its influence over people. Then it’s about how powerful of a tool or weapon that can be, and the dangers of extreme control, power and suppression of cultures through the government. Glorified violence is another thing, especially in the first couple of Hunger Games. It’s a bit of a cautionary tale about how the way things could go.”

Director Francis Lawrence and producer Nina Jacobson also weighed in on the film’s subject matter. “Well, I think some of the ideas that we really get into in Mockingjay 2, is the complexities of war that Josh was just speaking about,” the director said. “The big idea is this gray quality of war that is confusing, and it’s complex. It’s never an easy decision whether a war is needed or not, and unfortunately, we’re surrounded by war all the time.

“I think that once you disrupt the story the establishment wants to tell, anything can happen, and change becomes possible if people are brave enough to pursue it,” added Jacobson. “The Capitol has complete control over the media in the first movie. But Katniss begins to break that with Peeta in the end of the first movie. Over the course of this revolution, who is in charge of the media and what they do with it becomes enormously important to the outcome. It is only sort of through the pursuit of truth and the defiance of the system that our characters ultimately create change, but it doesn’t come easily. I think that mindfulness is something very potent that this material raises and I think that audiences really understand.”

Related: Comic-Con 2015: See the New ‘Mockingjay’ Motion Poster

While still on the subject of war, Jennifer Lawrence was asked if she thinks that Katniss really believes in the revolution, or if she is just playing the role that is expected of her. “I wouldn’t say that I was manipulated. I would call it more of a sense of survival. I don’t think there was really believable hope of a revolution. At the beginning of Katniss’ story, I think she was trying to save her sister. Then she was trying to save herself, and then Peeta. Waking up in District 13 changed things. Losing Peeta changed things. I believe that she kind of grows into her position and takes control over her own destiny, and in that, the revolution. So I think that for a while it was a growing, developing thing. She was a young girl and was just trying to survive. She was scared and I don’t think that she really wanted a war. The whole movie is about the consequence of war and how important it is to kind of try to avoid something like that. That’s something that I really love about this movie is that’s when she takes power and decides that she does want to be the Mockingjay, but that she does believe in that cause. But it took many years and many books to get there.”

Willow Shields, who plays Katniss’ sister Primrose, was just a child when she made the first movie, and she was asked to talk about how her character has changed over the course of the series. “I think I started when I was 10, so I didn’t even know how to form a sentence then,” she joked. “For me, going from 10 to 15, and playing the same character, then going back and filming each movie every year was an incredible experience. My evolution of Prim has been really amazing for me to read the books and kind of try to portray as best as I can. I feel like her evolution is really amazing to watch because she really grows up a lot, and she’s really there for Katniss in the last two films.”

Liam Hemsworth then jumped in to discuss his character’s arc throughout the series. “I think Gale is sort of right where he wants to be right now. He’s an emotional, strong willed, independent, angry young man. A lot of things have happened to him. His biggest motivation, his biggest drive now is to take down the Capitol. That’s all he’s really thinking about. I think his focus becomes less about Katniss and more about being in this war. He’s kind of a little bit of a ticking time bomb in a way, because Katniss and Gale have very different views about what’s acceptable in war and what’s wrong. He’s willing to do anything to end this problem.”

Hemsworth also talked about making the final movie and what it was like to say goodbye to the cast. “I think it was difficult for all of us. It was extremely emotional to have this project come to an end. I think we’re all really lucky to have made such good friends and shared such a special experience together. It was a crazy world to be thrown into and an amazing project to be a part of. I think about the person I was when we made the first film, and the person I am right now. All of us have grown up and changed so much.”

“It is really sad to not have that anymore,” agreed Shields. “It was just something that I knew was going to happen every year. So it’s weird to not have that anymore.”

Finally, with the series coming to an end and the cast now making their last appearance in San Diego, Hutcherson talked about what the Comic-Con experience has been like for him as an actor. “It’s a little dark,” he joked. “I mean, for me, it’s been amazing and coming to Comic Con is like the central hub for fandom, so to step into this world and get to visit Hall H is so cool. To bring these movies that people are so passionate about to the fans, and to have the whole cast here to get to meet and have some kind of interaction with them, it’s really rewarding for us. It’s sad to know that we’re not coming back here for this again, that’s for sure.”