'Mockingjay' Director on Philip Seymour Hoffman's Role: We Won't "Fake a Performance"

Jordan Zakarin

Philip Seymour Hoffman and Julianne Moore in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1

The tragic death of Philip Seymour Hoffman in February stunned and saddened the world. Among the legions who mourned him: his co-stars and collaborators on The Hunger Games films. The franchise was still in production when he died and director Francis Lawrence offered some more details about that time in the new issue of Empire magazine.

“It was a horrible time, losing a friend and also someone we were working with,” said Lawrence in the cover story. (The text is not yet available online.) “He died on a Sunday, and he was supposed to shoot the next day. Once we heard, we just shut down for the day… You could hear a pin drop that first day back… We all gathered and said something about him and for him. It was tough…”

Because people trickled back to the set in waves after a break from shooting, the director said, there ended up being a series of mourning periods on set, running nearly a month long. People “needed their ramp-up time,” he said, “So we were cautious to be sensitive to everyone’s emotions.”

Unfortunately, the filmmakers also had to consider how they would complete Hoffman’s work on the two parts of Mockingjay. Earlier this year, Lawrence said that Hoffman, who played rebel Plutarch Heavensbee in the series, had about 8 to 10 days left to shoot, though many of them didn’t have much dialogue. Back in May, Lawrence said that they would insert real footage of Hoffman into those ensemble scenes, and would not be using any digital or robotic renderings of his likeness (reports from FX people working on the film had suggested otherwise).

“He had two substantial scenes left and the rest were appearances in other scenes,” Lawrence told Empire. “We had no intention of trying to fake a performance, so we rewrote those scenes to give to other actors… The rest, we just didn’t have him appear in those scenes. There’s no digital manipulation or CG fabrication of any kind.”

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 hits theaters on Nov. 21. Part 2 will premiere on Nov. 20, 2015.

Watch Hoffman in a trailer for Part 1: