How the 'Hunger Games' Got Their Guns
It's not easy arming a rebellion across borders
The Hunger Games rebellion was almost squashed — not by the Capitol's forces, but by international gun laws.
In Mockingjay — Part 1, Jennifer Lawrence's Katniss Everdeen sports a fiery bow and arrow, but everyone else in the dystopian Panem needs to rely on conventional weapons. For the film's production team, that meant a couple dozen real-world FN F2000 assault rifles and FN P90 machine guns — futuristic-looking firearms often used by the military. But it also presented a problem: how to get the weapons shipped to Europe for back-to-back shoots in different countries, all on a tight schedule. Like all firearms used in movies, prop assault rifles and machine guns are modified to shoot blanks, but are still regulated as guns by local, state, federal and international governments.
The entire process starts in the U.S., which is notoriously more lax about guns than most countries. "Any film going overseas, we’re sending our armorers; they’re in control the whole time, according to U.S. law," says Karl Weschta, general manager of the armory at Independent Studio Services, the Southern California prop house that supplied the guns. "Now, Germany has different laws, and they want their people in control or their police force in control the whole time. So we have multiple responsible parties when guns are overseas. And everybody is in charge, essentially. And of course ... our State Department wants to know who the foreign person is that’s going to be responsible, as well."
Due to the U.S. legal restrictions, the guns couldn’t be sent off to Europe and then hop from country to country, causing complications for the multi-national shoot. "We can’t take the firearms and ship them out to France, and then go from France to Germany with them,” says Weschta. “We could do it, but they would have to come back here [to the U.S.] first and then go back out anyway."
Ultimately, two discrete batches were sent — one to France, and one to Germany. “Luckily, the kind of firearms they were using, we were able to make it work for both," he says. "I think there were some supplemental guns that came out of an armory in the U.K., and also in Germany."
Parts of the movie, including the "propo" propaganda videos Katniss stars in, were shot in Paris. The film's French weapons handler — or armourer — was Christophe Maratier.
"The guns from ISS had to go back to the United States because of the temporary export license that was for France only," he says. "These import licenses are given by customs authorities and allow [the production] to send weapons for a limited time only in one country. We had some weapons from ISS, and we supplied FN Herstal P90s and F2000s and some handguns from our stock."
While the weapons eventually landed back in the United States, ready to to fight another day in some other cinematic universe, some will carry the scars of the Hunger Games with them for life.
"The German government actually proof-marked our firearms; they stamped them," says Weschta. "Because any firearm coming into Germany has to be approved by the German government. They don’t just approve it on paper — they actually take and etch the metal with their stamp — a proof mark saying that they’ve certified these guns are safe for use."
But ISS wasn't the only one whose guns went through a change. Maratier adds: "We had to paint them in white and grey to match with the movie designs."
While the situation is not ideal, Weschta says it's part of the cost of doing business. "You’ve got some valuable firearms going over there; you don’t wanna have them all stamped by the German government," he explains. "But you know, that’s what we do. We make movies, and that was part of the requirement for that movie."
Lionsgate, the film's distributor, did not respond to a request for comment.