'Hunger Games' Producer Nina Jacobson on Movie Backstory; Firing from Disney (Q&A)

 Christopher Patey

The executive tells THR how she ushered the YA novel to the big screen, picked herself up after Disney let her go, and who helped her along the way.

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THR: Weren't you looking at a smaller budget initially?
Jacobson: Not really, because it was all theoretical at that point. Without a filmmaker, any budget that you make is really a bit of guesswork. Gary's early assumptions turned out to be pretty realistic, and nobody ever actually figured out a way to make the movie for less in any real way.

THR: Given the violence in the book, were there any concerns about securing a PG-13 rating? Did you have to negotiate with the ratings board?
Jacobson: We shared the book with them before we shot the movie. They understood this was a book aimed at 12 and up, and they gave me some guidance, which we took seriously. The book described conflict in the arena in detail. The movie needed to be more elliptical but still be honest to the subject. You can't gloss over it, and I think Gary found a way.

THR: Has Lionsgate's purchase of Summit, which releases the Twilight movies, affected you or resulted in changes in the movie's rollout?
Jacobson: Not that I know of. It's been beneficial to have the experience and data of the Twilight folks, and they're a part of it. But the plan was already in place before they got there.

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THR: Why did you decide to bring Brad Simpson, who produced the Wimpy Kid movies with you, into your company as a partner?
Jacobson: I am happy to keep working on books because I'm always reading, and I'm always trying to fall in love. But there are also filmmakers out there whose work I admire, whether it's Chris Nolan or Neill Blomkamp. There's as much great authorship in the filmmaker community as in the literary community, and I'd love to welcome more filmmakers into the fold. What we've tried to do is put a lot of time into a few things. And yet if you use that model, you end up not able to do very many movies at a time. I'm not looking to suddenly quadruple our output, but I would like us to be able to make two to three movies a year. We've made five movies in the last three years, but that's been made possible by the fact that Brad was with me on Wimpy.

THR: The third Wimpy Kid is coming out Aug. 3. Are you going to keep making them?
Jacobson: I think that's it for now. It's about kids in middle school, and our cast -- which is great -- they've grown up. So I think this third one will be it.

THR: You were famously fired from Disney while still in the hospital after giving birth. How did you rally back?
Jacobson: It's definitely a tough blow to your morale to get fired. People were pretty nice to me and rooting for me to dust myself off and assume a new role. I had people in my corner, but it still was scary. I had never produced before, and I was a little bit intimidated. It's a different feeling, being a producer. You have to be proactive and intelligently reactive. I made sure to surround myself with people who had done it a lot more than I had.

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