Lionsgate insiders say the late Philip Seymour Hoffman had one major, emotional scene left to film in the final installment of the Hunger Games series, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, but they express confidence that filmmakers can complete the movie in a way that will satisfy fans.
“We’re all extraordinarily sad,” a Lionsgate executive tells The Hollywood Reporter. “But as it relates to production, it’s going to have no impact. Obviously, we’re going to have a couple of work-around issues but the movie will be creatively whole. His performances in both [remaining] movies will be up to the best of his craft. We feel it will be a good tribute to him.”
Asked to expand on the crucial scene that remains to be shot, this executive responded, “Why would I want to give people something to look for two years from now?” The final film in the series is set for release in November 2015.
Hoffman was found dead Sunday in his New York apartment of a suspected drug overdose. The actor had nearly completed filming of Mockingjay – Part 1, set for release in November, and had seven days of filming remaining on Part 2.
Hoffman’s character, head gamesmaker Plutarch Heavensbee, first appears in the second Hunger Games book and film, Catching Fire, but his role is expanded in the third book, Mockingjay, as his character becomes a key figure in a revolution at the center of the story. Hoffman’s character also acts as a mentor of sorts to Jennifer Lawrence‘s Katniss.
A source with ties to the project said that with the exception of one major scene in the final film, “they seem to have plans that don’t seem very complicated” to complete both pictures without Hoffman. “You can do digital things, you can have conversations where you’re not focusing on him but the people he’s talking to,” this observer said.
Rob Legato, a veteran effects supervisor whose latest credit is The Wolf of Wall Street, says he has no specific knowledge about the Hunger Games films but at this point, technology is most likely good enough to generate a convincing image of Hoffman, though some scenes might need to be rewritten. “These days the technology of using someone’s likeness is a whole lot easier to do,” he said. “I won’t say you could generate a Philip Seymour Hoffman with all the acting ability, but you could certainly replicate him for a shot or two.”
Any costs associated with Hoffman’s absence likely will be paid by insurance on the film. Universal is facing a similar, and much more troublesome, situation with Fast & Furious 7. Production on that film shut down after the sudden death of star Paul Walker in November and has yet to resume.
Legato predicts that in the future, insurance companies may require actors in big films to be scanned and have a range of facial expressions recorded in advance “in case something like this does happen — and it seems to have happened quite a bit lately.”