‘Hunger Games’ Director Says Final Movies Should Have Never Been Split: “I Totally Regret It”

When the new installment in the Hunger Games franchise, a prequel film titled The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes based on Suzanne Collins’s 2020 novel, hits theaters next month, it will adapt a very long book in its entirety. Director Francis Lawrence, who also helmed three of the four original Hunger Games movies, said he learned his lesson after splitting the final Hunger Games book across two movies.

Mockingjay: Part One arrived in theaters in November 2014 and grossed more than $755 million worldwide but was ultimately viewed as an appetizer to the satisfying main course of Mockingjay: Part Two, which debuted in November 2015. The franchise’s final installment earned about $100 million less than Part One at the global box office, suggesting some fans weren’t willing to wait a full year for resolution.

“I totally regret it,” Lawrence told People of stretching the contents of Collins’s book into two films. “I’m not sure everybody does, but I definitely do.” While he originally maintained that the “two halves of Mockingjay had their own separate dramatic questions” and thus deserved individual outings, Lawrence feels differently nearly a decade later. “What I realized in retrospect—and after hearing all the reactions and feeling the kind of wrath of fans, critics and people at the split—is that I realized it was frustrating. And I can understand it.”

Lawrence and Lionsgate were ostensibly following the lead of its YA book-to-movie forebears like Twilight and Harry Potter, which also split their final films into two parts. The upside was that “we got more on the screen out of the book than we would’ve in any of the other movies because you’re getting close to four hours of screen time for the final book.”

But the filmmaker says he can see why a year-long wait between movies can feel deceitful. “In an episode of television, if you have a cliff-hanger, you have to wait a week, or you could just binge it and then you can see the next episode. But making people wait a year, I think, came across as disingenuous, even though it wasn’t,” Lawrence said. “Our intentions were not to be disingenuous.”

His peace offering ahead of the prequel? The longest Hunger Games movie ever made, at a runtime of 2 hours and 36 minutes. “I would never let them split the book in two,” Lawrence said. “There was never a real conversation about it. It’s a long book, but we got so much shit for splitting Mockingjay into two—from fans, from critics, from everybody—that I was like, ‘No way. I’ll just make a longer movie.’”

And a lengthier movie ye shall receive when The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes debuts in theaters November 17.

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