Hunger Games Movie News: A Two-Part Mockingjay, Thoughts from a Make-up Artist, and some Painfully Ironic New Photos

by Elizabeth on November 6, 2011

It’s been a busy news week on the Hunger Games film front, so between spurts of getting ready for my presentation at the upcoming James Madison University Replacing Wands with Quills Conference, I’ve collected three interesting reports for our conversation here. Join me after the jump to cover film breaks, make-up, and those Vanity Fair photos.

First up, it looks like Mockingjay will indeed be a two-parter, as we suspected several months ago. This is a fascinating development, as the first film isn’t even in theaters for another five months. Yet, the Gamemakers are so sure of a hit that they are already making plans for not one sequel, but three, which will necessitate splitting Mockingjay. The faculty here have been kicking around our theories about where the break will happen. That may depend on how fans react to the upcoming split in Breaking Dawn. While most fans generally liked the quiet but ominous split point between Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’s two halves, Breaking Dawn is promising something with more, um, teeth (sorry, couldn’t resist). My bet is that the Gamemakers will weigh the options and possibilities, film the whole thing all at once, and keep us in the dark about where they’ll make the break. After all, these folks probably would unleash actual muttations into movie theaters if it would sell more tickets.

Speaking of muttations, I had a lovely online chat this week with movie monster magician Conor McCullagh, who worked with the make-up on the upcoming film. Though he couldn’t share any spoilers or spill any beans that might get him in trouble with Seneca Crane, here are some of his thoughts on being a member of the prep team (but he doesn’t have purple lipstick or set anyone on fire :)

Conor McCullagh, who has worked on films, television and other projects for over 20 years, is a make-up artist based out of Charlotte, NC, where much of The Hunger Games was filmed. I asked Conor how he became involved with this exciting film and what his work included: . “Face Off judge, and 3 time Oscar winner, Ve Niell was the department head of makeup on The Hunger Games. I ran into her last April at Monsterpalooza and she asked me to join her on the film. As the third assistant, I wasn’t in charge of any single character. I would do beauty makeup, character makeup, fantasy avant guard, prosthetics, and tattoo cover up wherever it was needed.”

I wondered if Conor, for whom monsters are a specialty, would be working on the wolf muttations unless those will be CGI. Indeed, this will be the case: “The Hunger Games is not a prosthetic heavy film. The only creatures in the film are computer generated, so most of the time, I was doing beauty makeup and maintaining actors on the set.” Though we might think it would be a wonderful experience, Conor felt the strain of filming during the hottest part of a North Carolina summer in primarily outdoor locations: “This film wasn’t easy or fun. We filmed over the summer in North Carolina. It was hot and humid for the entire 3 month shoot. My favorite part had to be the last day of shooting at Dupont Falls. As soon as we wrapped, I jumped into the waterfall and floated down stream a little.” Maybe if Conor gets to work on Catching Fire, he’ll get to work in the snow!

Though Conor hasn’t read the novel yet (only the script), he was very impressed with the work of the actors and most looks forward to seeing their performances in the movie: “I really believe that the cast is the driving force in this film. As difficult as this film was to work on, I think it’s going to turn out great.” Conor also compliments the many “talented people in every department… everyone really busted their butts on this one.” So it sounds like the film was truly a labor of love. Thanks, Conor! Look for his work in the movie (he’s really good with injuries, though it sounds like he was often in the service of Capitol vanity).

And, speaking of vanity, Vanity Fair has a new photo spread of the young cast members of the film. Most of the spots are glamour poses with the actors playing Katniss, Gale, and Peeta. These all, as you can see, add to the misconception that this is a love-triangle story instead of a war story (as Collins has always viewed it). These images only make me wonder more how disappointed the movie goers will be to discover that this is not the kind of story they think they are being sold. While those of us who have read the books just find the photos a little confusing, non-readers will be deceived, and probably more than a little annoyed.

The really weird picture is this lovely high-school yearbook group picture, shot on set in NC. While our cast members all look like they are having a good time and enjoying working together, the poses are as contrived as any Tribute chariot ride costume.

The two cute creatures on the left hardly look like two of the Games’ most lethal killers, Clove and Marvel. Clove, of course, stabs the boy who tries to get the backpack Katnisss grabs at the bloodbath, gloats over Rue’s death, and tries to kill Katniss before having her own skull smashed in by Thresh. Marvel, from District 1, actually kills Rue. And he looks like such as nice boy….

The actors who play Foxface and Thresh, and who seem to have become good friends through the filming (based on their tweets) are paired up. Of course, their complexions contrast nicely, but they are also playing two of the last characters to be eliminated from the Games.

Lovely Glimmer takes center stage, no surprise. I’m wondering if Conor got to do her Tracker Jacker sting make-up. Shudder.

The tiny little girl who plays Rue, is placed directly beside Alexander Ludwig, who plays Cato. This gives us a nice contrast in size, of course, but these characters also represent the gamut of responses to the Games: Rue goes to the arena against her will, and with the possible exception of Peeta, is only Tribute we know never kills another. She flies trough the trees and is Katniss’s true friend before being caught in a net, like a bird, and dying fairly quickly. Cato, a volunteer Career tribute, is a brute who falls out when he tries to climb a tree, kills for fun as well as survival, and may even be insane. He is gnawed for hours by the wolf muttations before Katniss mercy-kills him.

Our three principals are over on the right, with “Katniss” sandwiched between “Peeta” and “Gale,” but not touching either one of them.
If you’d like to know more about the characters and the actors, you can scroll over the picture on the website. It’s a good bit like the Ceaser Flickerman interview, informative but disturbing. The upcoming book tie-ins have something of the same effect.

Now, before someone pipes up to say I’m reading more into this image than I should, that this is just an innocent, candid pic (ha! Is anything innocent in Hollywood? Even when it’s the North Carolina outpost of Hollywood, no.), check out their clothes. These are not just the clothes the actors happened to be wearing that day, or, even if some of them were wearing some of these pieces, I can guarantee that they were “tweaked” to give the whole thing the sort of sepia- tone that the filmmakers used as a color palette in many of the District shots. Is it an accident that “Rue” has bare little bird legs above her boots? That our Katniss is the only one wearing a jacket, and that her father’s jacket is a critical prop in the story? That the clothes “Marvel” wears look vaguely Nazi-ish? That “Foxface” is the only one with anything floral (her dress is trimmed with flower eyelet) and that character is killed by a plant? The odds are not in favor of coincidence.

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