First off, let Catching Fire director Frances Lawrence assure the ardent fans of Suzanne Collins Hunger Games series that their sacred text will always be honored: “The movie is very, very true to the book,” he says. But when he first met Collins last spring, the two hunkered down and hammered out a new beat sheet for the sequel. And together they were merciless about what wouldn’t serve the screenplay adaptation. Here’s three changes readers should expect in the film (in theaters November 22):
1) “We made some changes to Peeta’s narrative,” says Lawrence. “We manned him up a little. And by the way it didn’t take a lot, just little choices to make here and there. The story doesn’t really change, his relationship with Katniss doesn’t change, he’s just a different kind of character.” For instance, in the book, the Hunger Games kicks off and Peeta is paralyzed when the other all-star tributes dive into the water. “The option is for either me drowning or sitting there like a cat batting my paw into the water,” says Josh Hutcherson with a laugh. “Either way the visual is horrible.” Easy fix: Let Peeta swim.
2) Goodbye Bonnie and Twill. In the book, Katniss stumbles upon the District 8 refugees in her father’s hunting cabin. There they reveal to a stunned Katniss the existence of District 13 and news of the spreading revolution our hero unintentionally sparked with her act of rebellion at the end of The Hunger Games. So the movie had to find a new way to introduce the news of District 13. “That’s fun,” says Lawrence, “figuring out new ways around things and new ways of doing things.”
3) Darius, we hardly know ye. District 12’s youngest peacekeeper, who pays dearly for intervening during that terrible scene of Gale’s public whipping, didn’t make the jump from page to screen. It’s another instance of storytellers having to drown one of their kittens. “It’s as agonizing for us to lose things from the book as it is for a fan,” says producer Nina Jacobson. “I want every single thing in there. But you know what? If you have to give up something in order to give more time to Katniss and Gale or to Effie as she starts to feel a conscience, you make the sacrifices in order to serve the characters and themes that are more essential.”
For more on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, check out the Fall Movie Preview issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands Friday.