How Will 'Mockingjay' Handle Philip Seymour Hoffman's Death?

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In the wake of Philip Seymour Hoffman's death questions began to arise about his unfinished projects, and attention has now turned to the most high profile of those: the final installments of The Hunger Games franchise. 

Hoffman had, according to Lionsgate, finished most of his work on the first part of Mockingjay, but had seven days left to shoot on the second. The Hollywood Reporter's Kim Masters reported earlier this week that a "crucial scene might need to be reconceived." The Lionsgate executive wouldn't tell Masters specifics about that scene, but a source connected to the project told her that "they seem to have plans that don’t seem very complicated." The source said: "You can do digital things, you can have conversations where you’re not focusing on him but the people he’s talking to." 

That last quote, of course, was bound to raise eyebrows, and now the New York Post's Natalie O'Neill ran with the headline "'Hunger Games' to digitally recreate Hoffman." O'Neill sites sources to write that the filmmakers "will digitally recreate late actor Philip Seymour Hoffman in a major yet-to-be-shot scene." She also uses Master's quote from the THR story, so it's unclear whether O'Neill is actually saying anything different or simply using a flashier headline. 

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Plenty of Hollywood productions before have had to contend with the loss of a star. Sources told THR back in January that Universal planned to "retire" Paul Walker's Fast & Furious character following Walker's death. Following Heath Ledger's death in 2008, Terry Gilliam decided to finishing work on The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus by replacing Ledger with three other actors. 

And productions have resorted to digital means before in this scenario. Famously, The Sopranos gave Tony Soprano's mother played by Nancy Marchand one final scene with the help of CGI. The scene has its detractors. "At all times, Livia seems like something out of that Polar Express movie, something from the other side of the uncanny valley," Todd VanDerWerff wrote in 2010 at The A.V. Club

One of the key differences in the Mockingjay situation is that the filmmakers are dealing with already existing source material that has the burden of fan expectations attached to it.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.