No Digital Tricks for Philip Seymour Hoffman in Hunger Games: Mockingjay

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The tragic death of an actor during a film’s production is a huge blow, not only to the talent’s family, friends and fans, but also to the project itself. Many productions over the years have had the hard task of deciding how to complete a film after an actor suddenly passes. While body-doubles, deleted scenes, and re-writes have been utilised to work around the key loss, the rise in technology has seen computer generated trickery play a hand in having a deceased actor complete a role.

Philip Seymour Hoffman passed away early this year, before completing his parts in Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 and 2. While early reports suggested that CGI would be used to complete Hoffman’s role as Plutarch Heavensbee, director Francis Lawrence has said that no “digital trickery” has been used to finish the actor’s scenes.

Speaking to HuffPost Live, Lawrence revealed that other actors were tasked with taking on his dialogue.

“He had two scenes with dialogue that were left and we decided we didn’t want to try any kind of digital trickery with him, so we rewrote his scenes and gave his dialogue to other actors,” Lawrence said. “So there was one scene from Part 1 and one scene from Part 2, so we shot both movies back to back.”

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Lawrence said that the decision to not use CGI to fill in for Hoffman came down to the respect he had for the actor.

“He was one of the greatest actors, I think, of all time and I just think to try to fake a Philip Seymour Hoffman performance would have been catastrophic and I would never want to do that,” Lawrence said. “I just think this was the best way to be able to get around such a horrible thing.”

Other examples of CGI being used after an actor’s untimely demise include Oliver Reed’s passing during Gladiator, which saw him digitally removed from an earlier scene to a later moment in order to give him a final line before his character exits; CGI and a latex mask being used to replicate Roy Schneider after he passed while filming Iron Cross; and Brandon Lee’s face being digitally placed onto the heads of doubles after he was tragically killed in an accidental shooting while filming The Crow.

Furious 7 was delayed for a long period when one of its key stars, Paul Walker, passed away in a car accident. His character is set to “retire” in the upcoming film, which will use past footage and Walker’s brothers as stand-ins to complete his part.

Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 hits U.S. cinemas on 21 November 2014.