By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood July 23, 2013 at 9:19PM
For the first time Lionsgate brought "Hunger Games" to Hall H at Comic-Con. The original three books sold 50 million in the U.S. alone, and spent 200 consecutive weeks on the bestseller list more than three years. The first film is the 13th highest grossing of all time. The panel introduced new director Francis Lawrence, who replaced Gary Ross, and is directing not only "Catching Fire" (November 22) but the two "Mockingjay" films. The new trailer (below) looks strong, as the story closely follows the beats of Suzanne Collins' novel.
The victors of the last Hunger Games, District 12's Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark (Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson), are too popular with the public to be allowed to thrive, so President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and his lieutenant (Philip Seymour Hoffman) determine that they will throw a group of former victors back into the 75th Hunger Games. This will pit archer Katniss against Peeta again as well as other experienced killers, including Beetee (Jeffrey Wright), Johanna Mason (Jena Malone) and Finnick (Sam Cafflin, who was filming overseas).
Right off the bat on the panel, Lawrence and Hutcherson debated their true feelings for each other. Her love for him in "Hunger Games" "was an act," said Hutcherson. "It's complicated," insisted Lawrence. They got to share a slobbering wet kiss that involved serious snot exchange, Lawrence said. She hopes it will wind up on the DVD. Her favorite outfit to look at was her wedding dress, which was huge, five feet in circumference. "Wearing it was one of hardest things I've ever done in my life and you can tell in the movie it was giant. I'm not good in dresses, as we know."
She spent time with Collins, flying out to meet her in New York and go through the book with her. In this story you see more of the districts on the victory tour, as well as more of the capitol, Lawrence said.
For Lawrence, the stakes weren't as high as in the first book. Back then, "I was going through the first round on 'Winter's Bone,' I was 18. It had just came out, it was this new world, I was wearing dresses, I don't look like myself, listening to hair and makeup people, feeling not a part of this new world. I recognized that hugely in the first book. In the second book, it's become a part of you."
Training was a given: Lawrence did archery, free running, parkour, and front rolls. During filming, "I was running up mountains all day and trying not to hit myself in the face with my bow."
Liam Hemsworth (Gale Hawthorne) admitted that it was "interesting to turn up to work and get whipped for three days straight. I was not scared, it's acting, you won't get hurt, but after three days of getting hit with anything its going to start to hurt."
For new entry Jena Malone, landing a part in the movie was "like opening a candy bar and getting a golden ticket. Me among all the kids in the universe?"
Jeffrey Wright added, "We just had to step in and step up. Jennifer and Josh are the funniest pair, a joy to work with. They have a language all their own. The chemistry on-screen is a reflection of their friendship off-screen."