Philip Seymour Hoffman Will Be Digitally Recreated for Unfinished ‘Mockingjay – Part 2′ Scene

Published 1 year ago by , Updated February 16th, 2014 at 9:40 am,

Philip Seymour Hoffman Mockingjay Part 2 Digital Double Philip Seymour Hoffman Will Be Digitally Recreated for Unfinished Mockingjay   Part 2′ Scene

In the wake of the tragic news that critically acclaimed actor Philip Seymour Hoffman had passed away, one big question was left lingering: had the actor finished his work on The Hunger Games sequel, Mockingjay Part 2? Certain filmgoers might think concern over the fate of Hoffman’s work in the young adult novel adaptation series was unnecessary, given the breadth of the fan-favorite performer’s career in movies and on stage; yet, Hoffman was a standout in the well-received second installment, Catching Fire, and many fans (young and old) were eager to see him return in the two remaining sequels.

Unfortunately, even though Lionsgate Entertainment had combined portions of Mockingjay Part 1 and Part 2‘s shooting schedules, it was later confirmed that Hoffman did not yet complete his contributions to the film series – and had one final scene to film. Therefore, it was unclear whether the studio, and director Francis Lawrence, would recast the role or simply remove the scene altogether. Now, we’re getting word that the filmmakers intend to digitally recreate the actor – to ensure that the scene, a key moment for the character, is included.

hunger games mockingjay part 2 philip seymour hoffman 570x294 Philip Seymour Hoffman Will Be Digitally Recreated for Unfinished Mockingjay   Part 2′ Scene

At this point, the report, courtesy of The New York Post, is unofficial but allegedly comes from sources close to the production. The news isn’t a total surprise, as the idea had previously been floated as a possibility back when we first learned that Hoffman still had one scene left to complete. Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, a Lionsgate insider revealed how Lawrence could use a digital double to finish Hoffman’s missing scene – which has been described as a “heartfelt” moment for the former Gamemaker, Plutarch Heavensbee:

“They seem to have plans that don’t seem very complicated [...] You can do digital things, you can have conversations where you’re not focusing on him but the people he’s talking to.”

At the time, THR interviewed effects guru Rob Legato to find out what Lawrence might, in theory, do with a recreated Hoffman for the scene. While Legato has no connection to The Hunger Games production, he theorized that a digital recreation of the deceased actor would easily work (in moderation):

“These days the technology of using someone’s likeness is a whole lot easier to do. I won’t say you could generate a Philip Seymour Hoffman with all the acting ability, but you could certainly replicate him for a shot or two.”

hunger games mockingjay philip seymour hoffman 570x294 Philip Seymour Hoffman Will Be Digitally Recreated for Unfinished Mockingjay   Part 2′ Scene

Book series fans might have some idea of which scene, in particular, is causing trouble for Lionsgate; though, the studio has already made changes to the novel adaptations – with plenty more to come in the final two installments. As a result, it’s hard for anyone outside of the production to determine the best course of action in this difficult time – especially since the scene might require a pretty involved performance (possibly including dialogue) since it has been described as a significant moment for Heavensbee. Digital recreations of deceased or aged performers have been a mixed bag over the last few years – with many moviegoers still cringing at the awkward inclusion of an all-digital (and youngified) Jeff Bridges as Clu 2 in Tron: Legacy or, similarly, Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator Salvation.

That said, as Legato suggests, Hoffman’s digital double might only need to be utilized in a few isolated shots (and could even use audio pulled from earlier read-throughs or other sources) – meaning that even if it can’t replicate the talented actor’s nuances, it could bridge the missing pieces and ensure that the majority of Hoffman’s actual performance can still be utilized in the final film. Every year digital effects improve upon the “uncanny valley” – meaning that six years between Terminator Salvation (in 2009) and Mockingjay Part 2‘s expected release (in 2015) is significant and could help calm digital skeptics. After all, Mockingjay would release a full fifteen years after a digital double of actor Oliver Reed was used in Gladiator – following the performer’s sudden death (before completing his scenes).

Philip Seymour Hoffman Catching Fire1 Philip Seymour Hoffman Will Be Digitally Recreated for Unfinished Mockingjay   Part 2′ Scene

Of course, whether or not Lionsgate can replicate a convincing performance for Hoffman also raises the question of when to utilize similar technology going forward. Should we be allowed to bring back long-dead actors and stick them into modern movies? Hoffman’s digital “performance” will still be part of his onscreen legacy – causing a murky grey area between what ownership actors actually have over their performances. I’m sure we’d all love to see Heath Ledger’s Joker back for Batman vs. Superman (he was, allegedly, contracted for two films) but most people agree that would be an inappropriate jump. Time will tell where Hollywood draws the line but, in the case of Mockingjay – Part 2, it’s great that (assuming they pull it off) a digital recreation will prevent a last-minute recasting, and allow fans to see the majority of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s hard work – long after he left us.


ALSO: 10 Great Philip Seymour Hoffman Performances


 The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 opens in theaters on November 21st, 2014, followed by Part 2 a year later on November 20th, 2015.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for updates on The Hunger Games series as well as future movie, TV, and gaming news.

Sources: The New York Post and THR

Follow Ben Kendrick on Twitter @benkendrick
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  1. Like you said, technology advances could help but I didn’t really see an issue with the T-800 in Terminator Salvation, mainly because only the face was digitally created and placed on the body of an actor who played Arnold in a low budget biopic and even then, you couldn’t really see the face properly due to lighting and smoke machines.

    I guess if it’s an explicit face shot then it may be necessary but I still think the old-fashioned method of body double/lookalike (similar to the filming of key scenes in The Crow after Brandon Lee’s death before he finished making that movie) would work just as well, along with a talented impressionist to nail the voice.

    • Honestly, the Arnold effect looked great until they did that one close-up shot. As long as they steer away from focusing on the faces too much, digital recreations look pretty good for the most part. That’s one of the problems I had with Tron: Legacy, but at least in it’s defense, the plot needed to focus on CLU’s face since he was the main villain.

    • I personally don’t like it when I can detect digital recreations. Even in Man of Steel, every time Superman went from a digital being to the real thing, I could notice the transitions, and I could notice the odd body movements when it was all digital. I know it can’t be helped and is necessary, but yeah, I don’t like it when I can detect these things (and I almost always can, even subtle changes, like when Superman is flying around looking for Zod, the camera comes from behind him towards his face, and it subtly transforms from a digital face to his real face.)

  2. This is a good idea. Whoever has doubts, watch the film The Crow. Brandon Lee died before finishing several key scenes, but managed to finish them with a body double and pre recorded voices. Some of these scenes including only showing specific parts of the character’s faces (eyes, mouth), or keeping the body double in the shadow, or even just having the body double in a position where you cannot see his face. Watching The Crow several times before realizing this fact, I was shocked they managed to get away with it so convincingly.

  3. Perhaps I’m confusing this (and somebody pls correct me if I am) but didnt the production/director of the movie state that he only have one more scene left to film.. But that it was a pivotal & emotional scene? Cg him for shots where he’s not the primary focus sure, but have a digital version emote on screen? Idk, they could focus more on the other actors reactions etc. suppose it all depends how central yhe figures in the scene where they would need to use cg. Hope they pull it off.

    • Unfortunately, about 7 days of filming are missing…

  4. This is just ten kinds of wrong. I knew it was just a matter of time before Hollywood decided to digitally insert deceased actors giving new performances, and it just rubs me the wrong way on every level.

    The first is that you’d be attributed a performance Hoffman never gave to him. It could be a legitimately good performance, it most likely will be stilted CG over a terrible voice impression. It doesn’t matter, it isn’t HIS performance.

    There’s no easy answer when something like this happens. If the scene is so pivotal to the character that you can’t go without it, recasting the character seems to me to be the more respectful choice. Even if that means throwing out all the footage that’s already been filmed with him in it and reshooting, so that you’re not switching actors mid-film, that’s still more respectful to Hoffman than trying to create a perfomance for him that he never gave.

    The best idea is to write around it, though. That’s also one of the harder ideas, especially if it’s a pivotal character- or plot moment. I don’t know, I didn’t read the books, but I think diverting from them to accommodate for Hoffman’s death is more than understandable.

    • This is a two-part, expensive blockbuster conclusion to a franchise. Refilming his scenes are OUT of the question, just from the financial stand point. Re-writing the scene could drastically effect continuity and taint the effectiveness of the story line. And your “just a matter of time” was about twenty years ago, as people have stated above, when Brandon Lee tragically died before principal photography had wrapped on The Crow. It was done fairly seamlessly and respectfully then, it can be done just the same now. I think Mr. Hoffman would approve, rather than have his final performance thrown in the trash and filmed with another actor, or re-written and most likely ruin the arc of a character that he worked so hard to bring to life.

    • They did it perfectly fine and with respect to Oliver Reed in “Gladiator” and nobody seemed to object then. Did you?

      • damn i didn’t even know about that, i never noticed it….

  5. I was thinking of the Count Dooku fight scene at the beginning of Star Wars 3. It was another person with CLee’s face digitally added. 10 years later, it would be even better.

    • That was only for long shots. Lee did most of the fight himself.

      • …and it showed! His fighting was lame and blatantly revealed his age.

  6. Gotta do what you gotta do.

  7. Why not? This is exactly the kind of usage CGI has been invented for, not those ridiculous 3D animation flicks… recreating photorealistic characters based on motion-capture technology is the only path I want this technology to be used for…

    It’s far, far better than having any LEGO bricks recreated digitally… Oh…I hate thise movie and its critical success so much… yes, even more and far stronger hatred than for Eisenberg’s Luthor last week… Don’t get me wrong… There is nothing wrong with having an insignificant kids flick called LEGO movie, but when this “movie” becomes one of the best-rated movies of all times it ceases to be funny…

    It’s okay to criticize 47 Ronin, I, Frankenstein or Legend of Hercules for minor details… there are far from perfect. But at least they are movies! But LEGO? Really? NOPE! Never ever…

  8. I hope this isn’t going to be another Jeff Daniels Tron: Legacy situation.

    • …You mean…Jeff Bridges…?

  9. they should use tom cruise and put a mask on his face. it worked in mission impossible 3.