When Philip Seymour Hoffman was cast as Head Gamemaker and revolutionary Plutarch Heavensbee, starting with 2013’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, you just knew he was going to bring that certain extra something.
He did, of course, and he would have brought even more, but the Oscar winner died of a heroin overdose on Feb. 2, 2014, with eight days of production left on Mockingjay—Part 2, which wasn’t due out until November 2015.
“It was about as horrible a thing that can happen. It was just completely tragic. It threw us all,” director Francis Lawrence told Vulture in 2014, when Mockingjay—Part 1 was coming out. “There were two substantial scenes that he had left, scenes with dialogue. All the other scenes he had were appearances in scenes where he had no dialogue.”
With a week left to go, Francis tried to accommodate a cast and crew that was all of a sudden in mourning, bringing them back to set at first for half-days of filming, with no extras around, before they had to go big again.
One of those “substantial scenes” was an emotional face-to-face moment with Jennifer Lawrence‘s Katniss Everdeen in the final film that Hoffman had been discussing with Francis but never got to bring to fruition. Some digital effects were used to make it seem as if Plutarch was around more than he was, but the director largely used what he had—and the never-shot scene in question turned into Woody Harrelson‘s Haymitch reading a letter from Plutarch to Katniss.
“It took a week when I wasn’t waking up and having to remember he was gone. We all suffered that together,” Jennifer said of Hoffman. About working with the actor’s stunt double, “This was just a few days after he died. Nobody could look at [the double]. I kept thinking it was Phil, it was a constant reminder that Phil was gone. I went up to him at the end of the day and just apologized because I couldn’t imagine how awful that was.”
Hoffman had several films still to be released when he died, but Mockingjay—Part 2 was the last to arrive in theaters, 20 months later. Francis told USA Today in 2015, when the series concluded, “I regret to have that kind of label of it being his last film. Because obviously, there’s not quite enough of him in it. I would have liked his role to be larger.”