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The latest news about "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1"

Fans of Suzanne Collins' book-turned-movie trilogy "The Hunger Games" are avidly awaiting the next release in this popular franchise. Following in the footsteps of the "Harry Potter" franchise, the final installment for "The Hunger Games," based on the third and final book in the series, will be released in two parts. "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1" is slated to be released on Nov. 21, 2014. The final chapter, "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2," will come out on Nov. 15, 2015. This release strategy places each portion of the series approximately one year apart, a formula Lionsgate Entertainment has determined to be profitable in the theaters and useful in building tension and expectation between films. For fans wondering what the latest is on "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1," here's a look at current studio news and a sneak peak of what's to come.

The most shocking news to impact "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1" was the sudden and untimely death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. Hoffman, just 46 years old, was found unresponsive on Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014 in his Manhattan apartment. He was the victim of an apparent drug overdose. Sadly, the actor was found with a needle still in his arm and heroin in his home. Hoffman played the flamboyant role of Plutarch Heavensbee in "The Hunger Games" series, a highly visible character who emerges prominently in "Catching Fire" as the Head Game-maker. In the next two installments, Hoffman's role takes an even larger scope as a leader of rebel forces.

Fans, upon hearing of Hoffman's death, were concerned about how this would affect the remaining films in the series. Lionsgate rushed to reassure fans that Hoffman's filming was already completed for "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1," and only seven days remained for filming scenes with his character in the second part. Presumably, the studio will use stand-ins and careful plot modifications to complete filming of "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2" to avoid having to replace Hoffman. This would be following the lead of many other films impacted by the death of actors filling lead roles.

Filming for "Mockingjay" began in September 2013, with plans to film both parts back-to-back. Although the cast and crew took a break from production when "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" released on Nov. 22, 2013, filming quickly resumed in early December to keep the timeline on track for the announced release date.

With very little filming work remaining for both parts of the series finale, work will soon turn to the post-production duties of turning the extensively staged footage into another big screen blockbuster. That blockbuster will include one notable addition to the cast that fans will love: Julianne Moore.

Julianne Moore has been cast for both halves of "Mockingjay," filling the role of Alma Coin. Coin is the President of heroine Katniss Everdeen's District 13 and later a leader of the rebellion against the Capitol. Fans who have read the series know that Coin and Everdeen face off in "Mockingjay" and should be excited to see Moore and actress Jennifer Lawrence act opposite each other.

For a few sneak peeks of what's to come in "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1," fans have to look no further than the recently released theatrical posters and some surprising images of the film's actors at recent awards celebrations. A first glimpse at the "Mockingjay" poster reveals a prominent and proud bird featured front and center on the poster surrounded by the symbol of the games and a fiery background. The poster ties together this film with its predecessors while distinguishing the latest film and the importance of its namesake bird.

Natalie Dormer recently sported a half-shaved head at the January 2014 Screen Actor Guild Awards, a sneak peak of her character's unique style in "Mockingjay." Dormer portrays Cressida, a director in the Capitol who, with her film crew, projects images of the rebellion-in-progress as lead by Katniss. "Hunger Games" fans are already familiar with the sometimes startling attire sported by residents of the Capitol, especially when compared with that of the impoverished Districts. Differing slightly from descriptions of this character in the novel, Dormer's head is only half-shaven for the movie instead of fully buzzed.

With time moving quickly toward the next release, "Hunger Games" enthusiasts will also soon have the opportunity to catch the DVD release of "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," which will be released on March 7, 2014. From there, it will be only a short six months until Katniss, Peeta and the rest of gang are back on the big screen wowing fans.

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