When director Francis Lawrence signed on to join "The Hunger Games" franchise, he probably didn't realize what he was getting himself into, what with the pressure, the jokes and the...puppies? 

HitFix's Katie Hasty sat down with the director to discuss the newest installment "Mockingjay - Part I," its Oscar-winning star, and its musical influences.

Lawrence (no relation to Jennifer Lawrence, of course) joined the series on "Catching Fire," after "Hunger Games" director Gary Ross exited, and helped develop the franchise into a serious  pop culture juggernaut.

Despite working on "Fire," Lawrence still felt some pressure when it came to calling the shots on "Mockingjay," which expands the franchise's world significantly and is noticeably darker than its predecessors. 

"I felt a different kind of pressure," he explains. "[On 'Catching Fire'], I had to prove myself a little bit as the new guy in the game. It was a relief that it was received well by the fans. Even though I was relieved, it was only momentary; it sort of set the bar higher for the next one!"

As for the other Lawrence, the director says the actress fully embodies her character, even though she was initially wary of the role. "She fills the shoes," Francis Lawrence says of Jennifer Lawrence. "She so is Katniss, nobody else could play Katniss."

Lawrence also acknowledges that the film is darker that the previous films, but the set was light-hearted sand full of jokesters. He compares directing Lawrence and the rest of the cast -- including Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth -- to "wrangling puppies," although he adds that they took the actual shooting very seriously. 

Lawrence also talks about the musical contributions from Lorde, and reveals that he listened to the "Gravity" soundtrack on set for inspiration.

"Mockingjay" also stars Julianne Moore, Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Sam Claflin and Philip Seymour Hoffman, who will return in next year's "Part II," which Lawrence also directed.

"The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part I" is now in theaters.

Dave Lewis has been a Los Angeles-based entertainment writer and editor for nearly ten years. Originally hailing from Minneapolis, he moved to L.A. in 1996 to attend USC, before working for various periodicals and web sites including a lengthy stint at Variety.com. He joined the HitFix staff in 2011.