In what amounts to a ‘huge-freaking-deal’ to so many fans of The Hunger Games, a director has been chosen for the franchise’s two remaining films, Mockingjay Parts 1 & 2. The gig will be going to Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend) who is currently shooting Catching Fire for release next year which is somewhat of a bombshell.
Initial statements in regards to the director search from Lionsgate seemed cemented on finding separate directors for the next two efforts in order to alleviate the burdensome year-to-year schedule that the studio has planned. At the most, Lawrence was expected to sit out Mockingjay Part 1 and come back for the series’ finale. Continue Reading
Update 4/19 @ 9 PM, ET: Francis Lawrence has been selected as the director of Catching Fire. His credits include I Am Legend, Constantine, and Water for Elephants, and before that he directed music videos for some big name pop stars. Sounds like a good choice, but it apparently was not Lionsgate’s first. The studio would have preferred Bennett Miller, but he wanted the start date to be pushed back a tad which would enable him to complete Foxcatcher. It is interesting things got this far with Miller because if they were flexible, they would have stayed with Gary Ross.
Original: Stay tuned for an announcement relatively soon considering the director of Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games franchise moving forward. The field has been reportedly narrowed down to two candidates, and the studio is expected to make an announcement before the end of the week as to which one will take charge of Catching Fire.
Bennett Miller and Francis Lawrence are apparently the options. The former of which is a much sexier choice from a critical standpoint considering his work on Moneyball and Capote, but many are quick to point out that it would mean putting Foxcatcher on hold as Catching Fire is set to shoot in the fall and a script is yet to exist. As for Francis Lawrence, he directed both I Am Legend and Water for Elephants although it is strongly suspected that his I Am Legend credit will be the one responsible for his landing of the gig should Lionsgate choose him.
Read: Mark Ruffalo to Join Steve Carell and Channing Tatum in “Foxcatcher”
For those not in the know, the studio lost its franchise director Gary Ross just weeks ago as they refused to budge on the November 2013 release date in order to accommodate his desire for more production time. It was not that things are starting in the fall that killed negotiations. It was rather the fact that Fox has dibs on Jennifer Lawrence, and they were set to claim her for the X-Men: First Class sequel that starts production in January which will squeeze Catching Fire’s production time.
There is some major breaking news tonight out of Hollywood. The Hunger Games director Gary Ross has opted not to direct the film’s follow-up Catching Fire. This has been the subject of much speculation of the past few weeks as insiders said early on Ross was not interested enough in the sequel’s material to give it another go. The confirmation comes in the form of a statement from the director himself:
Despite recent speculation in the media, and after difficult but sincere consideration, I have decided not to direct Catching Fire. As a writer and a director, I simply don’t have the time I need to write and prep the movie I would have wanted to make because of the fixed and tight production schedule.
I loved making The Hunger Games – it was the happiest experience of my professional life. Lionsgate was supportive of me in a manner that few directors ever experience in a franchise: they empowered me to make the film I wanted to make and backed the movie in a way that requires no explanation beyond the remarkable results. And contrary to what has been reported, negotiations with Lionsgate have not been problematic. They have also been very understanding of me through this difficult decision.
I also cannot say enough about the people I worked with: Producer Nina Jacobson, a great collaborator and a true friend; the brilliant Suzanne Collins, who entrusted us with her most amazing and important story; the gifted and remarkable Jennifer Lawrence whose performance exceeded my wildest expectations, and the rest of the incredible cast, whom I am proud to call my friends.
To the fans I want to say thank you for your support your faith, your enthusiasm and your trust. Hard as this may be to understand I am trying to keep that trust with you. Thank you all. It’s been a wonderful experience.
Lionsgate also issued a statement:
We’re very sorry that Gary Ross has chosen not to direct Catching Fire. We were really looking forward to making the movie with him. He did an incredible job on the first film and we are grateful for his work. This will not be the end of our relationship, as we consider Ross to be part of the Lionsgate family and look forward to working with him in the future.
The Hunger Games’ total box office gross now stands at $464 million worldwide for $307 million of that coming from the domestic level.
Despite the internet hubbub last week about Gary Ross quitting The Hunger Games’ franchise, talks are set to restart later today between the director and studio to try to prevent such an exit from happening. These negotiations are all about money as both sides clearly want Catching Fire to be a Gary Ross-directed feature. The first installment of the series opened to the type of critical and audience acclaim that studios can only dream of while Ross is grabbing 5% of one of the biggest back-ends in Hollywood’s history. It is clearly in their interests to resolve this conflict and the sooner the better.
Why? In order to shoot the sequel to The Hunger Games this year, they need to start shooting in the fall. The series’ star Jennifer Lawrence has an overriding option through Fox to do any X-Men: First Class sequels, and since that studio has recently attached a January shoot date to the movie, it would make Catching Fire very hard to produce in time for its November 2013 release date.
The expectations are that this will indeed be resolved, and that shooting will in fact start in the fall for the sequel. There is just too much money here to let this franchise fall apart at the seams. With it looking as if Lionsgate has the most to lose from a falling out, expect a big pay increase headed Gary Ross’ way.