Gary Ross Not Directing Catching Fire!

Well, I was hoping this would happen, and it has. Lionsgate could not come to a deal with Hunger Games director Gary Ross to helm the first sequel, Catching Fire, so Ross has walked away.

Supposedly, Ross wasn’t all that interested in the job anyway, and the salary Lionsgate dangled wasn’t enough to change his mind and compel him to film another blockbuster. Sigh.

Isn’t that Aesop’s definition of sour grapes?

The studio is now scrambling madly to lock in a new director – and quickly. Production needs to start this fall for two very good reasons:

1. Catching Fire already has an announced release date, and backing off that decision will taint the film as a “troubled production.” Just ask poor John Carter what that does to one’s box office potential.

2. Star Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss) is committed to filming the sequel to X-Men: First Class – and since her contract puts her role as Mystique in First Class in “first position,” she must work for that flick first in the event of any scheduling conflicts.

In a surprise bit of good news, 20th Century Fox has decided to accommodate Lionsgate; after pushing production of the First Class sequel forward to a fall start, the studio has decided to instead begin filming in January, leaving Lawrence enough time to shoot Catching Fire – provided filming begins on time. If no director is in place and production has to wait, filming probably won’t be able to start until April at the earliest, so Lionsgate can forget about that Nov. 22 opening. (Unless they want even worse CGI effects than seen in Hunger Games.)

The only rumor I’ve seen so far is the suggestion that Steven Soderbergh might be persuaded to pick up the reins. (He shot some second-unit stuff in Hunger Games, including the ill-placed riot scene in District 11.)

I’m not sorry to see Ross go, but now the production faces a big challenge. Who do you thing should direct Catching Fire?

Oh, yeah? Sez you!

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