Francis Lawrence is seeing through Lionsgate‘s The Hunger Games franchise until the end. The director of the first sequel The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, now in production, has now signed on to helm the final two installments of the series, Mockingjay Part 1 and Mockingjay Part 2, which splits the final book in Suzanne Collins’ trilogy into two films. Danny Strong is writing both Mockingjay pics, and Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth are back to star. The final two movies follow heroine Katniss Everdeen’s journey as she leads the districts of Panem in a rebellion against the tyrannical and corrupt Capitol, and she must decipher for herself who she can trust and what needs to be done, with everything she cares for in the balance.
Lawrence, whose credits include Constantine, I Am Legend and most recently Water For Elephants, replaced Gary Ross at the helm of Catching Fire in April. He was chosen in a race that came down to Lawrence and Moneyball helmer Bennett Miller, after Juan Antonio Bayona couldn’t do it. He is currently wrapping production on the pic with Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jena Malone and Amanda Plummer joining the cast. Lawrence is repped by CAA and 3 Arts. Read More »
Amanda Plummer will play Wiress in Lionsgate‘s The Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire, which is due to be released November 22, 2013. The character’s eccentricity earns her the nickname “Nuts” from fellow tributes, and though she doesn’t communicate traditionally, her observations and contributions prove invaluable. Plummer, a screen and stage performer whose film credits include Pulp Fiction and The Fisher King, next stars in the indie Abigail Harms.
(Photo: Getty Images)
The race to replace Gary Ross as director of The Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire is likely between Moneyball director Bennett Miller and Francis Lawrence, who most recently directed Water for Elephants and who handled a big scale movie in I Am Legend. I’m told that Lionsgate also met with The Orphanage helmer Juan Antonio Bayona, and that they also discussed Attack The Block director Joe Cornish. But Bayona appears to be busy–though he’s not completely out of it–and the Cornish conversation didn’t materialize into a meeting. If I had to guess, I would think the likely candidate to be Miller, who’s coming off such an impressive film. He’s very picky, but word is he is quite interested in replacing Ross in Catching Fire. The sticking point: he wanted to push until spring so he could make Foxcatcher for Fox. Lionsgate wants to start by August and doesn’t want to wait. That could put Lawrence in the driver’s seat. We should know the answer in a matter of days and possibly before the week is out.
BREAKING… Lionsgate executives and reps around Gary Ross for weeks have expressed confidence that The Hunger Games director would helm the second installment of the book trilogy, Catching Fire. They expected the deal to go down right after Easter weekend. And they even went so far as to privately deny an Internet report that Ross had told the studio at the start of last week that he would not helm the sequel because he didn’t want to repeat himself. Instead, as a Lionsgate exec now tells me, “I am in shock.” Ross lobbied hard to get The Hunger Games and turned it into the biggest hit of his directing career. (Before that, he developed several serious historical dramatic projects under his deal at Universal that didn’t get off the ground.) Staying for a sure-fire hit and a sequel that audiences actually want to see made a lot of sense for Ross, particularly given how active he’d been already on Catching Fire. He and The Hunger Games trilogy author Suzanne Collins had been working on this sequel since last November. They drafted Slumdog Millionaire screenwriter Simon Beaufoy when The Hunger Games post-production schedule became too arduous for Ross to carry through with a plan to write the sequel outline and then pen the script with Collins. As for the notion that Ross would simply toss away the opportunity to direct Catching Fire because of a salary squabble, the logic seems flawed. The Seabiscuit director knows the benefit of riding a winner and not switching horses midstream. I understand the negotiations were handled by Lionsgate toppers Jon Feltheimer, Michael Burns, and movie chief Rob Friedman, newly arrived from Summit. That studio also changed up directors after its massive hit Twilight debuted — and the franchise not only wasn’t hurt but thrived at the box office. So let the speculation begin about Ross’s replacement. Here is the statement by Gary Ross just released by the studio:
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.
Here is Lionsgate’s statement:
We’re very sorry that Gary Ross has chosen not to direct Catching Fire.
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Despite reports that have spread like wildfire on showbiz websites, we hear from multiple sources close to Catching Fire that director Gary Ross has not formally withdrawn from The Hunger Games sequel. Ross is off on a family vacation and couldn’t be reached, but these internet reports that described his withdrawal as definitive are simply not accurate.
There have also been reports about a tense standoff between Lionsgate and Fox over the sequel services of Jennifer Lawrence, who will reprise her role as Mystique in the sequel to X-Men: First Class. That has also been somewhat overblown; Fox had an option deal on Lawrence way before she signed on to play Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games. That put Fox in first position. Since Lionsgate has a Catching Fire script done, Fox allowed them to go first.
As for the notion that Ross would simply toss away the opportunity to return and direct Catching Fire because of a salary squabble, the logic seems flawed. The Seabiscuit director knows the benefit of riding in a winner and not switching horses midstream. Ross lobbied hard to get The Hunger Games and turned it into the biggest hit of his directing career. Before that, he developed several serious historical dramatic projects under his deal at Universal that didn’t get off the ground. Staying for a sure-fire hit and a sequel that audiences actually want … Read More »