Are the reports that The Hunger Games director Gary Ross will not be back to direct the sequel Catching Fire premature?
Deadline seems to think so, as their own, unnamed sources are telling the gossip blog that the director has not resigned from the series to pursue an unnamed project he had been developing.
The Hollywood Reporter was able to dig a little further and is reporting that the director and the studio actually have a meeting today to continue their negotiations over his continuing with the franchise.
Deadline pointed to the fact that it was Ross who brought in Slumdog Millionaire screenwriter Simon Beaufoy to start working n the script for the second film last November when it became apparent that he and the writer of the original teen lit series Suzanne Collins would not be able to collaborate on it as they did for the first film. The gossip site further argued that it would be illogical for Ross to leave a successful franchise in order to work on a project with a project with an unknown chance of success. Others have argued that this would be the perfect time and reason for Ross to use his success with Hunger Games.
The Reporter meanwhile states that there is some concern on Ross’s part over the compressed pre-production schedule he would have in order to get the film in front of cameras by August. He would need to be finished with shooting by the end of the year in order for star Jennifer Lawrence to be free for Twentieth Century Fox’s X-Men: First Class sequel. As Lawrence was signed to the X-Men franchise months before Lionsgate hired her for The Hunger Games, Fox technically has first demand on her services and could force Lionsgate to wait to shoot Catching Fire until after Fox is done with production on the X-Men sequel if for some reason Lionsgate misses their planned for August start date.
Ross had been on a family vacation in Italy and unavailable to comment when the reports of his departure began circulating late last week.
It is hard to say how this will play out. With no script turned yet from Beaufoy, Lionsgate could try and negotiate with Fox to push back the production start on their X-Men film in order to buy themselves some more time. I doubt that Fox would want to do that though. The success of The Hunger Games has made Lawrence a much more of a marquee name and even though the X-Men franchise is more of an ensemble, I can see that the studio would want to strike while the name-recognition iron is hot. Also, Lionsgate would not have a legal leg to stand on with such a request and would have to offer up something pretty sweet for the much bigger Fox to consider such a request.
Alternatively, Lionsgate could choose to let Ross go if the director doesn’t think he could manage the compressed pre-production schedule and bring on another director who could. Summit Entertainment did something similar when it replaced Catherine Hardwick, who launched their Twilight franchise for them, with Chris Weitz.
How this will play out still remains anyone’s guess, but I imagine that over the next few days we will all find out together.