It’s hard to say this is surprising, but it was confirmed today (by Indiewire) that Gary Ross will not be directing the sequels to The Hunger Games. Shooting is to commence this fall, so we should see a shortlist or a replacement sometime next week. Ross – having signed up for one film – was in negotiations to come back, but they appear to have fallen apart.

Ross was an odd choice to begin with, having been a scriptwriter (on films like Big and Dave) and occasional director (of Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) with nothing in his body of work suggesting that he would have an affinity for the material. As the film will make over $300 domestically, it now seems like he was the perfect choice. But as a mercurial artist it seems that either Lionsgate was trying to stiff him when it came to the sequels, or he had no real interest in continuing the franchise.

I would bet on the latter and from a business perspective it makes sense for Ross. He can take a lot of credit for breaking the story and making it a hit, which is useful in Hollywood and gives him a lot of clout. Whereas, if he sticks around, he’s not only committing years of his life to the franchise but there’s also less creative rewards. It appears he’s got his next film lined up – The Free State of Jones – at least according to the always questionable IMDb.

Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours) is already writing the script for The Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire. It will be interesting to see what direction Lionsgate goes with who they hire. Though the sequel will surely make piles of money, it’s not always that helpful to a career – David Slade directed the third Twilight movie and is now mostly directing television.

Who would you want to direct Catching Fire?