In a back and forth that’s been as tense and harrowing as The Hunger Games itself (ok, not really, but hey, I needed an intro),  ever since the release and wild hyper-success of The Hunger Games films, one of the big questions regarding the film’s planned sequels would be whether or not director Gary Ross would be returning to helm the remainder of the franchise.  First he was out, and then it was reported that he was back in, with rumors spreading that Ross was positioning himself for a higher paycheck.  Well, according to Ross that isn’t true—but what is true is that he won’t be returning for the sequels.

That’s right—Catching Fire, the next entry into The Hunger Games trilogy (Mockingjay is the title of the third book and future film), will have to be directed by someone else, as Ross is officially out of the franchise.  His reasoning?  Now that The Hunger Games is a bona fide blockbuster, Catching Fire has been given a locked in release date of November 2013.  Which means that pre-production, casting, writing, production, and postproduction all have to be completed in the next year and half, and that Ross would have to start work almost immediately.

Ross has released a statement on the situation, read it below:

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 has responded in kind:

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.

So now the hunt is on for a new Catching Fire director?  Maybe we should ship a few filmmakers off to an island for a set of brutal war games, and the survivor can helm the next entry in the franchise.

Who do you think should direct Catching Fire?

Source: /Film