Already $300 million richer, Lionsgate is wasting no time getting the sequel to its spring hit “The Hunger Games” in front of the cameras.
But the studio is going too fast for director Gary Ross, who announced Tuesday night that he is not returning for “Catching Fire.”
“Despite recent speculation in the media, and after difficult but sincere consideration, I have decided not to direct ‘Catching Fire,'” Ross said in a statement provided to The Wrap. “As a writer and 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.”
Lionsgate has ordered the film to go in front of the cameras by the end of the summer. Part of that is to meet a very tight release deadline of November 2013, but it’s also to make sure that star Jennifer Lawrence’s shooting schedule on the film does not interfere with another sequel she’s a part of, the one to 2011’s “X-Men: First Class.”
The move really takes the odds out of Lionsgate’s favor because not only will the studio have to find a new director, but it will need a new screenplay writer as well. Ross not only directed this year’s release, but he also wrote the screenplay based on the novel by Suzanne Collins.
“We’re very sorry that Gary Ross has chosen not to direct ‘Catching Fire,'” Lionsgate said in a statement. “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.”
Lionsgate made it clear, however, that there is no bad blood between them and Ross. “We consider Ross to be part of the Lionsgate family, and look forward to working with him in the future.”
US Magazine reported last week that it looked like Ross would be stepping down from the franchise, although The Hollywood Reporter made it clear the same day that negotiations were continuing between the director and the studio. The trade publication added that Ross made just $3 million to write and direct the film, but would receive 5 percent of “backend profits” from a film that has grossed $306.6 million through Monday, and could end up very close to $375 million domestically before it’s all said and done.
It was likely that Ross would have received more money if he had returned for the sequel.
Ross has several projects in the works, including the science-fiction film “Outback” that reportedly has Carey Mulligan of “Drive” fame attached.
“To the fans, I want to say thank you for your support, your faith, your enthusiasm and your trust,” Ross said in his statement. “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.”