Jennifer Lawrence's Schedule Clears Up for Hunger Games Sequel, Gary Ross Drops Out
04.06.12 by Ryan
Today we learn that Jennifer Lawrence's schedule has cleared up so she can return to play Katniss Everdeen in the sequel to The Hunger Games but it was also revealed today that she won't be reuniting with director Gary Ross.
With The Hunger Games destroying everything in its path at the box office, Lionsgate already basically announced that the sequel, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, was in the works when the studio gave the sequel a November 2013 release date last year. Catching Fire took another step forward when Academy Award–winning screenwriter Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) delivered the first draft of the sequel script before Hunger Games even opened. The only issue that seemed to be a stumbling block for Catching Fire was that Lawrence was also contractually obligated to a X-Men: First Class sequel, with Lawrence confirming last month that she's "in" for a return as mutant shapeshifter Mystique. Since X-Men: First Class came before The Hunger Games, 20th Century Fox had the right to exercise their contract option over Lawrence even if Lionsgate needed her for Catching Fire.
According to THR, however, Fox decided to play nice and shoot the First Class sequel next January as opposed to the fall, which is when Lionsgate had planned to shoot Catching Fire. However, now Catching Fire has another hurdle to clear before they can start production: hiring a new director.
Actors are usually signed for multiple installments of a potential franchise when they are initially cast, but directors usually are not, which is why Lionsgate has been trying to finalize a contract with director Ross this week. THR separately reported that the negotiations were not going well, with Ross looking to get a raise after The Hunger Games opened at $155 million at the box office, the biggest debut ever for a non-sequel. Ross not only directed The Hunger Games but also co-wrote the script with author Suzanne Collins, and was looking to do a pass on Beaufoy's Catching Fire script, but instead will pass on the sequel.
The Playlist reports that Ross will not return for Catching Fire. Considering the previous reports about Ross' contract, it would seem that Ross decided to move on because he wasn't getting the money he wanted, but, according to the report, Ross simply wasn't inclined to do a sequel. Usually skipping through different genres — Ross directed 2003's Seabisquit prior to Hunger Games and Pleasantville before that — Ross reportedly didn't have the "burning desire" to direct Catching Fire and will move on to another project instead.
Lionsgate will have to work quickly to find a replacement if they hope to still make their intended August-September production start for Catching Fire, though we can't imagine that there are many directors — Ross excluded — that wouldn't want to direct a sequel to an enormously popular franchise. After all, David Slade agreed to direct The Twilight Saga: Eclipse after publicly dissing the franchise. Still, any director will need a few months to prep the sequel, and August-September will be arriving sooner than later, and with Lawrence set to shoot the First Class sequel in January, her schedule could become yet another hurdle for Catching Fire.