We’re not completely recovered from the loss of Gary Ross as director of The Hunger Games sequel, Catching Fire, due to scheduling constraints (they say). But last night we learned that Lionsgate has decided to hand the reins over to Francis Lawrence, the director of Water for Elephants and I Am Legend, and we are starting to calm down a little bit. No, he doesn’t have the Oscar-nominee pedigree as Ross. And none of his movies have received the kind of critical raves that Ross’ Seabiscuit and Pleasantville did. But his resume, which also includes a ton of amazing music videos (for everyone from Aerosmith to Justin Timberlake to Lady Gaga), contains some solid reassurance that he’ll be able to hold his own with Catching Fire.
1. He can do post-apocalyptic settings. See: I Am Legend.
2. He can do strong ladies wearing amazing costumes in post-apocalyptic settings. See: Beyonce’s “Run the World (Girls).”
It’s probably a good thing that rumors have been swirling for weeks that Gary Ross would back out of The Hunger Games sequel, Catching Fire. Otherwise we would be reeling from his announcement, made late last night, that he is dropping the project. As it is, we’re still pretty stunned. And Lionsgate is apparently feeling like a jilted bride.
“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 released to Deadline. “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.”
Man, we know it takes a lot of time to make a movie, but is this a believable reason? From the time he was named director of The Hunger Games in November 2010 to the movie’s release last month, he had about 16 months. That’s about two months less than the time he has before the November 22, 2013 release date of Catching Fire — and he already has his main cast in place. But Ross is sticking to that argument, saying that “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.”
First Hunger Games director Gary Ross wasn’t going to direct the film’s two sequels; now he might be back on board…maybe? While Ross’s fate is still unclear, at least one person is dead set on having him return for Catching Fire. “I think Gary’s the man,” Josh Hutcherson proclaimed at an L.A. press day for his upcoming horror comedy Detention. “Gary is in my mind is the only one that could ever direct the second one. That’s what I’m sticking to.” Good call, Josh! Plus if Gary does return for the sequels, you won’t be punished with the smallest trailer and an added tracker jacker attack sequence. Smart thinking!
As for who Josh would not want behind the camera, Detention director Joseph Kahn seems to have made the list. “I think it would be a very different movie than the first movie if Joseph directed the second Hunger Games,” Hutcherson claimed. “It would be crazy.” Hmm, but can you imagine those muttations in the hand of a crazy director…? What do you think, HG fans? Is it Ross or bust? Did you love Gary’s vision so much, you’d “eat the berries,” so to speak, if he left the franchise? And by “eat the berries,” we mean wait to see Catching Fire on DVD?
We’ve been worried sick about the news that Gary Ross and Lionsgate are still on the fence about whether the director will return for The Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire. (Negotiations are ongoing as of Monday, we hear.) Would anyone else be able to nail the tone of this story the way he did? But now, we’ve decided not to fret, thanks to Sofia Vergara and Saturday Night Live, who showed us what the movie would be like in the hands of someone, well, less reverent.
In a pink Effie Trinket wig, Vergara shimmied, laughed and gave a great Univision-worthy yell as the Capitol’s newest Hunger Games correspondent, Maria Gutierrez, reporting live from the arena and enjoying herself immensely as the kids stab each other nearby. And in the studio, Bill Hader and Fred Armisen yukked it up as Claudius and Caesar, echoing a number of silly sports news show SNL’s done over the years.
While it did allow us to make that truly excellent title joke, we are not pleased with this news. While today we got the good news that Fox and Lionsgate worked out a filming schedule under which Jennifer Lawrence will be allowed to kick mutant/futuristic butt in both the X-Men: First Class sequel and the follow-up to Hunger Games, it appears that rumors we heard yesterday are true: HG director Gary Ross won’t be returning for Catching Fire. According to Indiewire, Ross has allegedly “exited the franchise.” The site claims it’s a matter of interest rather than one of salary; Ross was supposedly uninterested filming the entire series, which we guess we understand. We get exhausted just watching Katniss sprinting through the underbrush; imagine trying to give her a line read.
All of which makes us ask the question: what direction should the new director take the sequel? Should they go darker, a la The Dark Knight? Keep in mind that the series is already about, you know, a dystopia where children battle to the death for the ruling class’s viewing pleasure. What changes do you hope the director of Catching Fire, whoever he or she may be, will make to the series? Meanwhile, we’re pretty sure we know how they’re going to chose a replacement. Someone better polish up the Cornucopia!
We wouldn’t say Hunger Games is a perfect movie by any means. Well…okay, we have said that. Several times. At the top of our lungs before the credits were even over. Our personal feelings aside, you would think the film’s blockbuster box office and consistently great reviews of star Jennifer Lawrence would be enough for the haters to back on off of it. Sadly, if you read the critics who claimed JLaw was too big to be a believable Panem resident, you know that isn’t entirely true. Luckily Lawrence is allegedly taking it all in stride. “Jennifer told me, ‘This is hilarious,’” a source reported to the Chicago Sun-Times. “‘First, people say how so many actresses in Hollywood look anorexic, and now they are criticizing me for looking normal.’” Haha, it is absurd Jen, but we’re glad you can brush it off. Rather than, say, shooting an arrow through somebody’s MacBook Air. She could do that, you know. She has the training.
And now The Hollywood Reporter claims that tense negotiations between Lionsgate and director Gary Ross could potentially delay the filming of HG sequel Catching Fire. Allegedly Ross is trying to up his salary from the $3 million plus 5% of profits he made to shoot the first movie. After raking in $214 million its first weekend, Hunger Games has made over $363 million! So unless Ross is asking for $362 million, we say give it to him. Haters, will you never stop hating?
As a Hunger Games fan since 2008, I have to admit that I was considerably nervous at the screening last night. I mean, all the interviews and teaser clips and trailers and images seemed to indicate that Gary Ross was getting things right, but I was still holding my breath. I’ve been burned before. So, yeah, the tension headache I had on my ride home was caused as much by that suspense as by anything Seneca Crane cooked up for the 74th annual games. But I’m here to tell you that my fears were unfounded. I mean, it wasn’t a flawless movie, of course, but it was exactly the right movie. If you want to be surprised by ALL the ways in which it is right, stop reading now. But if you want to alleviate your own tension headache, read on. This will not be too spoilery for anyone who’s read the books.
1. There is no overbearing orchestration. The trailers make it seem like all the dramatic scenes are accompanied by eerie oboes and such, but thankfully, no. There is some music, of course. But at several moments, particularly at the beginning, there is nothing but dialogue and the natural sounds of District 12. Thank you, Gary Ross, for trusting that your actors can act and your screenwriter can write and your audience can understand when to be sad or happy or scared.
2. There are moments of stark realism that will take your breath away. I’m not talking about tributes spearing each other. I’m talking about a grim morning in the Seam. Effie’s overly powdered face at the reaping. The screeching of her microphone. The hollow sound of President Snow’s voice as the Hunger Games propaganda movie is projected to the silent audience. And oh, god, the three-finger salute to Katniss.
3. Jennifer Lawrence. Katniss is not all fierce arrow-slinging badass. Mostly, she is a girl. Even though she’s had to grow up fast and take care of her family, she looks vulnerable and/or unsure of herself at all the right times.
As avid fans of Suzanne Collins‘ work, we’ve been holding our breath about whatever changes have inevitably made to adapt The Hunger Games for the big screen. Of course, the changes are necessary, but will they be the right changes? The new clip out on Yahoo!, featuring Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Cinna’s (Lenny Kravitz) first meeting, is a promising indication of how the adaptation works.
In the book, Katniss gradually explains to readers the history of the games, how the opening ceremonies work, with the tributes representing the “flavor” of their district, and how humiliating District 12′s coal miner costumes normally are. We’re inside her head as she braces herself for more of the same, “It’s always dreadful and does nothing to win favor with the crowd. I prepare myself for the worst.”
Thankfully, screenwriter Simon Beaufoy and director Gary Ross chose not to use a whole bunch of Katniss voiceover in this movie. Read more…
We didn’t realize we’d been holding our breath until we read this line — “I’ve just had the opportunity to see the finished film of The Hunger Games. I’m really happy with how it turned out.” — and let out a sigh of relief. Author Suzanne Collins had a whole lot of other nice things to say about the movie on the official Hunger Games Facebook page today.
“The film opens up the world beyond Katniss’ point of view, allowing the audience access to the happenings of places like the Hunger Games control room and President Snow’s rose garden, thereby adding a new dimension to the story,” Collins wrote, calling the film “faithful” and “complementary” to her books. “It’s amazing to see things that are suggested in the book fully developed and so brilliantly realized through the artistry of the designers.”
Rolling Stone has just posted the above brand-new Hunger Games photo, featuring Cinna and Katniss’ last moment together before she enters the arena, making us almost Kristen-Bell-sloth-level excited that there’s only 50 days (and a few hours) before the movie is out. It’s the kind of quiet scene that could be screwed up in a movie adaptation that’s filled with all that action and drama, but we think Gary Ross, Jennifer Lawrence and Lenny Kravitz just might get it right. Especially when we hear Lenny describe his character to RS: “He’s very streamlined, he’s very quiet. He knows what he’s doing. He’s confident. He’s got a big heart. I just liked the way he moved — very smooth.”
The rocker reveals that he took the role because he admired Suzanne Collins’ storytelling in the book. “I’m very much into stories. The character was interesting. I like Gary’s previous work. And I said, Yeah, let’s go.”
Related: Birthday Boy Adam Lambert Talks Hunger Games Appeal, Possible Acting Career
[Photo: Lionsgate via Rolling Stone]