Now It’s Official: Gary Ross Won’t Direct ‘Catching Fire’
Last weekend we played the game "will he or won't he?" with regards to The Hunger Games director Gary Ross returning for his duties to the sequel. Word was negotiations were rough, then news broke he had walked, and then Deadline, following up on the story, said he hadn't. Well, the "won't he" side won. Ross and Lionsgate released official statements via Deadline breaking the news of the departure, which came as a shock to the folks at Lionsgate. Below are Ross' words:
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.
Outside of disappointment, what you should get from Ross' words is the sense that this guy is a professional and a true artist. Clearly no money in the world (and as we all know, the world will pay a lot of money for Catching Fire) could convince him to compromise the time he feels he needs to do his craft for the sake of meeting a production schedule. It takes balls to do what this guy did, so he deserves to walk without so much as one angry peep from any message board on the web.Good news is that Ross will have a lot of folks interested in helping him make whatever project he's got on his mind at the moment, and we're sure to benefit from whatever that is. Lionsgate has already expressed as much in its statement: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 relationhip, as we consider Ross to be part of the Lionsgate family and look forward to working with him in the future.Now begins the fan speculation fest of who should direct Catching Fire. Fans will likely want someone who brings a promise of that same dramatic quality that made the first a critical success.