Lionsgate Played With Fire; Gary Ross Officially Out of 'The Hunger Games' Sequel

Gary Ross

Now it is official. Gary Ross is not returning to direct The Hunger Games sequel, Catching Fire, for Lionsgate. In a statement released to the press, Ross cited the tight schedule as the main reason for him turning down the project. Below is an excerpt of his full statement.

"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."

As previously reported, whoever is helming the sequel will only have about four months to finalize the script for Catching Fire and get everything ready for an August shoot. Then, they need to wrap up the production in four months before X-Men: First Class 2 begins its shoot in January 2012 because the X-Men movie has dibs on Jennifer Lawrence's services.

The first movie had a six months production schedule, so doing the movie in four is a tall order.

In any case, if the earlier reports are true, the blame lies squarely with Lionsgate on this one. The studio didn't lock up Gary Ross for the sequel and, instead, wanted to take a wait-and-see approach to see how the first movie performed first.

The studio's thinking is, if the movie didn't live up to expectations, they can bring in someone else to right the ship for the sequel.

Lionsgate only started to negotiate with Ross a few weeks before The Hunger Games' March 23rd release date, when they knew the movie is tracking to have a huge opening. Except, the studio gave a lowball offer to Ross when the director is expecting a raise. To be expected, the experience wasn't a pleasant one for Ross.

With Catching Fire's release date set and negotiations dragging on, something unexpected happened. Fox informed Lionsgate that they're shooting the sequel to X-Men: First Class in January. Uh oh.

So that's how we ended up with the situation we have now.

Had Lionsgate started the negotiations earlier or if they're willing to give what Ross is asking for, things may turned out differently. Lionsgate played with fire and got burned.

It is also possible that Ross wasn't planning to return to direct the sequel in the first place since there are reports that he has other projects he's working on that will net him a bigger pay day.

Well now that this part of the drama is over, we can look forward to see who will replace Ross as the director and if this person can get the movie done in such a tight schedule.

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