Lionsgate didn’t wait around to find out whether or not The Hunger Games was going to be a success, as the studio instead hired Oscar-winner Simon Beaufoy to begin adapting Suzanne Collins’ sequel novel, Catching Fire, several months before its predecessor had even hit theaters. Part of the reason for that is, like the Harry Potter and Twilight series, the stars of Hunger Games are at risk of out-aging their roles unless there’s a short turnaround between production on each installment.
The studio set release dates for the two-part adaptation of Collins’ finale, Mockingjay, following in the footsteps of those aforementioned best-sellers-turned blockbuster franchises. Catching Fire is currently in production – and won’t be hitting theaters for over a year now – but that isn’t preventing Lionsgate from hiring a writer to begin working on the third and fourth films.
Variety is reporting that Danny Strong has been tapped by Lionsgate to write both halves of the Mockingjay film adaptation. Hunger Games leads Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson, as mentioned before, are reprising their roles in Catching Fire, working along with such franchise newcomers as Jena Malone, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sam Claflin, Lyn Cohen, and Jeffrey Wright, among others. Some, though not all, of those folk will be returning for Mockingjay (as Hunger Games book readers are well aware).
Strong, as it were, is now a two-time Emmy winner for his work as writer and co-executive producer on HBO’s Game Change. He also wrote another political drama for the cable network (Recount) and penned the script for Lee Daniels’ upcoming true-story White House tale The Butler. Most people are probably more familiar with Strong for his acting on an eclectic mix of television series over the past 15 years, including Clueless, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gilmore Girls, and Mad Men, among others.
Both Mockingjay movies (Part 2, in particular) have the potential to be the most action-packed installments in the Hunger Games series, which does make hiring Strong seem like a curious move, at first glance. Then again, he’s reported to have done a rewrite recently on an adaptation of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol; not to mention, he does know a thing or two about translating literature into cinema (though, whether or not you like most of Strong’s screenwriting to date might, in no small part, be affected by your political views).
Since Strong likely won’t be deviating far from Collins’ source material – even as he spreads it over two films – the more interesting issue concerns who Lionsgate will hire to direct his script. Gary Ross made an intentional decision to show less of the gruesome aftermath in Hunger Games, while Catching Fire director Francis Lawrence is expected to do likewise. That’s not to say Mockingjay will (or should) go further and be Rated R, though it would definitely benefit from a helmer who knows how to stage set pieces with a sense of grit.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire opens in theaters on November 22nd, 2013.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 opens in theaters on November 21st, 2014, followed by Part 2 a year later on November 20th.