It's been a couple of weeks since the news broke that Lionsgate has "tapped" Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend) to replace Gary Ross as director on the second installment in its new cash cow franchise, The Hunger Games (Catching Fire). The studio has now confirmed that Lawrence is officially set for the job.
The filmmaker won't have a very long time to complete his pre-production duties for Catching Fire, seeing how principal photography is slated to get underway this fall - so as to not only make a Thanksgiving 2013 release date, but also free up starlet Jennifer Lawrence to work on the X-Men: First Class sequel early next year.
Here is an excerpt from the official press release:
"Lionsgate, the cast, and filmmakers are all thrilled to have Francis Lawrence come on board as director of Catching Fire. Suzanne's brilliant book is the intense story of the birth of the rebellion and Katniss' emotionally charged journey as she takes on the mantle of the Mockingjay, and we all think Francis is the perfect director to bring the story to life," said Erik Feig, Lionsgate's President Of Production.
"From the very beginning of this brilliant trilogy's journey from page to screen, our first priority has been to stay true to the heart and soul of Suzanne Collins' powerful stories. From my first conversation with Francis, I knew he would make a great partner for both me and Suzanne. His passion for Catching Fire and inspired ideas for a faithful adaptation make him the perfect director for this movie. I know this will be a wonderful collaboration and I cannot wait to get started," echoed producer Nina Jacobson.
Lawrence will be working from an adapted screenplay penned by Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire), based on Collins' Catching Fire source material. It is certainly possible that the Hunger Games author will eventually play a pivotal role in crafting the final shooting script for Catching Fire - much like she did with the first installment (in collaboration with Ross).
Among other things, it will be interesting to see how Catching Fire differs from its predecessor, especially given that Lawrence most likely won't employ the somewhat controversial "shaky cam" aesthetic that Ross utilized in the first Hunger Games movie (for artistic purposes). As past best-selling literary adaptations like the Harry Potter series and Twilight Saga have demonstrated, change-ups in the personnel working behind the camera can have a big impact on the overall style and quality of the final product - though, those results aren't always reflected in the box office returns (ex. the critically-acclaimed Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is also the lowest-grossing installment).
Catching Fire arrives in theaters around the U.S. on November 22nd, 2013.