[Update: Despite these reports, Gary Ross is officially out.]
The Hunger Games has become a huge box office success, claiming the number one spot at the box office for three consecutive weeks, and grossing over $300 million domestically. But last week, word of Gary Ross not returning to direct Catching Fire, the sequel to The Hunger Games, flooded the Internet. Turns out we may have all jumped the gun, as word is now coming out that Ross may not have withdrawn his name as we previously reported.
It all started off with a tense standoff between Lionsgate and Fox over their sequels, which both require the services of Hunger Games star, Jennifer Lawrence. Fox decided to be gracious and schedule the production for X-Men: First Class 2 (in which Lawrence plays Mystique) to start in January 2013. This meant that Catching Fire could begin production in Fall of this year. Fox had an option deal on Lawrence way before she signed on to play Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games.
With the scheduling conflicts cleared between the two studios, it was assumed that talks between Lionsgate and Ross were near competition. But this is where it all starts to get a little fuzzy.
As aforementioned, it was reported that Ross was expecting a raise for his services on The Hunger Games and that if he didn’t get it, he would be pursuing other projects that he had to put on the shelf. Given that the filmmaker has already helmed Pleasantville and Seabiscuit (two critically acclaimed films) long before The Hunger Games, a raise seemed to be in order. THR reports that the raise was somewhere in the $3 million range. But Lionsgate isn’t known for giving hefty payouts, hence the previous reports of Ross not coming back to direct Catching Fire.
However, all of that seems unlikely since Ross had already put so much time and effort into directing the film and was already working with author Suzanne Collins outlining the script for Catching Fire. In addition, the director already has a rapport with the cast and crew of the film, so it makes little sense to leave all of that behind.
One of the options being considered was to 'buy' more time for Ross, essentially paying Fox (or horse trading in other ways) to bump its production schedule to accommodate the Catching Fire shoot. The other idea was to bring in a new director, the same way that Summit has been rotating directors for The Twilight Saga franchise.
Catching Fire releases in theaters November 22, 2013.