Lionsgate is taking what could be dubbed "the Harry Potter approach," when it comes to the studio's own adaptation of a best-selling young adult book series, The Hunger Games - namely, recruit highly-respected acting talent for the film's adult supporting roles and also get some big names working behind the camera.
Word began circulating in 2011 that the studio was planning to do likewise with the Hunger Games sequel, Catching Fire, with Simon Beaufoy as a possibility to handle screenwriting duties. Now, the Oscar-winning writer responsible for Slumdog Milionaire is confirmed to work on the next installment in the futuristic trilogy.
The Wrap is reporting that Beaufoy has begun penning the script for Catching Fire, under the guiding hand of Hunger Games director Gary Ross, who is set to helm the sequel. It's a situation somewhat similar to that of the latter film, where another acclaimed script writer (in the form of Shattered Glass scribe Billy Ray) penned an early draft, with input from Ross; there, however, the bulk of the final shooting script reportedly ended up being written by Ross, with original Hunger Games novelist Suzanne Collins contributing to the process.
Without getting too deep into spoiler territory: Catching Fire begins in the immediate aftermath of the 74th annual Hunger Games ceremony in the first film, which leaves the dystopian nation of Panem in a state of social upheaval and inspires the dominating Capitol government to tighten its steely grip on the general population, in the hopes of regaining control - even as whispers of rebellion start to spread like (what else?) fire amongst its subjects, all thanks to the actions of District 12 "tributes" Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson).
Ross' Hunger Games movie adaptation won't actually hit theaters for another two months (from the time of writing this) but it's a highly-anticipated title that should do solid business at the box office. Matter of fact, it's been said that the film need only gross $100 million in the U.S. in order for Lionsgate to properly justify keeping the franchise alive, from a financial perspective. In other words, studio heads are wise to begin work on Catching Fire now, so they can strike while the iron's hot (pun not intended).
Much like other upcoming blockbuster titles that deal with themes about revolution or feature plot points concerning mass uprisings (ex. The Dark Knight Rises) both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire will have the benefit of timeliness on their side, in addition to the popularity of Collins' source material. However, similar to how The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is generally the most well-liked installment in Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy, the first novel in Collins' Hunger Games series tends to be ranked higher than its sequels; so, that could affect interest in the franchise, as a whole.
That said: Catching Fire could mark one of the rare occasions where a sequel is just as good or better than its predecessor - thanks to the combination of Beaufoy's reliable screenwriting prowess (see: The Full Monty, Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours) and Ross holding the directorial reigns again. As always, we shall have to wait and see...
The Hunger Games will hit theaters in the U.S. on March 23rd, 2012.
Catching Fire is currently scheduled to reach U.S. theaters by November 22nd, 2013.
Source: The Wrap