Things are starting to move quickly on the Catching Fire front, now that Francis Lawrence has been confirmed to direct the followup to Gary Ross' Hunger Games adaptation - which has pulled in high critical marks and more than $600 million in theaters around the globe. (Just a bit of pressure for Lawrence...)
Lionsgate wants to bring screenwriter Michael Arndt aboard to rewrite the initial draft of the Catching Fire script, penned by fellow Oscar-winner Simon Beaufoy. It shouldn't be too substantial a rewriting process, though, seeing how production on the Hunger Games sequel is slated to begin by the tail end of this summer.
Arndt has done well by himself since he quit his day job as Matthew Broderick's assistant, in order to write the screenplay for Little Miss Sunshine (which landed him an Academy Award). Thereafter, Arndt went on to pen the script for Toy Story 3, contributed to the screenplay for this summer's Rock of Ages, did a refurbishing of Disney's Snow White-inspired martial arts epic, Order of Seven - and is handling the Mouse House's impending Phineas and Ferb movie.
Suffice it to say, signing on to refine the Catching Fire script (which Heat Vision's report implies is likely to happen) reads as yet another smart move on Arndt's part.
The Hunger Games script was also overseen by a capable crew of writing talent, including Billy Ray (Shattered Glass), Gary Ross and the source material's creator, Suzanne Collins. Lionsgate clearly hopes to replicate that solid final result with Catching Fire, by hiring-on two gentlemen who have both Oscars sitting on their shelves - and several acclaimed writing efforts under their belts.
Collins, as it were, has already been confirmed as having a hand in translating her Catching Fire book into film form. Shortly after completing his first script draft for the adaptation, Beaufoy revealed to E! Online that he had handed the screenplay over to the author, who provided some vital insight into how he could improve his subsequent draft(s).
“Things always do have to change otherwise there’s always something very flat about very faithful adaptations. But on the other hand, there’s an extremely loyal fan base and readership and you just have to be careful of how many liberties you do take. So fortunately Suzanne is here to help me... she’ll tell me, ‘You can’t do that. You must do this.’ Because there are some things that are sacrosanct to her readers and she knows them very well and she’ll let me know.”
It doesn't appear that Collins is ultimately going to be quite so directly involved with crafting the final shooting script for Catching Fire, as she was with that for The Hunger Games (snagging a co-writing credit for her efforts). Still, the news that she's played - and should continue to play - an active role in the film's creative process, certainly sounds like a good thing.
Indications that Collins has something in the way of a "final say" on what elements from the original Catching Fire book are retained (or, alternatively, discarded) should also help the Hunger Games sequel maintain a consistent feel with that of its predecessor. Admittedly, an inconsistent style is something that previous best-selling literature-turned movie franchises have suffered from - such as the first few Harry Potter films (or The Twilight Saga in general).
That's all to say, with the original Hunger Games movie cast all set to return - including, central players like Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth (see above) - and the reliable writing talent involved, Catching Fire is shaping up nicely on the acting and script side of things.
As for the direction: many fans have already expressed mixed sentiments about a more artistic filmmaker like Ross being swapped for someone like Francis Lawrence - who's more a proficient director-for-hire than auteur. As mentioned before, Catching Fire should be pretty consistent with Hunger Games from a storytelling perspective; however, there is good reason to wonder if the switch-up in directors might result in some incongruity between the movies' respective style, on a strictly technical level.
Still, the bigger reason for concern right now is simply the furious pace at which Catching Fire will have to make its way down the production pipeline, in order to hit theaters next year. Passing over who's calling the shots, it sounds like a challenging prospect for any filmmaker to handle. Here's hoping for the best...
Catching Fire remains scheduled to begin a theatrical release in the U.S. on November 22nd, 2013.
Source: THR, E! Online