We heard last week that despite Gary Ross‘ enthusiasm for the material, he will not return to direct Catching Fire, the sequel to The Hunger Games. But there was a conflicting report that Ross, who did a bang-up job adapting the first movie, was likely to direct the sequel and would say so himself once he returned from vacation. Sadly, that is not the case. Ross released an official statement explaining why he will move on from the franchise:
“Despite recent speculation in the media, and after difficult but sincere consideration, I have decided not to direct Catching Fire. As a writer and a director, I simply don’t have the time I need to write and prep the movie I would have wanted to make because of the fixed and tight production schedule.”
Hit the jump for the full statement, plus Lionsgate’s response.
Deadline posted Ross’ statement:
Despite recent speculation in the media, and after difficult but sincere consideration, I have decided not to direct Catching Fire. As a writer and a director, I simply don’t have the time I need to write and prep the movie I would have wanted to make because of the fixed and tight production schedule.
I loved making The Hunger Games – it was the happiest experience of my professional life. Lionsgate was supportive of me in a manner that few directors ever experience in a franchise: they empowered me to make the film I wanted to make and backed the movie in a way that requires no explanation beyond the remarkable results. And contrary to what has been reported, negotiations with Lionsgate have not been problematic. They have also been very understanding of me through this difficult decision.
I also cannot say enough about the people I worked with: Producer Nina Jacobson, a great collaborator and a true friend; the brilliant Suzanne Collins, who entrusted us with her most amazing and important story; the gifted and remarkable Jennifer Lawrence whose performance exceeded my wildest expectations, and the rest of the incredible cast, whom I am proud to call my friends.
To the fans I want to say thank you for your support your faith, your enthusiasm and your trust. Hard as this may be to understand I am trying to keep that trust with you. Thank you all. It’s been a wonderful experience.
It’s a very classy exit, and leaves the bridge open to direct the third entry, Mockingjay (see below). But this is a man who directed just three movies since 1998. It is totally understandable that he is not ready to be herded into the rushed world of blockbuster franchising. (Catching Fire will shoot this fall for release on November 22, 2013.) Instead, the prior report suggests Ross will now develop a screenplay he’s already written.
This was Lionsgate’s response:
We’re very sorry that Gary Ross has chosen not to direct Catching Fire. We were really looking forward to making the movie with him. He did an incredible job on the first film and we are grateful for his work. This will not be the end of our relationship, as we consider Ross to be part of the Lionsgate family and look forward to working with him in the future.
Really this is standard PR talk, and it’s wishful thinking to imagine Ross will return for Mockingjay. But it’s not out of the realm of possibility. I imagine we at Collider will spend the next few weeks passing along the rumors on who is now up for the job. Hopefully the rush that forced Ross out will lead to a new hire quickly. Best of luck to the new guy.