As I said many times in my review, Gary Ross‘ direction was the strongest element of The Hunger Games. But for Lionsgate, the movie’s ability to make a crazy amount of money was the strongest element of The Hunger Games. Now, THR is reporting that Ross and the studio are locked in tense negotiations over his return to direct the sequel, Catching Fire. Lead actors Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth are already signed for Catching Fire (and I imaging they’re also signed for the third installment, Mockingjay), but Ross doesn’t have a deal in place. He was paid $3 million for co-writing and directing the film plus 5 percent on the back-end. Unsurprisingly, he would like a raise on the sequel.
Hit the jump for more including why Catching Fire might not make its November 22, 2013 release date.
According to THR, negotiations on the first film were tough because Ross already had a successful, Oscar-nominated movie to his name (Seabiscuit), but Lionsgate had never paid a hefty filmmaker salary before (Hunger Games was the highest-budgeted project in the studio’s history). Now that Hunger Games will undoubtedly be one of the highest-grossing films of the year, Ross has some leverage, but current franchise trends aren’t moving in his favor.
Other major franchises have shown no hesitation in constantly switching out directors. After all, it’s the title that draws people into the theaters, not the filmmaker. Harry Potter went through four directors as did Twilight, and Marvel has basically made it a policy never to rehire any of their directors. The studio’s highest priority is making sure to keep the franchise flowing without delay, and prolonged negotiations with Ross may cause a delay. There’s also the added problem of Ross taking time to revise Simon Beaufoy‘s script for Catching Fire.
Lionsgate is also facing an issue with the sequel’s scheduled November 22, 2013 release date. Fox could stymie Lionsgate’s plans by exercising Lawrence’s option to do the sequel for X-Men: First Class. Sources tell THR that Fox’s option would take priority over Lionsgate’s. Lionsgate is aiming to get Catching Fire into production by the fall, but Fox already has their director ready to go (Matthew Vaughn is signed to return for First Class 2). However, First Class 2 doesn’t have a release date.
Ross’ does have a few counters against Lionsgate. First, he’s a known quantity and has established a relationship with the cast and crew. He also delivered a critically well-received movie. Granted, The Hunger Games would have crushed at the box office no matter what, but the positive response indicates that he’s now in higher demand for other properties. It’s an impressive boost for a director who hadn’t helmed a project since Seabiscuit in 2003.
Despite the acrimony, a source tells THR that the two sides will eventually make a deal:
Ultimately, it will be difficult, and yet everybody will do the sane thing, which is to work it out,” says one. “Everybody will end up unhappy in their own way. It’s just the nature of the beast.”
The alternative is to throw 24 directors into an arena and have them fight to the death. And if you’re having trouble imagining other directors taking over the franchise, take a look at these fake posters for The Hunger Games.