Despite the financial success of The Hunger Games, the first installment of Suzanne Collins’ popular trilogy, trouble’s a brewing and time’s a ticking for Lionsgate and the film crew. After conflicts with Jennifer Lawrence‘s tight filming schedule and the studio’s unwillingness to change the release date for Catching Fire, director Gary Ross has decided to step down from his director’s chair. According to The Hollywood Reporter, after several days of searching, Lionsgate sent out an official offer to director Francis Lawrence.
On April 10th, Ross announced that he would not direct Catching Fire; in result, Lionsgate went on the hunt for a new director. After several days of calling and searching, the studio narrowed their options to two directors — Francis Lawrence and Moneyball director Bennett Miller. Now a hot commodity amongst Hollywood’s most elite , the chance of Lionsgate nabbing Miller was slim to none; Miller’s Oscar nomination for his second big screen feature, Moneyball, increased his directing opportunities. Miller showed interest in directing Catching Fire, but wouldn’t take the offer unless Lionsgate was willing to push back the November 22, 2013 release date; unfortunately; that wasn’t something the studio was willing to do.
In fact, Lionsgate’s steadfast decision to keep the release date put 20th Century Fox and the studio at odds. Here’s the problem: Jennifer Lawrence signed a contract to start filming 20th Century Fox’s X-men: First Class 2 in December of 2012. Lionsgate, whom was either misinformed or overlooked Fox’s production date all together, went ahead and set their release dates and tentative filming schedules for Catching Fire. When Lionsgate realized they only had 4-5 months to film the next Hunger Games installment before Jennifer Lawrence had to go blue for First Class’ Mystique, shit hit the fan.
After a standoff of sorts, Fox agreed to push back filming for X-men: First Class 2 ’til January 2013, giving Jennifer Lawrence an extra month to film Catching Fire. And only 9 days after Ross announced his departure did Lionsgate offer the director’s chair to Francis Lawrence. The studio has given the director until August to plan and get accommodated with the series.
Movie goers are probably more familiar with Francis Lawrence’s films rather than his name. He’s directed Water for Elephants, starring Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon, I Am Legend, starring Will Smith, and Constantine, starring Shia LaBeouf and Keanu Reeves. In the music world, he’s highly regarded as one of the top music video directors. As of recently, he’s responsible for the direction of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” video, Britney Spear’s “Circus” video, and Beyonce’s “Run the World (Girls)” video.
Personally, I wasn’t impressed with Ross’ direction. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t anything to awe over. The unstable camera during the fighting shots made many audience members nauseous. And at times the camera was focused too close to the characters. I think Francis Lawrence will be a good fit for Catching Fire. When it all comes down to it, the movie will be successful, but boy, would it be a shame if Catching Fire suffered because of Lionsgate’s reluctance to push back the release date.