'Hunger Games' sequel secures a director

'Catching Fire' will be directed by 'Water for Elephants' helmer Francis Lawrence.

Murray Close/Lionsgate/AP
'Catching Fire' will be released in November 2013.

In March, the highly-anticipated blockbuster The Hunger Games hit theaters, breaking box office records and making mega-stars of its young cast. As both a box office triumph and a critically-acclaimed movie, excitement began to build for its sequel, Catching Fire. But fans were caught off guard last week when Gary Ross, the The Hunger Games director officially declared that he would not helm the sequel.

Since then, speculation and rumors have grown about possible replacements. At the time, we here at Screen Rant compiled our own list of five possible Catching Fire directors. In recent days, a short list of potential directors was released showing that acclaimed directors like  David Cronenberg (Eastern Promises) and Alfonso Cuaron (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) were top contenders for the position.

But now, the news is official: Francis Lawrence – who previously brought us Constantine, I Am Legend   and Water for Elephants - has been chosen as the director of Catching Fire.

The ultimate decision reportedly came down to a major scheduling conflict. According to Deadline.com (who broke the story) Lionsgate wanted to start production of the new film late in August, and Bennett Miller – the Moneyball director who was the other major contender for the position - wanted them to push it back. That put Lawrence in the driver’s seat and at the helm of what seems will be a huge film franchise.

The choice of Lawrence is definitely a major change from what many industry experts have been speculating. He certainly has experience working with big stars like Keanua Reeves, Will Smith and Reese Witherspoon – but none of his films has been of the same magnitude and scope as directing the second chapter in a (newly) beloved franchise. But it should be noted that Lawrence has more experience behind the camera than just those three films. He previously made a name for himself as a director of music videos, where he worked alongside several prominent, high-profile singers. If you can say nothing else about his films, they definitely have a sharp and crisp visual composition – which could bode well for Catching Fire.

One of the major differences between Lawrence and Ross will likely be the focus on the screenplay. Before he was chosen to helm The Hunger Games, Ross was an Oscar-nominated screenwriter who had worked on the scripts of Seabiscuit, Dave and Big. And when it came time to do The Hunger Games he worked closely with author Suzanne Collins in adapting her bestseller for the big screen. It remains to be seen if Lawrence will be that involved, or leave writing duties solely to Slumdog Millionaire screenwriter Simon Beaufoy.

John Hanlon blogs at Screen Rant.

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