Despite reports that have spread like wildfire on showbiz websites, we hear from multiple sources close to Catching Fire that director Gary Ross has not formally withdrawn from The Hunger Games sequel. Ross is off on a family vacation and couldn’t be reached, but these internet reports that described his withdrawal as definitive are simply not accurate.
There have also been reports about a tense standoff between Lionsgate and Fox over the sequel services of Jennifer Lawrence, who will reprise her role as Mystique in the sequel to X-Men: First Class. That has also been somewhat overblown; Fox had an option deal on Lawrence way before she signed on to play Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games. That put Fox in first position. Since Lionsgate has a Catching Fire script done, Fox allowed them to go first.
As for the notion that Ross would simply toss away the opportunity to return and direct Catching Fire because of a salary squabble, the logic seems flawed. The Seabiscuit director knows the benefit of riding in a winner and not switching horses midstream. Ross lobbied hard to get The Hunger Games and turned it into the biggest hit of his directing career. Before that, he developed several serious historical dramatic projects under his deal at Universal that didn’t get off the ground. Staying for a sure-fire hit and a sequel that audiences actually want to see makes a lot of sense for Ross, particularly given how active the filmmaker has been in the construction of Catching Fire.
Ross and author Suzanne Collins have been working on this since last November. They drafted Slumdog Millionaire screenwriter Simon Beaufoy back then, when the Hunger Games post production schedule became too arduous for Ross to see through a plan to write the outline and then pen the sequel script with Collins. We’ve heard that Ross developed a tight bond with everyone involved in the film, including cast. Unless the deal making completely implodes, we expect to see Ross behind the camera when the sequel gets underway.