EXCLUSIVE: 20th Century Fox, already undergoing seismic changes with Tom Rothman’s year end exit, might have a major director to replace on one of the studio’s most important film franchises. I’m hearing that Rupert Wyatt, who helmed the superb franchise reboot Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, will leave the sequel. I’m told that Wyatt’s exit is similar to the same reason that Gary Ross stepped out of Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Wyatt didn’t feel comfortable making the May 23, 2014 release date that the studio announced in May.

Fox declined comment, but clearly something is going on. This would be a blow to the studio, but Fox and Chernin Entertainment have such a big hit here that they can aim high for a new helmer. The studio likes the script that Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver have turned in, and they are gearing up to make the date in a movie where the apes take over.

The first film turned out so well, grossing $483 million worldwide and seamlessly set up the apocalyptic sequel plotline. As for Wyatt, he will have no trouble finding another film to direct. He’s attached to direct Agent 13 at Universal with Charlize Theron starring, and he was interested in the Warner Bros film Londongrad, which had Michael Fassbender attached to play Alexander Litvinenko, the former KGB spy who was poisoned in 2006 with polonium-210. Wyatt was forced to drop that project so he could get going on the Apes sequel. He’s repped by WME and Independent Talent Group.