Three More Directors Circle 'Hunger Games'

UPDATE: I need to add three more directors to the list of filmmakers meeting in New York this week with Lionsgate brass for the feature adaption of the Suzanne Collins bestseller Hunger Games. I’d already reported that Gary Ross, Sam Mendes and David Slade were meeting, but am told that Lionsgate motion pictures group president Joe Drake and producer Nina Jacobson are also meeting with The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe director Andrew Adamson; Rupert Sanders, a major British director of commercials including Microsoft’s Halo, who has been in the hunt on several of these big films to make his directing debut; and Susanna White, the Nanny McPhee Returns helmer who also directed episodes of the HBO mini Generation Kill and the British minis Bleak House and Jane Eyre. They could expand the field–Francis Lawrence seems a late candidate–but I gather it’s down to this group and that a decision should come shortly.

EARLIER: EXCLUSIVE: The next big film directing job in Hollywood will be decided late next week. That’s when Lionsgate chooses a filmmaker for The Hunger Games, the first installment of a trilogy based on the Suzanne Collins novel series that many feel could be the next Twilight. I’m told that Lionsgate (partnered with former Disney production topper Nina Jacobson’s Color Force) has gotten Billy Ray’s rewrite, and will meet with three elite directors next week before making a decision. Gary Ross, Sam Mendes and David Slade  have emerged as the favorites. The script has become one of those closely guarded documents which do not leave the production company’s headquarters. I’ve also heard Andrew Adamson’s name in the mix, but it appears to be down to the three I mentioned.

Hunger Games is likened to Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight novels because the books developed a wide following in both the youth and adult demographics, which makes studios salivate because the films could reach multiple audience quadrants. But Hunger Games is really dark: the heroine is Katniss Everdeen, an enterprising 16-year old from a poor territory that was once Appalachia, who becomes a teen gladiator in a reality show event that is a battle to the death against other teens from the 12 districts that make up what is left of the USA, which is run by a cruel totalitarian government. Despite that bleak premise, the book has become a publishing phenomenon and the last novel in the trilogy, Mockingjay, has sold 450,000 since its August 24 debut by Scholastic, and the publisher’s rushing back to print more books.

The town is closely watching who’ll get the job. If it’s Slade–who just directed The Twilight Saga: Eclipse–what does that do to X-Men Origins: Wolverine 2, a job which Slade is a frontrunner to win? The other intrigue has to do with Lionsgate. With Carl Icahn breathing down the company’s necks, and higher-ups watching every dime spent, does Lionsgate step up and make a pricey deal with a  big name director and commit a significant budget for a  for a film that stars a bunch of teenaged unknowns?

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