'Catching Fire' Has a Short List of Replacement Directors. Whose Name Made the Cut?
This has been a busy week at Hunger Games headquarters as Lionsgate looks for the best replacement for director Gary Ross, who informed the studio that he would not be returning to the franchise to helm the next installment, Catching Fire.
Saying he’d need more time than is currently allotted to make a proper sequel, Ross bowed out of negotiations with Lionsgate on Wednesday. But it seems like the studio was prepared for his decision. Hours after Ross walked away, the L.A. Times has published the short list of potential replacements, and the names are more than a little surprising.
A source close to the production who spoke on the condition of anonymity tells the Times that the master list has seven or eight names on it, though three men appear to be the frontrunners for the job: Alfonso Cuaron, who helped adapt Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to the big screen; Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, who last directed Biutiful with Javier Bardem; and cult filmmaker David Cronenberg.
My guess is you can scratch that last name off the list. Studios have been offering Cronenberg franchise titles for years (he was asked to direct Return of the Jedi many years ago), but he often opts to direct offbeat material that appeals to his storytelling sensibilities.
Inarritu leans toward darker material, having helmed pictures like Babel and 21 Grams. But the Times notes that his Babel producer, Jon Kilik, is behind the Hunger Games franchise, and Inarritu could step in to help a friend.
Honestly, Cuaron sounds like the most logical choice. He’s wrapping production on Gravity, a sci-fi thriller he filmed with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. He has shown interest in big-picture literary adaptations before (with Harry Potter), and his brilliant Children of Men was set in a dystopian, violent future that could be drawn on to re-create the Districts in Suzanne Collins’ book.
Cuaron wouldn’t appeal to the Fandango readers who weighed in on a story we recently ran regarding Ross’ possible replacements. It seems Azkaban is the least favorite of the Fandango readers who commented.
“I'll admit I didn't even love how Gary [Ross] handled HG,” said zach2992. “Just please not Alfonso. I despised Prisoner of Azkaban because of him.”
Dancinginnotredame chimed in with, “I agree with zach2992, please no Alfonso. Azkaban was one of my favorite books. Now I hate the movie.”
The one thing that strikes me about the short list of potential Catching Fire directors is the absence of female options. Granted, the director’s pool is flooded with men, but there aren’t any female directors who Lionsgate thinks could handle the material? Is it too soon to lobby for Kathryn Bigelow for the battle-heavy Mockingjay?
Tell us what you think, Fandango readers. Are you excited for any of the three directors on the reported Catching Fire short list? Do you want to see who the other names are? Just expect a hire very soon. If Ross thought the production window was too tight in order to hit Catching Fire’s planned release date of Nov. 22, 2013, won’t the new director want to get to work … and fast?
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Sean O'ConnellFandango Bloggers
Sean is a film reviewer for The Washington Post and daily contributor to Fandango.