'Catching Fire' director: Lionsgate eyeing Cronenberg, Innaritu, Cuaron
Now that Lionsgate and director Gary Ross have parted ways, the studio behind "The Hunger Games" franchise is in a rather unenviable position. Sure, they are likely to land a director for less then what it would have cost to have kept Ross in the chair, but now they must find someone who pleases both the gregarious fans who have turned the movie into such a juggernaut and, perhaps more importantly, appease Suzanne Collins, the author of the three-book series, who was a close collaborator with Ross during his tenure on the project.
The studio has been quickly cobbling together a list of directors who would fit their criteria. According to a source with knowledge of the list who isn't permitted to speak on the record, Lionsgate needs to find a director with enough credits and accolades to appeal to Collins, who is much more interested in quality filmmaking than box-office prowess. This director also needs to have an even keel; no petulant crybabies allowed. The studio wants to get the sequel, "Catching Fire," into production by August, and the task will require someone who can wrangle a large ensemble of actors, juggle the demands of a swift schedule and collaborate on a script with Collins and writer Simon Beaufoy.
The master list is seven or eight names long, all men, and all have some significant credits to their name. Lionsgate is basically hoping to re-create the "Harry Potter" moment when Warner Bros. brought Alfonso Cuaron to direct the third film in the series. (Chris Columbus left after helming the first two.) Cuaron was a creative choice who excited critics, journalists and author J.K. Rowling, who all were interested in what the director of "Y Tu Mama Tambien" would do with the series.
In fact, Cuaron is in the mix for "Catching Fire," along with David Cronenberg and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, among others. All have been working in the industry for decades and trend more toward darker, indie fare than commercial hits.
Cronenberg has frequently been offered big commercial gigs over the years, including "Return of the Jedi," "Top Gun," and "RoboCop," only to turn them down for arty, independently produced work, often in the horror genre. Though Cronenberg's best-known film is still 1986's "The Fly," the Canadian director has been making movies for decades, with his most recent work, the adaptation of Don DeLillo's "Cosmopolis" starring Robert Pattinson, likely to debut in Cannes next month.
For Inarritu, joining "Catching Fire" would mark a reunion with his producer from the Academy Award-nominated film "Babel" Jon Kilik, who is producing the "Hunger Game" series along with Nina Jacobson. While “Catching Fire” deals with the heavy themes of rebellion and children-on-children violence, it is still significantly lighter than Inarritu’s most recent work, “Biutiful,” the Javier Bardem-starrer that chronicled a dying man’s attempts to make amends.
Cuaron entered the blockbuster genre with "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" in 2004, but despite great reviews didn't stick with the boy wizard beyond the one film. Rather, he took on ambitious fare within the studio system, including Universal Pictures' "Children of Men." The Mexican director recently finished production on "Gravity" for Warner Bros. The film, starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, is about a lone survivor of a space mission trying desperately to return to Earth to reunite with his family.
Any of the three men would be a reassuring choice for fans and Collins. And all three auteurs could have compelling takes on the material. Other names are sure to rise to the surface, but Cronenberg, Inarritu and Cuaron should give fans some reassurance that Lionsgate is doing its best to try to preserve their beloved franchise.
-- Nicole Sperling
Top photo: David Cronenberg. Credit Chris Young/Associated Press
Lower photo: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. Credit: Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times