Francis Lawrence to direct 'Hunger Games' sequel 'Catching Fire'
"The Hunger Games" sequel "Catching Fire" will likely be directed by Francis Lawrence, a filmmaker whose résumé includes the big-budget event film "I Am Legend" and the intimate drama "Water for Elephants," a person close to the production but not authorized to speak publicly confirmed. According to that person, the studio has yet to close the deal.
Independent studio Lionsgate offered Lawrence the job on Thursday, little more than a week after "Hunger Games" director Gary Ross departed in a dispute over financial terms and the amount of time he would have had to prepare to make the sequel, which starts production in August and will hit theaters in November 2013.
Lionsgate considered a number of directors for the job, including Tomas Alfredson ("Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"), Tony Scott ("Unstoppable") and Stephen Daldry ("Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close"). By Wednesday, the negotiations were down to Lawrence and Bennett Miller, the Oscar-nominated director of "Moneyball" and "Capote."
Lawrence had been considered the leading candidate, however, because his schedule was open; Miller was supposed to begin shooting another movie, "Foxcatcher," this fall. In addition, he has experience with the type of special effects necessary to make "Catching Fire."
Bringing in a new director to a popular franchise is a tricky proposition, though Lionsgate subsidiary Summit did it successfully with its "Twilight" series. In Lawrence, the studio apparently believes it has found a director capable of balancing the high-octane action, personal relationships and social commentary that many critics praised Ross for capturing in "The Hunger Games."
Lawrence will have to move quickly to prepare to start shooting "Catching Fire." Screenwriter Simon Beaufoy is currently working on a script for the film.
The 42-year-old Lawrence was born in Austria and worked on music videos and commercials before making his feature film debut in 2005 on the comic-book adaptation "Constantine," starring Keanu Reeves.
— Ben Fritz and Nicole Sperling
Photo: Francis Lawrence on the set of "Water for Elephants." Credit: David James / 20th Century Fox.