24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: The Hunger Games

'Catching Fire' producer to fans: Finnick field remains wide open

June 5, 2012 |  2:58 pm

The producer of the Hunger Games says casting is nohwere close to finished for Finnick
Amid a frenzy of rumors surrounding his possible role in the next installment of "The Hunger Games," Taylor Kitsch last week told us he won't be playing the attractive Finnick Odair in "Catching Fire."

Finnick, who shows up for the first time in "Catching Fire," is described by author Suzanne Collins as a handsome 24-year-old womanizer who excels at athletic pursuits. According to E! News, other actors still up for the part include Garrett Hedlund and Armie Hammer. But a producer of the sequel says even those whispers are "so not true."

“That’s the thing that’s crazy -- people are like way ahead of where we are,” Nina Jacobson told us on the red carpet at the MTV Movie Awards on Sunday. “We’ve not narrowed things down by any means. It’s funny to see how things can take on a life of their own.”

But are the filmmakers taking fan input into account while seeking out their Finnick? Not entirely, says Jacobson.

“It means something that people can see [an actor] in that light, so you know [the actor] will be accepted by a lot of people, on the one hand,” she said. “On the other hand, you have to kind of ignore it. You have to just sort of act like you’re sitting in a room and you want to just pick the person who gives the best audition and looks and feels most like the part.”

Since its release in March, "The Hunger Games" has collected over $645 million worldwide. The next installment is due in November 2013. "That's pressure," Jacobson acknowledged with a smile. "But it's a good kind of pressure."


‘Hunger Games’: District 12 for sale

Taylor Kitsch: I'm not playing Finnick in 'Catching Fire'

'Hunger Games,' 'Twilight' hurt Lions Gate earnings before they help

-- Amy Kaufman


Photo: Jennifer Lawrence stars in "The Hunger Games." Credit: Lionsgate

Taylor Kitsch: I'm not playing Finnick in 'Catching Fire'

May 31, 2012 | 12:59 pm

Taylor Kitsch will not play Finnick in "Catching Fire"

With casting for the second installment of "The Hunger Games" franchise underway, fans of the dystopian sci-fi series have been breathlessly debating who will play an integral character in "Catching Fire."

Finnick Odair, described by author Suzanne Collins as an Adonis-like womanizer, first appears in "Catching Fire" and has a complex relationship with heroine Katniss Everdeen. So admirers of the series were thrown into a tizzy this week when E! News reported that filmmakers had narrowed down the casting to three heartthrobs: Taylor Kitsch, Armie Hammer and Garrett Hedlund.

But you can knock one of those dreamboats off the list, because Kitsch says he won't be joining the cast of the mega-successful film series.

"Not going to happen," the 31-year-old actor wrote in an email on Wednesday. Kitsch, who is coming off the poor box office performance of the big-budget films "John Carter" and "Battleship," would seem to have fit the bill for the athletic, good-looking character.

As for "The Lone Ranger" star Hammer and "TRON: Legacy" lead Hedlund, the studio behind the franchise, Lionsgate, said it would not confirm, deny or comment on any casting in progress.


'Battleship' debuts weakly at the box office [video]

Taylor Kitsch puts 'John Carter' disaster behind him

How did 'Battleship' escape the 'John Carter' flop furor?

--Amy Kaufman


Photo: Taylor Kitsch. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times

Josh Hutcherson: 'The Hunger Games' hasn't changed my life [Video]

May 1, 2012 |  6:00 am

Josh Hutcherson stars in The Hunger Games
Before he signed on to "The Hunger Games," everyone warned Josh Hutcherson that taking part in the massively popular franchise would change his life.

Over a month after the film's release, the adaptation of Suzanne Collins' novel has racked up a phenomenal $600 million in ticket sales worldwide. But Hutcherson, 19, says the success of the movie hasn't affected his personal life.

"Everyone was telling me that my whole world was going to change and I couldn't go anywhere or it'd be too crazy," the actor said in Las Vegas last week, where he was named the Breakthrough Performer of the Year by theater owners at CinemaCon.

The paparazzi barely follow him, Hutcherson said — and even when they do, he tries not to alter his behavior.

"I think sometimes when people get in the spotlight, they feel like they have to act and behave a certain way to live up to what people expect of them," he said. "For me, I'm just going to be myself and live my life the way I'm going to. I'm not going to let paparazzi determine the way I live."

Meanwhile, Hutcherson is readying himself to shoot "Catching Fire," the second installment in the series, starting this August. Despite the fact that the start date is rapidly approaching, the actor says he has yet to speak with Francis Lawrence, who is taking over directing duties from Gary Ross.

"I have heard from literally everyone that he's the nicest man alive, so I'm really excited to work with him," Hutcherson said, adding that he's a big fan of Lawrence's "I Am Legend" but has yet to watch the filmmaker's most recent movie, "Water for Elephants."

"I still have to do some of the homework," he said with a smile.


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Boot up like Katniss in 'The Hunger Games' with Frye Co.

Review: 'The Hunger Games' a winning story of sacrifice and survival

— Amy Kaufman


Photo: Josh Hutcherson stars in "The Hunger Games." Credit: Lionsgate.

Is Jennifer Lawrence revisiting the wilderness-mama genre with 'Glass Castle'?

April 23, 2012 |  2:27 pm

While promoting “The Hunger Games” last month, Jennifer Lawrence quipped, “I don’t know what it is with me and maternal wilderness girls. I just love 'em.…” The 21-year-old actress was referring not only to her role as Katniss Everdeen in the uber-blockbuster that has now racked up more than $350 million but also to her Academy Award-nominated part as Ree Dolly in 2010’s “Winter’s Bone.” While the films are markedly different, both feature strong female protagonists who must take on a motherly role because their parents can't fulfill their responsibilities.

That trend seems to be continuing. Not even the intensity of playing Katniss has seemed to abate the actress’ passion for the “maternal wilderness girl.” According to Deadline Hollywood this morning, Lawrence is eyeing another such part in an adaptation of journalist and gossip columnist Jeannette Walls’ best-selling memoir “The Glass Castle.”

Lionsgate declined to comment for this story, but it seems Lawrence has little fear about being typecast. “The Glass Castle” is Walls’ chronicle of her unorthodox childhood as one of four children who had to fend for themselves after their eccentric parents proved unable. The book, published in 2005, spent some 250 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and was a favorite among many book clubs.

Paramount Pictures scooped up the movie rights to the book the year it was published via its deal with Brad Pitt’s production company Plan B but was never able to turn it into a feature film. The project went into turnaround, and producer Gil Netter (“The Blind Side,”) bought it. According to screenwriter Marti Noxon, who is just signing her deal to work on the script, Lionsgate’s president of production, Eric Feig, pounced on the project before Gill and Noxon were able to take it out as a pitch.

Continue reading »

Box Office: 'Three Stooges' unable to topple 'Hunger Games' [Video]

April 16, 2012 |  3:08 pm

The Hunger Games beat The Three Stooges at the box office
No movie has yet to topple "The Hunger Games" at the box office, though "The Three Stooges" came close over the weekend.

The fantasy epic starring Jennifer Lawrence pulled in $21.5 million, while the trio of jokesters grossed $17.1 million. The reign of "The Hunger Games" will likely come to an end next weekend with the debut of Zac Efron's romantic tear-jerker, "The Lucky One."

Meanwhile, "Stooges" marked the biggest debut in more than a decade for Bobby and Peter Farrelly, the brother directing team behind the movie. The filmmaking pair have struggled to find their footing at the box office in recent years after the blockbuster success of their early '90s films like "Dumb & Dumber" and "There's Something About Mary."

For more on how their new film fared at the box office, check out this week's video report.


'Hunger Games' slaps 'Stooges' silly

'The Three Stooges': How did the Farrelly brothers get here?

'Battleship' solid in foreign debut but 3-D 'Titanic' breaks records

— Amy Kaufman


Photo: Will Sasso, left, Chris Diamantopoulos and Sean Hayes star in "The Three Stooges." Credit: 20th Century Fox.

‘Catching Fire:’ Will it turn out OK without Gary Ross?

April 13, 2012 |  2:45 pm


Gary Ross’ decision to walk away from “Catching Fire” and “The Hunger Games” phenomenon he helped create yields a double-barreled question: What will the franchise look like without him, and what will his career look like without it?

The answers depend, of course, on who Lionsgate hires  to take Ross’ place, and on what the director decides to do with his suddenly wide-open schedule. But there are precedents for director swaps on big-name movies that could prove encouraging or disheartening, depending on your point of view.
Many fans clearly want Ross back. A poll on 24 Frames asking who should direct the new film saw “Bring Ross back, no matter what it takes” collect more votes than all the other responses combined. But these fans would be wise to look at cases where a director left a project midstream.

In a number of instances, a situation where a movie seemed in disarray without its original director worked out for the best.

It looked like “Gone With the Wind” was doomed when original director George Cukor was fired by producer David O. Selznick three weeks into production. Olivia de Havilland and other actors begged Selznick to reinstate him. Instead, the producer brought in Victor Fleming, who at the time was making “The Wizard of Oz.” Things turned out pretty nicely for both films.

“A lot of times what seems like a curse in these director situations can be a blessing," Ron Base, an author of numerous books about Hollywood history, told 24 Frames. "The new director comes in with something to prove."

There are less heartening instances. In the early 1960s, “One-Eyed Jacks” looked as if it could be a world-beater when Stanley Kubrick signed on to direct the Western, based on a script from Sam Peckinpah.

But Kubrick was fired shortly after, and Marlon Brando wound up taking a turn behind the camera. The resulting movie was a mixed bag at best. Brando’s directing career fared even worse — he’d never helm another movie.

Recent Hollywood history suggests that, “Harry Potter” notwithstanding, sequels work best when the same director stays with them. “Jurassic Park” took a pretty big dive when Joe Johnston stepped in for Steven Spielberg.  In contrast, a franchise conceived and helmed by one person over the course of its life tends to turn out pretty well (see under: Peter Jackson and the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy).

In some cases, films don't look better or worse under a new director; they just look very different. Here’s a fun thought experiment: How would “Bonnie and Clyde” have turned out had it been helmed by the filmmaker who initially agreed to direct it, Francois Truffaut?

Truffaut made “Farenheit 451” instead, a film that received mixed reviews, though turning down "Bonnie" didn’t hurt his stature as a pioneer of the French New Wave. Under the hand of Arthur Penn, “Bonnie and Clyde” turned out pretty well too.

Today’s Hollywood differs considerably from that of previous eras: As publicly traded companies, studios tend to be more conservative than they've ever been, and their level of involvement is high. A franchise like “The Hunger Games” also builds off a well-known body of work in a way that discourages unexpectedness or wild reinvention.

Fans may be wringing their hands about the Ross departure. But very few directors these days can, on their own, drive a beloved property into the ground -- or, for that matter, come up with a surprise masterpiece.


'Catching Fire' director: Is it an impossible job?

Catching Fire': Is Gary Ross back to his old ways?

‘Catching Fire’ director: Lionsgate eyeing Cronenberg, Cuaron

'Catching Fire' Gary Ross will not direct 'The Hunger Games' sequel

'Hunger Games': Gary Ross on hunting the job and Jennifer Lawrence

 -- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Gary Ross' "The Hunger Games." Credit: Lionsgate

'Catching Fire': Is Gary Ross back to his old ways?

April 12, 2012 |  6:30 am

Before he vaulted into the headlines for his decision to walk away from “Catching Fire,” Gary Ross had been a surprisingly influential figure in the culture of cinema. He’d been nominated for four Oscars.  And he was responsible for a number of hits.

Before he was even 35, Ross wrote a classic, Tom Hanks’ “Big.” He did everything but ride the horse in 2003’s “Seabiscuit,” that sports underdog movie that the whole family enjoyed. We’d want to take him to task for writing “Dave,” except it was — could this be true? -- the 16th highest-grossing film of 1993, taking in over $100 million when evaluated in today's dollars.

And of course last month there was “The Hunger Games,” which has turned into a cultural phenomenon most directors only dream of.

But like many talented artists, Ross has a few issues. Idiosyncrasies, let’s call them. He’s particular. And he can be restless. He comes on to projects, then he drops off projects. He gets excited, and the producers who work with him get excited, and then he gets excited about something else.

Yes, that means he has a deep and insatiable curiosity.  And few assail his abilities — Ross is, in the opinion of most, one of the more skilled directors working within the commercial movie system. But his curiosity and his restlessness come with a flip side, the side that means you don’t direct a lot of movies.

This is not a secret in Hollywood. Before “Hunger Games,” if you talked to many of the agents who are tasked with knowing what’s going on at the studios, chances are that sooner or later Ross’ name would come up for a project. Sometimes this was followed by a barely perceptible eye roll. The kind that turns “Gary Ross wants to do it” into “We both know Gary Ross is not really going to do it.” Over several months in 2009, entertainment outlets reported on three different high-profile projects he had become involved with in various capacities — a biopic about Lance Armstrong, an adaptation of the classic Matt Helm spy novels and the “Spider-Man” spin-off “Venom.”

As with any development news, some of these projects were firmer than others. But it’s notable that none of these movies ever saw the light of day.

In fact, before this year, no Ross directorial project has seen the light of day since 2003, a long time when you consider that said ’03 movie was not some flop that landed him in director jail but “Seabiscuit,” the highest-grossing drama of the year, which should all but give you license to do what you want, with whose-ever money you want, in the years that follow.

Yet over those years, Ross directed nothing. (He did write several scripts during this time, including those for 2008's "The Tale of Desperaux" and the upcoming "Creature from the Black Lagoon.")

All of this may have been so much Soho House chatter if not for this week’s news that Ross has decided to exit the “Hunger Games” series. There are many reasons why a director walks away from a hit franchise. He wants to do something else. He had a bad experience working with the cast. He hates the smell of money. 

In Ross’ case it was, in part, that he wanted to be involved in nearly every aspect of the film, even aspects another director might have delegated.

As my colleagues Nicole Sperling and Ben Fritz report in Thursday’s Times, an August start date meant he would have had four months to ready the film. Four months is not a short amount of time. The Dodgers can fall out of, climb into and fall out of playoff contention again in four months. The U.S. economy can go from bad to decent to really bad in four months. Heck, Mitt Romney can even lock down the Republican nomination in four months.

Ross would have had time to get the movie ready in four months. But he wouldn’t have had time to do his own script rewrite. And Ross wanted to do his own script rewrite.

Actually, he probably would have even had time for that script rewrite if he farmed out some of the more technical pre-production aspects to a trusted deputy or a veteran technical filmmaker. But he apparently didn’t want to farm out some of the more technical pre-production aspects to a trusted deputy or a veteran technical filmmaker.

And so, as he's done plenty of times over his career, he walked away from the director's chair.

After a blockbuster like “The Hunger Games,” Gary Ross will undoubtedly be able to write his own ticket. But after some of the traits he has displayed over the years, it’s not clear how quickly he’ll be picking up the pen.


'Catching Fire:' Can changing directors work?

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Gary Ross at the world premiere of "The Hunger Games." Credit: Matt Sayles / Associated Press

‘Catching Fire’ director: Is it an impossible job? [poll]

April 11, 2012 |  3:32 pm

Director Gary Ross

It won’t be easy finding a new director for “Catching Fire.” The eligible candidate need not only be available on very short notice, but he or she needs to be an accomplished hand who won’t cause too much trouble and kill Lionsgate’s golden goose.

Said director should also be willing to work for a comparatively small sum, since it’s unlikely Lionsgate will back up the Brinks truck for the last-minute gig. (So, basically, that rules out Keith Olbermann.)

Taking on "The Hunger Games” sequel is a dream job in some ways — it’s the rare director that goes into preproduction knowing their movie will be seen by tens of millions of people no matter what they do.

On the other hand, “Catching Fire” is a movie that, well, will be seen by tens of millions of people no matter what they do. That means the new director could wind up with a very high profile failure -- and on a movie that wasn’t even their fault, since they: a) wouldn’t have developed the film b) didn’t have a lot of time to make it. In some ways, it's the cinematic equivalent of football’s placekick holder — you probably won’t get a lot of credit, but you can easily become the goat.

Bloggers have tossed around a number of names for the gig (and we don't count Danny Boyle or Martin Scorsese -- they have, like, other things going on). Among the more realistic possibilities: “Let Me In” helmer Matt Reeves (who’s done genre coming-of-age), “Warrior” and “Miracle” filmmaker Gavin O’Connor (known for pulse-racing but still character-driven action); "Source Code's" Duncan Jones (who collaborated with the people who currently run Lionsgate on another futuristic thriller) and “Winter’s Bone” director Debra Granik (who already made a gritty story with Jennifer Lawrence).

The Ross wounds are still too fresh for any of the speculation to mean much. But included below are those names, and a few others executives could conceivably look at. Vote in our poll for which one you’d most like to see take the reins. And "None of the above" works, too. Hey, it suited Gary Ross.


'Catching Fire:' Can changing directors work?

"Hunger Games": Gary Ross won't direct "Catching Fire"

"Hunger Games" tops $300 million at box office

"The Hunger Games": Five lessons from its box-office success

Movie review: "The Hunger Games"

"Hunger Games": Jennifer Lawrence reaps praise from critics

Box Office: "Hunger Games" beats record with $155-million opening weekend

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Garry Ross as "The Hunger Games" premiere in Berlin. Credit: Britta Pedersen / EPA

'Catching Fire': Can changing directors work?

April 11, 2012 | 12:23 pm

"The Hunger Games"The decision by Gary Ross and Lionsgate to part ways on "Catching Fire" has caused a stir on the Internet, as fans worry how the new "Hunger Games" film will fare without the original helmer. But for all the rapid breathing, Rossgate actually is just the latest example in a long tradition of studios switching horses on a sequel.

How have previous franchises turned out? Some well; many others, not so well. Here are six instructive comparisons.

"Twilight." Perhaps the most famous of all modern cases, and the one to which "Catching Fire" is now most often being compared. In late 2008, after studio Summit and "Twilight" helmer Catherine Hardwicke haggled over issues large and small, Summit hit the reset button and hired Chris Weitz to direct the second film. The new movie was fabulously successful at the box office, though the reviews were tepid. Adding to the similarities: Lionsgate is now run by the same executives who ran Summit at the time.

"Aliens." Maybe the archetype for how to switch it up. Seven years after Ridley Scott defined the zeitgeist with 1979’s "Alien," James Cameron stepped in and turned out "Aliens," a movie that many felt matched the first film in ambition and creativity. The key difference between that case and this one (apart from the fact that Cameron probably won't be taking on "Catching Fire"): "Aliens" was a labor of love that Cameron developed for years before carefully taking the reins. This instance -- when a director is needed urgently to make a date 19 months away -- is, well, a little different.

"Harry Potter." Another success story. After Chris Columbus helmed the first two movies in the boy-wizard franchise, he cited burnout and decamped for a smaller producing role on the third film. Alfonso Cuaron stepped in, starting a rotation of top-tier directors over the final six films that fans say greatly benefited the franchise.

"Pirates of the Caribbean.'" After Gore Verbinski made it his own with three straight massive hits, Rob Marshall stepped in for No. 4. It didn't work out so well. Though the movie was the second-most successful in global box office, it was by far the lowest grossing domestically ($241 million to the $423 million of the second film) and was generally disliked by fans and critics.

"Saturday Night Fever." One of the many instances of sequel badness. Several years after John Badham gave us the dark, disco-filled classic, no less an auteur than Sylvester Stallone stepped into the franchise to give us more white-suited twinkle-toeing in "Stayin' Alive." The results were disastrous, both creatively and commercially. Don't try to have Sly or any of his modern equivalents direct "Catching Fire."

"Basic Instinct." Another cautionary tale. While Paul Verhoeven redefined sexy in 1992's "Basic instinct," the same can’t be said of  Michael Caton-Jones 2006’s debacle “Basic instinct 2.” Optimists might take heart that while that was thrown together as an easy cash-in, “Catching Fire” is based on an acclaimed book and already has an Oscar-winning screenwriter on board, so it should turn out better. One hopes.


"Hunger Games": Gary Ross won't direct "Catching Fire"

"Hunger Games" tops $300 million at box office

"The Hunger Games": Five lessons from its box-office success

Movie review: "The Hunger Games"

"Hunger Games": Jennifer Lawrence reaps praise from critics

Box Office: "Hunger Games" beats record with $155-million opening weekend

— Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Jennifer Lawrence in "The Hunger Games." Credit: Lionsgate

'Hunger Games:' Gary Ross won't direct 'Catching Fire'

April 10, 2012 |  7:47 pm


Proving the adage that there’s nothing as complicated in Hollywood as a hit, Gary Ross won’t direct “Catching Fire,” the second installment in Lionsgate's massively popular “The Hunger Games” franchise.

After several weeks of reports that the parties were haggling over money and deal points, both studio and director made statements in an email from Lionsgate that sought to dismiss those reports even as they confirmed that they were parting ways.

Ross led the statement, saying that “Despite recent speculation in the media, and after difficult but sincere consideration, I have decided not to direct 'Catching Fire.'  As a writer and a director, I simply don't have the time I need to write and prep the movie I would have wanted to make because of the fixed and tight production schedule."

The second installment of the Jennifer Lawrence-starring franchise based on Suzanne Collins' book series is scheduled to come out in November 2013. That’s about 19 months away — not a luxurious timetable, but hardly a bang-bang one either.

Ross went on to call directing “The Hunger Games” “the happiest experience of my professional life.” Then, addressing the reports, he said, “Contrary to what has been reported, negotiations with Lionsgate have not been problematic. They have also been very understanding of me through this difficult decision.”

Lionsgate followed the Ross statement by saying that it was “very sorry that Gary Ross has chosen not to direct ‘Catching Fire,’" adding that he “did an incredible job on the first film and we are grateful for his work.” It also said, "This will not be the end of our relationship, as we consider Ross to be part of the Lionsgate family and look forward to working with him in the future."

The news will inevitably spark a new round of speculation, calling to mind another famous director-studio separation after a hit: Catherine Hardwicke’s high-profile departure from Summit’s “Twilight Saga.” As in that case, the studio in question was run by Rob Friedman (Summit and Lionsgate were recently combined into one entity), though there are also some differences. Hardwicke’s “Twilight,” for instance, did not earn reviews as strong as Ross’ “The Hunger Games.”

The guessing game can now begin in earnest on which director should take on "Catching Fire," which centers on Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark after they leave the Arena in the titular games. The film already has a shiny pedigree in one respect: Simon Beaufoy, the Oscar-winning “Slumdog Millionaire” scribe, is penning the new film.


'Hunger Games' tops $300 million at box office

'The Hunger Games:' Five lessons from its box-office success

Movie review: 'The Hunger Games'

'Hunger Games': Jennifer Lawrence reaps praise from critics

Box Office: "Hunger Games" beats record with $155-million opening weekend

— Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Gary Ross at "The Hunger Games" premiere in Berlin. Credit: Britta Pedersen / European Pressphoto Agency



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