Francis Lawrence to Direct ‘Catching Fire’


Francis Lawrence has won the highly coveted directing gig for Catching Fire, the second installment of the “Hunger Games” trilogy based on Suzanne Collins’ literary smash. His MTV experience began with making videos for Jennifer Lopez and Brittany Spears. His big-screen experience includes “Constantine” (2005), “I Am Legend” (2007) and “Water for Elephants” (2011). The sequel goes into shooting production this fall, slated for a release on November 22, 2013. This release date sounds non-negotiable by Lionsgate Films.

Lawrence’s statement:

It is truly an honor and a privilege to bring Catching Fire, the second chapter of Suzanne’s beloved trilogy, to the big screen,” added Lawrence in the release. “I fell in love with the characters, the themes and the world she created and this chapter opens all of these elements up in such a thrilling, emotional and surprising way. I can’t wait to dive right into it and bring this chapter to life along with the truly superb cast and filmmakers involved.”

The immensely talented and scrupulous Gary Ross stepped aside. Ross was a great comedy screenwriter with a gift for supplying pathos for the films “Big” (1988) and “Dave” (1993). His first film as a director was the one-quarter color, three-quarters black & white time warp fantasy “Pleasantville” (1998), a four-star worthy film. Then he directed the classic horse movie “Seabiscuit” (2003), met with box office and critical acclaim. After six weeks, “The Hunger Games” has harvested $372 million dollars in domestic returns.

Ross’ farewell press release statement:

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. 

I loved making “The Hunger Games” – it was the happiest experience of my professional life. Lionsgate was supportive of me in a manner that few directors ever experience in a franchise: they empowered me to make the film I wanted to make and backed the movie in a way that requires no explanation beyond the remarkable results. And 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. 

I also cannot say enough about the people I worked with: Producer Nina Jacobson, a great collaborator and a true friend; the brilliant Suzanne Collins, who entrusted us with her most amazing and important story; the gifted and remarkable Jennifer Lawrence whose performance exceeded my wildest expectations, and the rest of the incredible cast, whom I am proud to call my friends. 

To the fans I want to say thank you for your support your faith, your enthusiasm and your trust. Hard as this may be to understand I am trying to keep that trust with you. Thank you all. It’s been a wonderful experience.”

Mostly this came about because LionsGate was too rigid about the sequel’s release date – it’s a corporate move, don’t you think? I say, to do the second book right, could they have not have given Ross, say, another six months for pre-production development?

Yet Lawrence is a fast-working, pugnacious up-and-comer. He might seem like a good replacement choice because of his credits “Constantine” (2005) and “I Am Legend” (2007), but I actually believe his work on the romantic tearjerker for “Water for Elephants,” with Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson as star-crossed lovers in the 1930’s circus scene, best proves his ability for “Catching Fire.” It shows his ability for ornate decoration and splendorous backdrop. And the arena scenes for “Catching Fire” are all very sumptuous retro old world. If he can direct a doll face like Reese Witherspoon and make her credible as a star entertainer of the circus, then he can certainly direct Jennifer Lawrence as a teen transforming into an adult with overburdening responsibility.

It’s all been said and done, but Bennett Miller (“Moneyball”), Duncan Jones (“Source Code”) and Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”) had been in the running. I would have crossed out Bigelow (who showed no interest), because she’s arrived at point in her career where she only wants to film stories with historical truth – not fantasy. Miller might have been a contender if he hadn’t had another project he was closer to (a psychodrama thriller called “Foxcatcher” with Channing Tatum and Steve Carell). Jones, the most underrated directing talent in Hollywood, would have been a great choice. But I’m not sure if Jones would have felt “author” power of the project, and Jones is one to be auteur with his own original creations.

Lawrence it is, reaching my approval under these replacement circumstances. He is not related to star Jennifer Lawrence.


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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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