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It was surprising but not that surprising to learn today that The Hunger Games director Gary Ross wasn't planning to return for the sequel Catching Fire, instead moving on to a new challenge. But with production on the film set to start in the fall, Lionsgate will have to move quickly to find a replacement director. Which means, of course, that the rest of us get to sit on the sidelines and speculate about who they ought to hire.
Sean and Katey got together to pitch some of their own favorite choices, some with experience directing blockbusters, some with promising indies under their belt, and one who has already made a movie about a numbered district like Katniss's own District 12. Katey has a suggestion for who ought to direct the finale Mockingjay, and Sean is so confident in his suggestion that he's demanding a share of the marketing. Check out their ideas below and vote in the poll or let us know in the comments who you would choose.
KATEY: OK Sean, to briefly summarize what everyone probably already knows-- Gary Ross has confirmed he won't be returning to direct Catching Fire, the sequel to The Hunger Games. Are you heartbroken by this news?
SEAN: I am in the sense that I believe any time a director delivers a massive hit -- and hits don't get much bigger than Games -- they should have the opportunity to follow up on that success. Storytellers hit a stride, and I think Ross could have ensured that Fire got off on a strong foot. Now it feels like the series kind of is starting over from Square One again.
KATEY: It seems like Ross just wasn't interested in following up though-- apparently he thinks the other books aren't as strong as The Hunger Games, which is correct, and wants to do something new. I can't really say I blame him. Hopefully he's made a nice profit off this one and can move on without getting sucked into the machinery of a giant franchise.
SEAN: Well, and this is what major franchises -- from Twilight to Harry Potter -- do now. They get a fresh voice each and every time. I suppose if someone other than George Lucas can direct Empire and Jedi, then someone else should be allowed to direct Catching Fire.
KATEY: Exactly. So keeping in mind that Catching Fire starts production in the fall, who do we think should take over?
SEAN: I have a number of good candidates in mind, but first, full disclosure. I've yet to read Fire, so tell me this. Does the new director have to have sci-fi roots? Or is the story more character driven?
KATEY: Catching Fire has a much wider scope than The Hunger Games, which needs we need someone who can capture the distinct vibes of all the different Districts, then the opulence of the Capitol, then the squalor of Katniss's home district 12, and then... well, there's some more action and some even weirder sci-fi near the end that i don't want to spoil. So I think you need someone who is above all confident with a wider scope and innovative visuals, and less so with action. Tony Scott is not invited, to say the least.
SEAN: Ha! OK, then my first suggestion is Bryan Singer. He has experience with major franchises (X-Men and a Superman film). He has worked with fantasy/sci-fi, and he's also outstanding with ensembles.
KATEY: I was thinking about Singer as well! He's good at complex stories too, which really ought to help since Catching Fire is all over the place. I actually had another thought, inspired both by the Harry Potter comparison and the odd stuff that happens later in Catching Fire. What about Alfonso Cuaron?
SEAN: Well, given that Azkaban is my favorite Potter installment (because of his graceful direction), I think he'd be wonderful. The only thing is that from Children of Men to the upcoming Gravity, he seems to be clicking on his own material, so assigning him another adaptation might cheat us of a truly unique Cuaron story. But yeah, he's brilliant. OK, another sci-fi voice who does a ton with a minimal budget, How about Moon and Source Code helmer Duncan Jones?
KATEY: Duncan Jones could be really interesting for the visual aspects-- and his proven ability to do a lot on not a lot of money-- but I wonder about him from the character point of view. It's still really important in the follow-up movies to get into Katniss's head, and I got way too little of that from Source Code. How about Neill Blomkamp? He's done shooting Elysium, I think, and has already been to District 9 -- HEYO!
SEAN: Groan. Inevitable pun. :) I guess I need to see Elysium to see how he's going to do as a filmmaker. I loved District 9, but want to see what else he has in him. Some other obvious names pop up when thinking about who can handle a massive franchise. Andrew Stanton can find the heart of the story (I think), and Jon Favreau's great at mixing wonder with his eye-popping visuals ... Cowboys & Aliens aside.
KATEY: I think Favreau aims too big to nail the details of the emotional stuff, and Stanton, love him as I do, needs more control over his stuff than this I think. The thing I keep coming back to is that Catching Fire isn't really action heavy so much as scope heavy-- laugh if you will, but you need someone like Ed Zwick who can handle huge settings and big moments. I don't actually think they should hire Ed Zwick! Stop yelling at me!
SEAN: Zwick's not a bad director. But I think I have it figured out. And I swear, this is not a pitch for Cabin in the Woods (which we all adore). But what about Drew Goddard? He showed immense control in Cabin. He understood all of those characters. He can handle "crazy" action. AND ... he's already in the Lionsgate stable.
KATEY: I was just about to pitch Drew Goddard's own former collaborator Matt Reeves, who directed Cloverfield (action! innovation!) and Let Me In (character! even more innovative action scenes!) Why don't we just team them back up and be done with it?
SEAN: Perfect-o! Give us consulting credits when this happens, Lionsgate. And 5% of the merchandising rights!
KATEY: Indeed! So as we wrap this up, which of all these choices would be your #1 pick?
SEAN: I'm going to go with my first choice and say Singer. He was unfairly burned by Superman Returns, and his heart didn't seem into Valkyrie. His passion is bigger-budget fantasy cinema, and this could be an excellent way for him to get back into the fan fold. Also, his strengths as a filmmaker play to what we seem to need in a Hunger Games film. I'd love to see him hit a home run with Catching Fire, because I think he's a great director and he deserves another hit. And you?
KATEY: I'm with you, but I'm also still a little attached to my initial suggestion of Cuaron, because of a lot of the sci-fi weirdness that hits late in the film, and also a sense that he could nail the intimacy of a lot of scenes between Katniss and Peeta early in the movie. But my gut tells me they'll go for someone cheaper and less famous than either Singer or Cuaron, which might make our Reeves/Goddard prediction even more accurate.
SEAN: So long as it's not Brett Ratner, I'm cool.
KATEY: And I'm just gonna say it now to be on the record: the third book is basically a war movie, and I demand they shell out to get Kathryn Bigelow to direct it. Because if this entire franchise goes by without a female director it'll be a shame, and Bigelow is as good at action as anybody alive.
SEAN: Agreed! Great chat! I think we solved the Hunger Games problem! Back pats for everyone.
KATEY: It's so great running a movie studio in our minds. OK, thanks Sean! When they hire a director-- or Gary Ross somehow signs on after all-- we'll have to regroup and scheme all over again.
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