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The story that broke last week claiming Gary Ross wouldn't return to direct Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire seemed pretty solid, but everyone went into the Easter weekend without any confirmation from Ross himself or the studio, leaving room for a lot of other rumors that the deal wasn't quite done and Ross might return after all. But now you can put an end to all that wishful thinking-- Ross has confirmed he's out with an official statement released through the studio. Here's the main paragraph from it, via Deadline:
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.
He went on to praise Lionsgate, the people he worked with on The Hunger Games and the film itself, which he calls "the happiest experience of my professional career." Despite all the rumors from last week, Deadline claims that the studio was in "shock" that Ross had exited, and everyone expected a deal to go through this week. Instead Lionsgate will be left looking for a new director in time to make their planned fall start date. But as Deadline themselves point out, The Hunger Games studio Lionsgate has recently merged with Summit, where they're mighty familiar with replacing directors midstream thanks to the Twilight franchise. You imagine they've already got their shortlists in mind.
As you might have read, we have a few ideas about who ought to take the job. If you missed our director speculation piece the first time around, head over there and start the speculation anew, now that we now 100% for sure that Ross won't be taking the job.