Lionsgate Lightens Up On Requirements; Offers Francis Lawrence ‘Catching Fire’ Director’s Chair

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Francis Lawrence to direct Catching FireNo offense to Francis Lawrence, I actually liked Constantine, but he is hardly comparable to the likes of David Cronenberg, Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. And yet Lawrence is the man Lionsgate has offered the directorial job for Catching Fire, the follow-up to this year’s smash success The Hunger Games, after the trio I just mentioned were supposedly the kind of director Lionsgate was looking for.

Only a week ago, the “Los Angeles Times” said the studio had a wishlist of seven to eight directors they wanted for the job. Of those seven or eight Cronenberg, Cuaron and Inarritu were the only names mentioned, clearly because they were the hottest when it comes to who would gain Internet attention as they manipulated the “Times” into keeping Catching Fire in the news cycle.

Then, a couple days later, The Playlist added Bennett Miller (Moneyball) and Lawrence (Water for Elephants) to the mix. It was the first time a name had been mentioned that would likely get the job. I’m not talking about Miller.

Other names mentioned since have included equally unlikely candidates in Tomas Alfredson (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Joe Cornish (Attack The Block), Duncan Jones (Moon), Cary Fukunaga (Jane Eyre) and Juan Antonio Bayona (The Orphange). Evaluating the work of every single name mentioned, Lawrence is the only one I would ever expect would jump into a job another director left because he felt he wasn’t given enough time to do it properly.

When the “Los Angeles Times” first brought up the shortlist they added that the names included had to have “enough credits and accolades to appeal to [“The Hunger Games” author Suzanne Collins], who is much more interested in quality filmmaking than box-office prowess” and a director with “an even keel; no petulant crybabies allowed.” The goal was “to re-create the Harry Potter moment when Warner Bros. brought Alfonso Cuaron to direct the third film in the series.” Well, has that happened? Is Lawrence the answer to whatever the question was?

I guess Constantine, I Am Legend and Water for Elephants received enough accolades and displayed enough quality filmmaking to appease Collins and her need for quality over box-office prowess.

Before finishing The Hunger Games, former director Gary Ross and Collins began work outlining Catching Fire before handing off scripting duties to Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire). The second book in Collins’s trilogy centers on a special edition of the Hunger Games, which takes place every quarter-century as tributes are “reaped” from the victors of past games. Considering the number of winners from lead character Katniss Everdeen’s (Jennifer Lawrence) District 12, I’m sure you can put the rest together.

It is necessary for filming to get underway before the end of the year as Jennifer Lawrence moves to X-Men: First Class 2 in January and Catching Fire is already on a deadline to hit theaters on November 22, 2013. Beaufoy is still working on the script and with an open summer schedule, Francis Lawrence will work with the screenwriter immediately.

[via Variety]

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