Things just got a little bit more intense in the world of The Hunger Games. As IndieWire initially reported Friday, the wildly successful franchise will now be on the hunt for a director to helm Catching Fire as Gary Ross has officially exited. According to Variety, Ross released the following statement Tuesday: "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." Reports and rumors vary as to why Ross won't revisit Suzanne Collins' dystopian saga, with some citing that the decision came down to money issues, while others, including IndieWire.com, claim that the writer/director simply wants to pursue other projects. (Ross' statement certainly seems to align with the latter.)
While Lionsgate will now have to fill the high-profile position — the first film has made a mind-blowing $300 million in its first two weeks — it will no longer have to worry about the fate of its leading lady, Jennifer Lawrence, and her increasingly in-demand status. According to The Hollywood Reporter last week, a heated scheduling conflict arose last month between Lionsgate and 20th Century Fox, the studio behind Lawrence's other million-dollar franchise X-Men (20th Century Fox reportedly wanted to film in the fall, possibly interfering with scheduling for Catching Fire) but has since come to a resolution. Shooting for the X-Men follow-up will now begin in January 2013, which will not coincide with the late summer/early fall start date for the latest installment of The Hunger Games series.
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