After a lengthy, rumor-filled back-and-forth between The Hunger Games director Gary Ross and Lions Gate, the studio behind the No. 1 movie in America three weeks holding, news broke late last night that Ross would be stepping down from the director's chair for the sequel, Catching Fire. The shake-up is a mixed bag; Ross was a quintessential part of turning the Hunger Games into a success, from his part in penning the screenplay to the directing decisions that made the final product serve fans and newbies alike. But much like the Potter and Twilight franchises, Hunger Games can find fresh blood — an opportunity to imbue the next installment with unique perspectives and style. And if the producers of Hunger Games are really ready to step up the game of the series, here's my suggestion: hire a woman.
Out of the top 20 highest grossing live-action movies of 2011, exactly zero of them were directed by women. And it's not that the female-driven films of last year bombed at the box office — there was never an opportunity for them to take off in the first place. The truth is, women are underserved in the world of blockbusters — but with Hunger Games being a nearly demographicless franchise, and with a strong, female character at the center of the action, the open director position for Catching Fire seems like the perfect slot to fill with a visionary, female director. The sequel is already a sure thing — without knowing a single thing about the movie, I can already tell you it will pass the $100 million mark within days of opening — so there's little risk in hiring someone to take it outside the box. If you don't think there are any women working in the biz capable of stepping up to the blockbuster plate, think again. Here are five that could easily knock Catching Fire out of the park:
Mira Nair (Vanity Fair, The Namesake)
The India-born director's career has been balanced with intimate indies (Monsoon Wedding) and large-scale dramas (Amelia), all painted with a vivid visual style rarely found in Hollywood or elsewhere. Taking on Catching Fire wouldn't be her first foray into young adult fiction adaptations — she was originally offered Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, but turned it down to tackle material that felt more personal. But the Hunger Games sequel is a mature story, even with teenage leads, and tackles some grand, revolutionary ideas. Nair's done sweeping period pieces, and Catching Fire isn't too far off — except for the whole "being in the future" thing.
Jennifer Yuh (Kung Fu Panda 2)
With the jump from animation to live-action being all the rage — recent cases like Andrew Adamson (Shrek to Narnia), Brad Bird (Ratatouille to Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol), and Andrew Stanton (Wall-E to John Carter) — allowing one of the best animated action directors to take a stab at Catching Fire is only logical. Yuh's action choreography in the recent Kung Fu Panda 2 was above and beyond expectations. Exhilarating, funny, and surprisingly poignant, the director took a pudgy Jack Black panda character and made him kick butt with an edge of vulnerability. Imagine what she could in the over-the-top arena of Catching Fire.