The Kidd here...
I've been hearing rumblings for a few days that things may not be as simple as Gary Ross leaving THE HUNGER GAMES trilogy over something as simple as a lowball offer on directing CATCHING FIRE. I've also been hearing that it's not a given that he's out on the second chapter either. There is definitely some smoke to the fire of Gary Ross' future involvement in the franchise being in serious jeopardy, but it is not the given that's been going around that he's out.
Lionsgate has a lot riding on THE HUNGER GAMES. With THE TWILIGHT SAGA wrapping up in November, there's nothing else in the pipeline for this merger between Lionsgate and Summit that can really generate big box office dollars except for THE HUNGER GAMES. The first film just crossed the $300 million mark domestically over Easter weekend, and now that the studio is aware of the die-hard nature of its fan base, they can expect huge numbers to come rolling in when they count the receipts for CATCHING FIRE and MOCKINGJAY.
Therefore, it doesn't make much sense that they'd try to force Ross' hand over money (pennies in the overall scheme of things now that they've seen how much THE HUNGER GAMES are truly worth) when they've got a release date already announced and a very tight window in which to get the film into production before Jennifer Lawrence is off in January to shoot the X-MEN: FIRST CLASS follow-up. Simon Beaufoy has already been working on the script to CATCHING FIRE for months with Ross overseeing the material. It'd make for a very easy transition into the next film to change as little as possible and not rock the boat.
However, it may be that shooting schedule that's becoming the problem for Ross. There may have been a lot of work done on that script thus far, but that doesn't mean it's done and ready to go. Also, factor in Jennifer Lawrence's training schedule, casting, location scouting and everything that's going into the pre-production, and you're looking at a period of only about four months to squeeze it all in before the cameras start rolling in August/September.
That doesn't mean it's impossible, just incredibly difficult, and, to Ross, it might not be worth it. That may be where your money dispute comes in. This is just speculation, but it's entirely possible Ross is asking for a significant raise to handle such a hassle knowing full well that Lionsgate isn't going to meet his price. That gives him an easy way to walk away with the old "It's not me, it's them" excuse. Or, on the other hand, it could be a case of Lionsgate tightening up the purse strings and not making it worth his while to head into such a rushed process, maybe against his better judgment.
The simple fact is that Lionsgate is better off with Ross in tow rather than heading out with little time to spare to find another director to handle CATCHING FIRE. This could be another Matthew Vaughn situation with X-MEN: THE LAST STAND, where the schedule to make the release date was just too demanding to turn out a quality film, and what we were left with was a disaster of mutant proportions that really shouldn't be blamed on Brett Ratner. That's what happens when the release date comes before everything else.
I wasn't impressed with THE HUNGER GAMES at all, and that's being a fan of the book. I don't think that's necessarily Ross' fault, although I could have done without the shaky cams, which were used poorly to mask the violence in order to get the film in as a PG-13. I think the script failed him as an adaptation from the book. However, having really loved PLEASANTVILLE and SEABISCUIT, I think Ross has a great HUNGER GAMES in him, if some of the mistakes of the first film can be improved upon.
It's easy to say that Ross can be replaced by someone else. It's not as if his name is putting asses in the seats for these films. At this point, all you need is something with the titles, and the fans will turn out. On the other hand, Ross can do other things. He's made quality films before, so it's not as if he's going to have a hard time finding work if he moves on from THE HUNGER GAMES. But, as this point, I think both parties need each other a little more than they're letting on. Ross' name has never meant as much as it does now, and Lionsgate has a monumental success on their hands, partially due to Ross. They know he can handle the series, and isn't it better to deal with the devil you know than the one you don't...
There's still a lot to be hammered out between Lionsgate and Ross, but I think word of their split is a bit premature... and, if I had to bet some money on this, I've got the feeling things are going to get patched up rather quickly, and their partnership with continue for CATCHING FIRE.
"The Infamous Billy The Kidd"
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