A little under a month after Lionsgate and director Gary Ross cited irreconcilable differences and went their separate ways, The Hunger Games franchise has gotten a new stepdad. Francis Lawrence, who has previously tackled action thrillers and literary adaptations — I Am Legend and Water for Elephants respectively — has been named the successor to the series.
“Lionsgate, the cast, and filmmakers are all thrilled to have Francis Lawrence come on board as director of Catching Fire,” Lionsgate’s president of production, Erik Feig, said in a press release. “Suzanne’s brilliant book is the intense story of the birth of the rebellion and Katniss’ emotionally charged journey as she takes on the mantle of the Mockingjay, and we all think Francis is the perfect director to bring the story to life.” The rest of the release goes on to talk about Lawrence’s talent and passion for the material in effusive terms not dissimilar to the ones they used to describe Ross only a couple months ago. It also reaffirms Lionsgate’s schedule: Production begins this coming fall for release on Nov. 22, 2013, the week before Thanksgiving.
In taking on Catching Fire, Lawrence has big shoes to fill. Not only were the cast and Collins close with Ross, but the first film has already banked a $374.3 million domestic gross. On the other hand, franchises like Twilight and Harry Potter have thrived under a revolving directorship. “It is truly an honor and a privilege to bring Catching Fire, the second chapter of Suzanne’s beloved trilogy, to the big screen,” added Lawrence in the release. “I fell in love with the characters, the themes and the world she created and this chapter opens all of these elements up in such a thrilling, emotional and surprising way. I can’t wait to dive right into it and bring this chapter to life along with the truly superb cast and filmmakers involved.”