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3 YEARS

'Hunger Games': Gary Ross Will Not Direct Sequel 'Catching Fire'

"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," Ross said in a statement late Tuesday.

Gary Ross Hunger Games Premiere Headshot - H 2012
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The search is on for a new director for The Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire.

Director Gary Ross addressed recent reports speculating about whether he would return at the helm for the second movie in the Hunger Games franchise. "Despite recent speculation in the media, and after difficult but sincere consideration, I have decided not to direct Catching Fire," Ross said in a statement.

He cited time as a major factor for why he pulled out of the project. "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," Ross said.

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Lionsgate also issued a statement addressing Ross' departure: "We’re very sorry that Gary Ross has chosen not to direct Catching Fire. We were really looking forward to making the movie with him. He did an incredible job on the first film, and we are grateful for his work. This will not be the end of our relationship, as we consider Ross to be part of the Lionsgate family and look forward to working with him in the future."

Earlier Tuesday, Josh Hutcherson told The Hollywood Reporter at a press day for Detention in Los Angeles that Ross was his pick to direct Catching Fire: "I think Gary’s the man. Gary is in my mind the only one that could ever direct the second one. That’s what I’m sticking to.”

THR reported that Ross was set to sit down with Lionsgate executives Monday for a key meeting that will help determine his role in the follow-up to the mega-blockbuster. Among the issues for the filmmaker was his concern over the ambitious production schedule that would require shooting to begin in August.

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Catching Fire, which will see Jennifer Lawrence, Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth return, is slated for a November 2013 release.

Below is Ross' statement:

Despite recent speculation in the media, and after difficult but sincere consideration, I have decided not to direct Catching Fire.  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.
 
I loved making
The Hunger Games -- it was the happiest experience of my professional life. Lionsgate was supportive of me in a manner that few directors ever experience in a franchise: They empowered me to make the film I wanted to make and backed the movie in a way that requires no explanation beyond the remarkable results. And contrary to what has been reported, negotiations with Lionsgate have not been problematic. They have also been very understanding of me through this difficult decision.
 
I also cannot say enough about the people I worked with: Producer Nina Jacobson, a great collaborator and a true friend; the brilliant Suzanne Collins, who entrusted us with her most amazing and important story; the gifted and remarkable Jennifer Lawrence whose performance exceeded my wildest expectations, and the rest of the incredible cast, whom I am proud to call my friends.
 
To the fans I want to say thank you for your support your faith, your enthusiasm and your trust. Hard as this may be to understand I am trying to keep that trust with you. Thank you all. It’s been a wonderful experience.

 
Below is Lionsgate's full statement:

We’re very sorry that Gary Ross has chosen not to direct Catching Fire. We were really looking forward to making the movie with him. He did an incredible job on the first film and we are grateful for his work. This will not be the end of our relationship, as we consider Ross to be part of the Lionsgate family and look forward to working with him in the future.