'Hunger Games' Sequel 'Catching Fire' Narrows Director Search

Catching Fire Book Cover 2012
With production and release-date deadlines looming, Lionsgate races to find a suitable replacement for Gary Ross in the director's chair.

The search for a director to replace Gary Ross on Catching Fire is narrowing, with a decision potentially coming as early as the end of this week, according to sources.

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Bennett Miller, who directed Moneyball, has met with Lionsgate to helm the sequel to The Hunger Games, the adaptation of the Suzanne Collins best-seller, as has Francis Lawrence, the director best known for the Will Smith sci-fi action movie I Am Legend.

Their names surfaced in the last 24 hours and were reported by The Playlist and the Los Angeles Times as the search field for prospective directors narrows.

Lawrence is deemed the front-runner by observers simply because of his open schedule. Miller is working his way to a December start for Foxcatcher, the story of John Du Pont, a paranoid schizophrenic who was heir to the du Pont fortune before he shot and killed Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler David Schultz. Miller has been working on this passion project for years and has lined up Steve Carell and Channing Tatum with Mark Ruffallo in negotiations to join the cast.

It’s unlikely that Miller would abandon Foxcatcher for Fire, although it's possible he could try to push back either movie's start date.

Scheduling is at the heart of Catching Fire’s director vacancy. The franchise’s star Jennifer Lawrence must finish shooting the movie by December 20 and in time to start shooting the sequel to Fox’s X-Men: First Class, which has an option that pre-dates Liongate’s deal.

Lionsgate not only has the December 20 date weighing on it but an already-penciled in November 22, 2013 release date.

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