8:26pm PT by Kim Masters
'X-Men' Sequel to Shoot in January, Avoiding Conflict for 'Hunger Games' Star Jennifer Lawrence
There appears to be a resolution to the question of whether 20th Century Fox and Lionsgate will fight over the services of in-demand actress Jennifer Lawrence.
Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that Fox was informing talent agencies Thursday that the studio plans to begin shooting its in-development sequel to X-Men: First Class in January. That means Lionsgate could move forward with an August-September start date for the Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire without a conflict for Lawrence, who is set to star in both.
As THR previously reported, tensions between the studios were running high last month as Fox was considering filming the Matthew Vaughn-directed X-Men follow-up in the fall, potentially conflicting with Lionsgate's plans for Hunger Games. Fox, which cast Lawrence as the shape-shifting Mystique in summer 2010, months before Lionsgate chose her to play Katniss Everdeen in March 2011, has the right to exercise the option on her contract if it conflicts with another Hunger. That's true even though Lawrence is part of a large ensemble in X-Men but is the clear star of the Hunger franchise.
Fox's acquiescence isn't a total win for Lionsgate. One source says the studio would have liked to "hold" all the Hunger Games actors for seven months in connection with shooting Catching Fire. But that lengthy demand (typical holds are months shorter) is said to have been dropped amid complaints by interested parties, including Fox.
Next up for Lionsgate is settling on who will actually direct the Hunger Games follow-up. As THR reported Wednesday, Gary Ross, who co-wrote and directed the first film, does not have a deal for the second. The heated negotiation leaves open the possibility that another filmmaker could be hired to shepherd the next installment in the franchise, as happened on the mega-grossing Twilight series. But sources close to the dealmaking expect Ross to stay with the franchise he helped launch.