"The Hunger Games" fandom was dealt a Cato-sized blow Monday when director Gary Ross confirmed rumors that he would not direct the franchise's follow-up "Catching Fire" (set for a November 22, 2013, release).
"Despite recent speculation in the media, and after difficult but sincere consideration, I have decided not to direct 'Catching Fire,' " Ross said in his statement. "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."
With roughly 19 months to cast, film and cut the sequel, Lionsgate is no doubt in hot pursuit of a worthy contender to Ross' throne. The movie experts at MTV News have put plenty of thought into the studio's predicament and have a few director recommendations of our own for what will surely be a highly coveted gig. Check them out below and weigh in with your suggestions in the comments!
I'd love to see J.J. Abrams take on "Catching Fire." He's more than proved himself with films like "Super 8" and "Star Trek" — although he went a little overboard with the lens flares. He has a unique eye for filming, and from "Lost" to "Alias," the projects he's involved with become a huge success. — Fallon Prinzivalli
From the big bowl of Hollywood directors, I'd like to pluck out Darren Aronofsky's name, whose handheld-cam aesthetic and knack for bringing intimate, first-person stories to the screen are perfect fits for "Catching Fire." But he'll be occupied with Russell Crowe and "Noah" later this year, and anyway, who can imagine He of a Thousand Scarves taking the gig? So I turn to "127 Hours" helmer Danny Boyle, who might be free after completing a rather interesting (and certainly patriotic) assignment to direct the opening ceremonies for London's summer Olympics. Boyle's got it all: pop sensibility, gritty instincts, familiarity with a tropical setting (recall "The Beach") and, like "Breaking Dawn" director Bill Condon, an Oscar on his mantle. — Eric Ditzian
I don't think Lionsgate would jump at the opportunity to hire the director of the incredibly graphic "The Proposition" and "The Road," but there's some reasoning here. Hillcoat's a few months away from a lot of buzz around his next movie "Lawless," with Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy. "Catching Fire" could be a way to test him out in mainstream waters, plus the man has a knack for directing the outdoors in a dystopian setting. — Kevin Sullivan
I realize this one is a bit of a longshot and some might doubt that a filmmaker of Soderbergh's pedigree would deign to pick up someone else's leftovers. And then there's the matter of him potentially retiring from filmmaking (but does anyone really think that's going to happen?). Soderbergh has truly built the most eclectic filmography for a "mainstream" filmmaker in the known universe. Actors love him, he's an intellectual who also knows how to shoot anything (he's coming off a crazy action film in "Haywire"), plus he's already a part of "The Hunger Games" universe having shot a day of second unit for his friend, Gary Ross. How crazy and awesome and unpredictable would it be to have someone of Soderbergh's caliber bring his vision to the series? — Josh Horowitz
Soderbergh was among my top picks last week when rumors began swirling about Ross' departure, and I'm going to second his reaping here. Ross wasn't necessarily the obvious candidate to helm "The Hunger Games," but he won fans over with his undying adoration, enthusiasm and respect for Suzanne Collins' source material. These same fans are hungry for a helmer they can trust with the franchise, and with Soderbergh's brilliant second-unit work on the District 11 riot, he's already won support among Panem's faithful. Plus, his movies are just so cool-looking. Here's hoping he'll shout triumphantly, "I volunteer!" — Amy Wilkinson
Gary Ross did such a phenomenal job with "Hunger Games" that it's close to impossible imagining anyone occupying his seat — close, but not quite. Soderbergh is my pick for the "Catching Fire" gig. A few reasons: One, he already directed portions of the first "Hunger Games" movie, so he's familiar with the world. Two, the man has a very distinct style, but no two Soderbergh films are exactly the same; giving him free reign over Panem would be pretty crazy to see. Finally, if you saw "Haywire," you know Soderbergh can craft a heck of an action film around a compelling female lead. Not that Jennifer Lawrence needs any help being awesome, but teaming her up with a post-"Haywire" Soderbergh is a guaranteed recipe for success. Lock him up, Lionsgate, and the odds will absolutely be in your favor. — Josh Wigler
I think Joss Whedon would be the perfect choice to direct "Catching Fire." He's got all the prerequisites: He's good with kick-ass heroines. He can do big-budget. And he has no problem killing off major characters. Plus, he's got a devoted fanbase that treats him and his projects with a reverence that's unmatched in Hollywoodland. I'll see "Catching Fire" no matter who directs it, but boy would I be excited if Joss Whedon worked his magic on this film. — Tami Katzoff
Who do you think should helm "Catching Fire"? Tell us in the comments and tweet us at @HollywoodCrush with your thoughts!
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