"The Hunger Games" franchise, just like the fictional games themselves (minus all the death and bloodshed), has lost a much beloved player in director Gary Ross, who has decided not to return for the developing sequel, "Catching Fire."
Persistent rumors that Ross' days in Panem were numbered concluded with the director's official departure Tuesday night, leaving the continuing tales of Katniss, Peeta and Gale without a visionary to guide them for the time being.
Though Ross' decision is a blow for "Hunger Games" enthusiasts everywhere — yours truly included — it's certainly not the first time that a director has stunned fans by leaving a high-profile franchise at an unexpected time. From your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man to the Boy Who Lived, here are five other filmmakers who parted ways with beloved franchises.
Sam Raimi and "Spider-Man"
After three films — two widely adored and one critically panned — Sam Raimi's days swinging alongside "Spider-Man" came to an end. In the midst of pre-production on a fourth Tobey Maguire-starring adventure, both Raimi and Maguire parted ways with Sony over creative differences. The result of their ousting: Sony rebooted the "Spider-Man" brand, with an all-new "Amazing" installment hitting theaters this summer from director Marc Webb and "The Social Network" co-star Andrew Garfield.
Jon Favreau and "Iron Man" Spidey isn't the only big-screen Marvel superhero who lost a crucial member of his creative posse. Director Jon Favreau, who helmed the first two "Iron Man" films for Marvel Studios, said his goodbyes to Ol' Shellhead in December 2010, opting to focus instead on another Disney property, "Magic Kingdom." Just as Ross contends there's no bad blood between him and Lionsgate, Favreau and the remaining "Iron Man" players appear to have left on good terms; indeed, the director appeared alongside Robert Downey Jr. at the Hero Complex Film Festival last June for an onstage reunion and geek-out. Tony Stark lives on even without Favreau, blasting off next summer for a brand-new mission under director Shane Black's watchful eye.
Paul Greengrass and the "Bourne" series Following "Bourne Ultimatum," the third film in the spy thriller series, two-time "Bourne" director Paul Greengrass walked away from the franchise to work on other films. Leading man Matt Damon left as well, out of loyalty to the director, leaving "Bourne" producers in a lurch. How do you make a Jason Bourne movie without Jason Bourne? You make "The Bourne Legacy," apparently. Longtime "Bourne" writer Tony Gilroy wrote the script and directed the latest installment, putting an all-new character played by Jeremy Renner in the hot seat this time around. With Renner in play, the door remains open for a future Damon-Greengrass "Bourne" return.
Catherine Hardwicke and "The Twilight Saga" Just as "The Hunger Games" lost Ross, so too did the "Twilight" series lose its original director. Catherine Hardwicke was the first filmmaker to bring the hotly anticipated love story of Edward Cullen and Bella Swan to life, but despite the success of that first film, Hardwicke decided not to direct "New Moon", due to what she described as "timing" issues. Even without Hardwicke behind the lens, "Twilight" continued to do massive business at the box office with different directors for each film; Bill Condon is the only filmmaker to tackle multiple "Twilight" movies, closing the series out with this coming November's "Breaking Dawn - Part 2."
Chris Columbus and "Harry Potter" There would be no Hogwarts without J.K. Rowling, of course, but there would be no Hogwarts-at-the-movies without original "Harry Potter" director Chris Columbus. He helmed the first two "Potter" films with wonderful whimsy, but that tone would not have fit with future movies in the franchise as Harry's world grows progressively darker. The boy wizard's war against Voldemort was therefore chronicled by several other directors following Columbus' post-"Chamber of Secrets" departure, with David Yates ultimately stepping in to helm the final four installments in the series.
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