‘Catching Fire’: Why Hiring Francis Lawrence Makes Sense

We examine the director's qualifications for the second installment in the 'Hunger Games' series.

On Thursday night, Lionsgate officially offered “Catching Fire” to director Francis Lawrence. The development was widely considered the next letdown in a series of disappointments for fans, who felt Gary Ross’ departure was a premature one. But based on what we know about “Catching Fire” and what Lionsgate was reportedly looking for in a replacement, Lawrence was by far the most likely choice.

Here is why Francis Lawrence makes complete sense as the director for “Catching Fire”:

He Can Do Action
One of the major complaints about Ross’ direction of “The Hunger Games” was that he lacked experience shooting action sequences and it showed. If Lionsgate had to find a new director for the series’ second entry, choosing one who has more experience with higher-intensity scenes does makes sense. Though Lawrence’s name does not come with the prestige of the other directors on the shortlist, he has the most experience of any of them with directing a big-budget action film.

He’s Relatively Inexpensive
Early rumors of Ross’ exit had pegged money as the main stumbling block when trying to recruit the director for the second film. We know that Ross made most of his money from “The Hunger Games” on the back end, taking a much lower fee upfront. Lionsgate was reportedly looking to not spend a ton of money on the director for “Catching Fire,” and the up-and-coming directors filling out the shortlist more or less confirms that. What makes Lawrence different is that he has the mainstream success that the other independent film directors do not, but he’s probably just as willing to work for Lionsgate’s lowered fees.

He Knows the Tone
Lawrence’s first two films take place in worlds based largely in a reality not far from our own, but ones that add in fantastical elements. In “I Am Legend,” Will Smith’s character lives in (near) solitude in a post-zombie-vampire outbreak Manhattan, where he hunts the wild animals that now populate the city. Lawrence has established he can make a film set in a world vaguely resembling our own, so it’s not hard to imagine Lawrence being able to make the leap to Panem.

He’s Done Romance
Granted, it wasn’t great romance, but it counts. “Water for Elephants” was also based on a best-selling novel and could come in handy in dealing with the amped-up love triangle among Katniss, Peeta and Gale.

Bennett Miller Wasn’t Available
The Playlist originally reported that the race for the director’s position came down to two directors, Lawrence and Bennett Miller. The “Moneyball” director was clearly the more distinguished of the two, but he had spent the last few years developing “Foxcatcher,” a true-life story about the heir to the DuPont fortune who murdered an Olympic wrestler. In the past few months, Miller has seen “Foxcatcher” finally come together, adding Channing Tatum, Steve Carell and, just recently, Mark Ruffalo to the cast. If Miller would have signed on to direct “Catching Fire,” he would have had to further delay “Foxcatcher” just after getting development off the ground.

Check out everything we’ve got on “Catching Fire.”

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Writer/editor for MTV. If it involves cowboys, spies, or hitmen, I'm there. All three would be ideal.