Francis Lawrence Named 'Catching Fire' Director

Francis LawrenceAfter weeks of speculation following director Gary Ross' departure from "The Hunger Games" franchise, Lionsgate announced today that Francis Lawrence has officially volunteered (so to speak) as helmer of sequel "Catching Fire."

"It is truly an honor and a privilege to bring 'Catching Fire,' the second chapter of Suzanne’s beloved trilogy, to the big screen," Lawrence said in a release from the studio. "I fell in love with the characters, the themes and the world she created and this chapter opens all of these elements up in such a thrilling, emotional and surprising way. I can’t wait to dive right into it and bring this chapter to life along with the truly superb cast and filmmakers involved."

Lawrence most recently directed heartthrob Robert Pattinson in the 2011 big-screen adaptation of "Water for Elephants." His other credits include "I Am Legend" and the short-lived television series "Kings." The 41-year-old also has a rich music-video-directing history, having worked with Britney Spears, Beyoncé and Lady Gaga, among others.

A number of names had been bandied about to fill the coveted director's chair, including Alfonso Cuaron, David Cronenberg, Alejandro González Iñárritu and Bennett Miller. In the end, the studio and producer Nina Jacobson offered the job to Lawrence.

“From the very beginning of this brilliant trilogy's journey from page to screen, our first priority has been to stay true to the heart and soul of Suzanne Collins' powerful stories," Jacobson said in the studio's statement. "From my first conversation with Francis, I knew he would make a great partner for both me and Suzanne. His passion for 'Catching Fire' and inspired ideas for a faithful adaptation make him the perfect director for this movie. I know this will be a wonderful collaboration and I cannot wait to get started."

"Catching Fire" is slated for a November 23, 2013, release.

What do you think about Francis Lawrence as the official "Catching Fire" director? Sound off in the comments and on Twitter!