The first film in the proposed series based on the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins was every bit the smash fans (and Lionsgate) hoped it would be. It’s grossed more than $500 million so far, so it’s no surprise Lionsgate is chomping at the bit to start production on the sequel. Jennifer Lawrence’s shooting schedule for the X-Men: First Class sequel and the tentative Catching Fire release date of November 2013 make the time for doing so pretty tight, though. Last week, The Hunger Games writer/director Gary Ross announced that this condensed production period wouldn’t allow him to “write and prep the movie [he] would have wanted to make” and dropped out of the project. Now, it looks like Francis Lawrence will be stepping in to fill the void.
According to The Wrap, Lionsgate is getting ready to offer Lawrence the position of director for Catching Fire. Francis Lawrence’s credits are something of a mixed bag, including directing gigs on Constantine, Water for Elephants, and Will Smith’s I Am Legend. However, he has also served as executive producer on this season’s Touch and the short-lived, sadly overlooked series Kings (2009) and directed the pilots of both shows. Lawrence is currently working on a drama pilot for ABC called Gotham, which seems to essentially be Grimm with a female cop.
Lawrence is no Alfonso Cuaron and his current filmography certainly leaves something to be desired, but his work on I Am Legend and the pilots for Kings and Touch might show a (very small) glimmer of hope. Aside from the gross liberties taken with Richard Matheson’s novella, I Am Legend was a pretty solid film and a strong performance from Will Smith in a character whose bleak situation and worldview is not so very unlike Katniss’s. And if Lawrence contributed even in a small way to the beautiful and brutal portrayal of the politics of the greedy but self-righteous in Kings, he might do well with the twisted politics on display in Catching Fire.