The man who transformed The Hunger Games into the year's biggest Lenny Kravitz film about kids killing each other has decided he's had enough of the franchise: Gary Ross has officially announced he will not be returning to direct Lionsgate's Catching Fire.
Reports declaring as much have been circulating since last week, but they'd until now been denied by studio heads insistent they could get the Seabiscuit writer-director back for the second film in the Hunger Games trilogy. Indeed, Ross had reportedly been working with author Suzanne Collins on a script since November, enlisting Slumdog Millionaire writer Simon Beaufoy to pitch in when Hunger Games post-production was keeping him busy. It certainly seemed like he was going to be the one making Catching Fire. But then it abruptly stopped seeming that way today, when Ross released this statement in which he flat out says he's not going to direct this mf'er.
Despite recent speculation in the media, and after difficult but sincere consideration, I have decided not to direct Catching Fire. 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.
I loved making The Hunger Games - it was the happiest experience of my professional life. Lionsgate was supportive of me in a manner that few directors ever experience in a franchise: they empowered me to make the film I wanted to make and backed the movie in a way that requires no explanation beyond the remarkable results. And contrary to what has been reported, negotiations with Lionsgate have not been problematic. They have also been very understanding of me through this difficult decision.
I also cannot say enough about the people I worked with: Producer Nina Jacobson, a great collaborator and a true friend; the brilliant Suzanne Collins, who entrusted us with her most amazing and important story; the gifted and remarkable Jennifer Lawrence whose performance exceeded my wildest expectations, and the rest of the incredible cast, whom I am proud to call my friends.
To the fans I want to say thank you for your support your faith, your enthusiasm and your trust. Hard as this may be to understand I am trying to keep that trust with you. Thank you all. It's been a wonderful experience.
He can try to spin this however he wants, but I think we all know the real reason Ross refused to commit. Needs time for Seabiscuit 2: Biscuitball.