The allure of easy money proved to not be enough for Hunger Games director Gary Ross, who has backed out of directing the sequel, Catching Fire, leaving the shepherding of poor people to their grisly doom to some other filmmaker. Earlier reports that Ross had exited due to tense salary negotiations and “not wanting to repeat himself” were denied as premature, while Ross and Lionsgate supposedly spent the weekend hashing out their differences. Still, ultimately those rumors got something right. Ross’ official explanation for leaving—issued in a joint interest-protecting statement with the studio—made no mention of his fatigue with the story or money, obviously, but rather blamed it on the tight turnaround of the film’s scheduled start date in late summer/early fall.
“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,” Ross said—which, notably, is almost exactly the same reason given by Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke after she left her own Lionsgate/Summit blockbuster franchise. And like those earlier rumors regarding Ross, Hardwicke has since gone on record as saying she felt the studio was rushing the sequel, and that she really “liked the first book the best” anyway, so the parallels are pretty striking. Hopefully Ross will find an equally zen approach to having all of his films compared to The Hunger Games from here on out, while every interview asks him some version of "Any regrets?"
Anyway, as with Hardwicke’s exit, Ross also took redundant, PR-approved pains to explain that this was his own personal decision and that the studio was being “very understanding,” a sentiment echoed in Lionsgate’s avowal that it will still “consider Ross to be part of the Lionsgate family.” So Ross can still come to awkward family dinners and exchange estranged niceties with whomever the new director is that the Hunger Games kids call “mom” or “dad” now. Expect the search for that person to eat up at least the next couple weeks of news.