After Gary Ross's The Hunger Games proved a worldwide phenomenon, speculation began over whether the director would return for the second installment, Catching Fire. First he wasn't, then everyone said he probably was, and now it's official: Gary Ross is leaving the Hunger Games franchise. And this time, he's actually saying it himself.
In an official press release from Lionsgate, Gary Ross said the following:
"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."
Gary Ross goes on to thank his collaborators and the film's many fans for their support (you can read the full list of "Thank Yous" at Deadline). Lionsgate added a statement of their own, praising his work on the first film, expressing disappointment that he won't be able to return and hoping to work with him in the future.
And thus the most coveted director's chair in Hollywood is open. Fortunately for fans, with production on Catching Fire expected to begin by the end of the year, the speculation period over who will replace Ross will probably be a short one.
Who would you like to direct Catching Fire? Let us know in the comments below.
CraveOnline will be back with more Catching Fire news so long as the odds are ever in our favor.