Update: Francis Lawrence offered the Catching Fire directing role. Read the latest news here.
And then there were (probably) two. Multiple reports have surfaced on the web today that filmmakers Francis Lawrence and Bennett Miller are the final two contenders for the director of The Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire. (The Los Angeles Times appears to have first broke the story.)
The choice for the replacement of Hunger Games‘ Gary Ross — who bowed out of the Catching Fire gig last week, citing the tight production schedule — are pretty stark. Lawrence has extensive experience with visual effects-driven action sequences from his first two films, 2005’s supernatural thriller Constantine and 2007’s post-apocalyptic thriller I Am Legend — which shares a similarly bleak tone to Catching Fire. But his latest effort, the 2011 period drama Water for Elephants, fizzled at the box office, and landed mixed reviews for its handling of the star-crossed romance between Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon. Many complained that the weakest part of Hunger Games was the romance between Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence, no relation), and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), and the romantic angle is far more front-and-center for Catching Fire.
Miller, by contrast, has practically no first-hand experience with CG-effects-heavy action scenes, and Catching Fire features more exotic locations that would likely call for extensive green-screen and effects work. Miller does, however, have an Academy Award nomination to his name for his debut feature, the 2005 biopic Capote, and last year’s Moneyball won Miller wide acclaim. He could bring an actor-friendly pedigree to the franchise, and it would certainly be a high-profile boost to his career trajectory. But Miller has another film, the true-life drama Foxcatcher, that’s aiming to start production this fall, with Steve Carell and Channing Tatum attached and Mark Ruffalo in talks to join. That project would almost certainly need to be put on hold; it seems unlikely that Lionsgate would be willing to delay production on Catching Fire until after Jennifer Lawrence finished shooting the X-Men: First Class sequel next spring, especially since they didn’t do it for Ross.
Lionsgate reportedly may have their decision made by the end of this week. A rep for the studio declined to comment when reached by EW.