Francis Lawrence reportedly offered director’s chair for ‘Hunger Games’ sequel

Francis Lawrence has emerged as the favorite to replace Gary Ross as the director of “Catching Fire,” the highly-anticipated sequel to “The Hunger Games,” and according to a report just published in The Hollywood Reporter, he’ll get his official offer to helm the movie this afternoon.

This has been a lightning-fast process, primarily because Lionsgate can’t afford to waste any time.  They have a specific timetable they have to meet if they plan to have Jennifer Lawrence done with shooting in time for her to make the jump to the sequel to “X-Men: First Class” that she is also committed to, and it sounds like Lionsgate ended up meeting with Lawrence and with Bennett Miller today.

As with the “Twilight” films, it seems like the studio is casting a wide net for what they’re looking for in a director on this series, and none of the picks are what I would call typical action directors.  While Lawrence made “Constantine” and “I Am Legend,” his most recent film was “Water For Elephants,” and in conversation with him, he’s always seemed like a guy who had a pretty broad range of interests in terms of what he’d like to make.

Bennett Miller took a long time between “Capote” and his most recent film, “Moneyball,” but he’s been moving quickly to get his new film “Foxcatcher” up and running, and that starts shooting later this year with Mark Ruffalo, Steve Carell, and Channing Tatum attached to star.  For that reason alone, Miller really wasn’t the right fit.

I’m curious to see what happens with the script this time around.  It’s no secret that Suzanne Collins and Gary Ross worked together to rewrite the Billy Ray drafts of “The Hunger Games,” and it was assumed they would do something similar this time once Simon Beaufoy finished his work on the script.  Now there’s no Ross involved, and Lawrence isn’t really a writer.  Will Collins do the work herself, or will she work with Beaufoy, or will they bring in someone completely different to help close the deal on this one?

I think Lawrence is an interesting choice, and a strong visual stylist who hasn’t really had the best luck with material so far.  It’s going to really come down to how they adapt the material on the page first, because this isn’t as linear a story to tell onscreen as the first film, and it’s going to be a challenge for whoever ends up making the movie, whether that’s Lawrence or someone else.

Whatever the case, “Catching Fire” is due in theaters  November 22, 2013.