It’s Official: Francis Lawrence to direct ‘Catching Fire’

It’s been common knowledge for a while that “I Am Legend” director Francis Lawrence was stepping in for Gary Ross on the highly-anticipated “Hunger Games” sequel “Catching Fire,” but now we have official confirmation from Lionsgate.

The studio announced that Lawrence will call the shots on the film when it starts rolling this fall.

Jennifer Lawrence (no relation), Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth will be reprising their roles as Katniss, Peeta and Gale, respectively. Co-stars Lenny Kravitz, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Toby Jones, and Woody Harrelson are also returning.

Lawrence has handled fantasy and action before, notably in “Constantine” and the Will Smith hit “I Am Legend.” He’s also dealt with teen idols in the past, directing “Twilight” star Robert Pattinson in “Water For Elephants.”

With “Hunger Games” on track to earn over $400 million at the domestic box office, Lawrence is taking on a huge responsibility by joining the series mid-stream, but he’s arguably more qualified than Ross was, whose previous work included “Pleasantville” and “Seabiscuit.” Lionsgate’s sister studio, Summit, took a similar track with its mega-successful “Twilight”  franchise, bringing in fresh directorial talent for each adaptation.

“Lionsgate, the cast, and filmmakers are all thrilled to have Francis Lawrence come on board as director of ‘Catching Fire.’ Suzanne’s brilliant book is the intense story of the birth of the rebellion and Katniss’ emotionally charged journey as she takes on the mantle of the Mockingjay, and we all think Francis is the perfect director to bring the story to life,” said Lionsgate”s Erik Feig in a press release.

“From the very beginning of this brilliant trilogy’s journey from page to screen, our first priority has been to stay true to the heart and soul of Suzanne Collins’ powerful stories,” added  producer Nina Jacobson. “From my first conversation with Francis, I knew he would make a great partner for both me and Suzanne. His passion for ‘Catching Fire’ and inspired ideas for a faithful adaptation make him the perfect director for this movie. I know this will be a wonderful collaboration and I cannot wait to get started,” 

Said Francis, “It is truly an honor and a privilege to bring ‘Catching Fire,’ the second chapter of Suzanne”s beloved trilogy, to the big screen. I fell in love with the characters, the themes and the world she created and this chapter opens all of these elements up in such a thrilling, emotional and surprising way. I can”t wait to dive right into it and bring this chapter to life along with the truly superb cast and filmmakers involved.”

“Catching Fire” will be released on November 22, 2013.