If I were a betting man, I’d bet that Gary Ross does end up making the second film in the “Hunger Games” series.
Whoever ends up directing the film, it’s going to have to shoot this fall, and that means the heat is on for Simon Beaufoy, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of “Slumdog Millionaire,” to get the script in shape. If Ross does return, he and Suzanne Collins are going to take a crack at it again as well, and that’s going to take a little time. They’ve got to be working at a gallop right now.
And now that the schedule is set for “Catching Fire,” Fox is able to claim a January start date for a sequel to “X-Men: First Class,” once again directed by Mathew Vaughn. And just like that, Jennifer Lawrence is sort of officially a movie star.
As much as I’m excited to see the second “Hunger Games” movie, I’m much more interested in seeing how Vaughn follows up his first film in the “X-Men” series. He’s building his own continuity, that Hugh Jackman cameo not withstanding, and that means he can do pretty much whatever he wants for the second film. He’s got a pretty great cast that’s only gotten cooler since he used them. I assume both James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender will be back, and I hope they also bring back Rose Byrne and Oliver Platt on the government side, with Jason Flemyng, Zoe Kravitz, and Fassbender on the “evil mutants” side, and McAvoy joined by Nicholas Hoult, Caleb Jones, and Lucas Till on the “good mutants” side. That’s a lot of cast to play with, and that doesn’t even take Jennifer Lawrence into account.
Interestingly, Mystique emerges as a natural candidate for the main character in the second film, because she’s probably the single most divided soul in the film. After all, it was Charles who took her in when they were both kids, and she’s always been close with him. But she finds herself drawn to Erik because of his philosophical take on the difference between mutants and humans. I thought it was striking that the main difference in their POVs in the first film was that Charles thought she needed a cure and Erik did not. I hope to see Charles mature in this film, and I think Mystique’s got to be wrestling with her feelings as well as her guilt for her part in Charles getting shot and, presumably, paralyzed.
It sounds like 20th Century Fox could have easily leaned on the language of the contract that they signed for Lawrence on the first film to compel her to come back to work for them, no matter when Lionsgate wanted to shoot. According to the story that Kim Masters published at the Hollywood Reporter, Fox made the concession, agreeing to go second in exchange for Lionsgate holding to a tight and shorter-than-they’d-like shooting schedule. It’s a win-win situation for both companies, because they each benefit from Lawrence getting more exposure, and they both offer her very good roles worth playing.
I’m curious to see if they can keep pace between the “X-Men” and “Hunger Games” films all the way through the end of either Vaughn’s time on the films or the most-likely second half of the two-part “Mockingjay.” I’m also curious to see how many times Jennifer does this without wearing down. Whatever happens, she’s going to be front and center in pop culture for a while, which suits me just fine.