Who Should Direct 'Catching Fire'? 5 Directors We Think Could Do The Job

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by Oliver Lyttelton
April 11, 2012 9:59 AM
20 Comments
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So, writer-director Gary Ross, having helped make "The Hunger Games" into a gigantic hit, has decided to move on to new pastures. As we reported last week, Ross will be focusing on a new project, and after a few days, Lionsgate officially confirmed (admitted) he will not be helming "Catching Fire," with both the studio and the director issuing formal statements.

Which leaves Lionsgate needing to find someone to replace him, and find someone soon. They have a script from "Slumdog Millionaire" writer Simon Beaufoy, a release date of November 22, 2013, and a scheduling window they need to hit before Jennifer Lawrence has to move on to shooting the "X-Men: First Class" sequel. With all that in mind, we've picked out five names who we think would be good candidates to fill the hole left by Ross on "Catching Fire." Bear in mind, given the studio won't likely be spending big cash on a new helmer, coupled with their desire to maximize profitability, whoever gets chosen next probably won't be an A-list name, with the selection skewing toward relative newcomers, rising talents or even helmers best known for TV work. Essentially, they will be directors who won't disrupt things too much the second time around, and who will be able to get a movie rolling with the brief four-month start time that, in part, prompted Ross to move on. Check out our choices, and then tell us your own suggestions in the comments section below.

Drew Goddard

Why He Could Do It: A graduate of both the Joss Whedon and J.J. Abrams schools, with writing/producing credits on "Buffy," "Angel," "Alias" and "Lost," Goddard graduated to features by penning the found-footage monster movie "Cloverfield" four years back. But it's this weekend that he'll really start turning heads, making his directorial debut on "The Cabin In The Woods," co-written with Whedon. It's one of The Playlist's favorite films of the year so far, and while we can't say exactly why the film's last act is going to land Goddard on a lot of wishlists (for fear of ruining the film's surprises), it does show that the director can handle an impressive scope on a relatively meager budget. Plus his earlier scripting efforts suggest he can deal with emotion and character work just as ably. Lionsgate are putting out "The Cabin In The woods," too, so might be keen to keep Goddard inside the family.
Why He Might Not: The film hasn't opened yet, and if the box office doesn't live up to the hype, Lionsgate may not be willing to give him the gig. He also might be seen as too irony-happy for a relatively straight-faced franchise. Plus there's a small handful of sloppy directorial moments in 'Cabin' (amongst a lot of greatness) that give us slight pause for a film on a much bigger scale. Also, Goddard's going to have a lot of offers, and may find some of them more enticing than picking up someone else's franchise. Finally, as a writer, he'd likely want to put his own stamp on the script, and there may simply not be enough time for that.

Patty Jenkins

Why She Could Do It: Jenkins hasn't directed a feature film since her 2003 drama "Monster," which won Charlize Theron an Oscar, but she impressed many with her Emmy-winning work on the pilot for AMC's "The Killing" (as well as gigs on "Arrested Development" and "Entourage"). And it's the cable crime procedural that's seen her make waves back in the feature world: last year, she became Marvel's surprise first choice to direct superhero sequel "Thor 2." Creative differences meant she eventually stepped aside, but she's clearly on studio wishlists. If "Monster" and "The Killing" are anything to go by, she's clearly skilled with the more dramatic side of things, and presumably the Marvel consideration meant that they were confident she could handle big action pieces as well. Plus, as the biggest female-fronted franchise, wouldn't it be nice to have a woman in charge?
Why She Might Not: She was basically straight-up fired by Marvel (to the fury of star Natalie Portman), which suggests she probably wasn't lying down at the behest of the studio, and Lionsgate may be a little perturbed by that -- they won't want to rock the boat at this stage. Plus, the action and effects take a big step up in "Catching Fire," and they may want a more experienced hand when it comes to that kind of thing. One could, we suppose, also argue that she hasn't really dealt with romance much either, although we'd counter with the (unconventional) central relationship in "Monster."

George Nolfi

Why He Could Do It: Nolfi started out as a screenwriter, whose main previous credits were on "Ocean's Twelve" and "The Bourne Ultimatum," but he made his name last year by writing and directing the Matt Damon/Emily Blunt sci-fi-romance "The Adjustment Bureau." Nolfi managed to handle a tricky blend of tones well, with some zippy suspense set pieces, and it's the kind of mix that could really benefit "Catching Fire" -- he's shown he's capable with romance, has a fondness for sci-fi, and can handle a little action when necessary. And he's certainly making the right kind of lists: last week, it was announced that he, along with F. Gary Gray and the Russo Brothers, was on the short list to direct the sequel to "Captain America." And we imagine the reasons that make him appealing to Marvel apply to Lionsgate too: he's not going to be too expensive, and he's got the chops to do it.
Why He Might Not: For one thing, he might end up winning the "Captain America" job. But purely from a creative point of view, we like "The Adjustment Bureau," but it got very silly in places -- is he the right man to be let loose on the ridiculous haircuts and beards of the Capitol?

Gavin O'Connor

Why He Could Do It: Few films of late have combined well-shot action (at a PG-13 rating, no less) and raw, moving character beats as successfully as Gavin O'Connor's MMA film "Warrior" did last year, and it's a combination that seems to be crucial to the success of "Catching Fire." O'Connor won mild acclaim over the last decade thanks to the hockey drama "Miracle" and (to a much lesser extent) the cop flick "Pride & Glory," but "Warrior," while a box office failure, really put him on the map. And while his recent efforts have been all about bruised masculinity, let's not forget that he first came to notice by bringing Janet McTeer to an Oscar nomination with "Tumbleweeds," so he's got a feminine side as well. He was one of the names considered to step in for Darren Aronofsky on "The Wolverine," so he's not adverse to franchise fare, and he's probably not yet too expensive or difficult to work with. Lionsgate were the studio behind "Warrior" as well, which can't hurt matters.
Why He Might Not: If Lionsgate do pick O'Connor, they wouldn't be the only girl asking him to dance: the helmer's also working on actioner "Samurai" for Warner Bros, a stage version of "The Hustler," another film from the co-writer of "Warrior" entitled "Victory," and he recently became attached to Sony's "Neverland," a reboot of "Peter Pan." Plus he's directing the pilot for "The Americans" this summer, so he's a busy bee. Most of these projects are self-generated and closer to his heart, and he may be reluctant to jump ship for a franchise where someone else has already made many of the key decisions. Again, romance and sci-fi haven't really been his forté to date yet either, although "Neverland" suggests he's willing to dip his toe into more fantastical waters.
 
Susanna White

Why She Could Do It: Of the names originally in contention alongside Ross to helm "The Hunger Games," most are unlikely to be contenders for the sequel: Sam Mendes will be tied up on "Skyfall" through November, Rupert Sanders has now made his name with "Snow White and The Huntsman," and David Slade is doing "Daredevil" for Fox. But there's one name from that original shortlist who's thoroughly possible: relatively little-known British director Susanna White. The helmer made her name on British TV with "Bleak House" and "Jane Eyre," before moving to the U.S. to make "Generation Kill" and an episode of "Boardwalk Empire," as well as the HBO miniseries "Parade's End," which will air later in the year. She made her big-screen debut with internationally-successful sequel "Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang," which had its shares of effects without a blockbuster budget, too. Someone who can make both "Generation Kill" and 'Nanny McPhee' seems to fall into the exact sweet spot for "The Hunger Games," and she's familiar with young adult waters too, having been attached to the adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's "The Host" before Andrew Niccol. If she was good enough to be in the running the first time around, she's only proven her spurs further by now.
Why She Might Not: White is still a relatively unfamiliar name, and is unlikely to put fans upset at Ross's removal to rest, and studio executives may still be a little nervous about her, particularly given that there's more action and effects in the sequel. That being said, as a TV helmer, she'll probably be cheap and fast, and they could certainly do a lot worse.

Honorable Mentions: It might not be popular with fans, but any of the "Twilight" directors (bar perhaps Bill Condon, who'll still be working on "Breaking Dawn Part Two") might well end up in contention -- assuming "Daredevil" isn't going immediately, Slade might be the best bet of them. Also in the running originally was "The Chronicles Of Narnia" director Andrew Adamson, but the material also felt ill-suited to his sensibilities, somehow. Otherwise, if they wanted to keep it in-house, Billy Ray, who co-wrote the script for "The Hunger Games," did an admirable job with directorial efforts "Shattered Glass" and "Breach." That being said, he favors more adult fare, and may not be experienced enough with action and effects.

Otherwise, there are a host of names being batted around by fans, including Alfonso Cuaron, Daniel Espinosa, Francis Lawrence, Kathryn Bigelow, Danny Boyle and Mike Newell, but most are likely too expensive and strong-willed to take over the second installment of a franchise, even one as massive as this. Other names with potential, like Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and Jaume Collet-Serra, are busy on other projects, while someone like Doug Liman is too much of a wild card, and Ross' friend and second-unit director Steven Soderbergh isn't likely to stall his retirement for this one.

We like the idea of Joe Wright (particularly given "Hanna"), and he could be done with "Anna Karenina" in time, but given how individual and unique his tastes are, he probably won't want to be tied down creatively. Other names who'd be fascinating, but will never in a million years happen, include "Winter's Bone" helmer Debra Granik, Susanne Bier, David Michod, Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola and Gus Van Sant (although don't forget, the other two were courted for the fourth "Twilight"). Our absolute dream pick -- Lynne Ramsay. How amazing would that be, even if it has no chance of coming to pass? But we hope Lionsgate don't go to the other extreme and start chasing names like Scott Stewart, Breck Eisner or Nimrod Antal either.

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20 Comments

  • LA2000 | April 11, 2012 10:17 PMReply

    If the "Twilight" series proved anything, its that the directors simply don't matter when it comes to projects like these. They could use anyone (assuming that the director would pull it in on schedule and budget) and the project will still open north of $100 million the first weekend. So why take risks with "name" directors who might ask for more money or get confused and think that their job isn't just to turn in something barely passable so that the marketing department can ring the necessary pavlovian bells.

    In short, "Twilight" proves that the actual movies don't matter. And when you go with a Bill Condon, you don't end up with anything any better than if you'd gone with some anonymous, cheap nobody with a thin resume.

    So why sweat this? Who directs it doesn't matter to you or them. You will buy tickets anyway and rationalize away the faults of the dreadful movie in the end, if for no other reason than to justify standing in line, money in hand, for the third picture.

  • Dee | April 11, 2012 7:40 PMReply

    Cris Weitz or Soderberg are the only people who could do an acceptable job. This list above is a joke!

  • Mike | April 11, 2012 7:14 PMReply

    Of those mentioned, Susanna White seems the best choice hands down. Nolfi being second. Of course it'd be great to get a more artistically interesting director the way Harry Potter did when it upgraded to Alfonso Cuaron, but that is most definitely the exception to the young adult adaptation rule.

  • rome | April 11, 2012 5:45 PMReply

    Duncan Jones should be considered...

  • shark | April 11, 2012 5:12 PMReply

    Fuck it, they should use Tarsem Singh.

  • Kindred Spirit | April 11, 2012 4:56 PMReply

    I'm still rooting for Dee Rees. An African-American female filmmaker at the helm of a gigantic franchise?? GROUNDBREAKING!

  • a | April 11, 2012 5:03 PM

    For that reason alone, it'd be cool. But it's a pretty ridiculous idea. Who knows if she's remotely capable of directing a gigantic franchise movie? It's like asking Matthew Porterfield to direct Pirates of the Caribbean 5.

  • Connor | April 11, 2012 4:00 PMReply

    Drew Goddard is an upriser and the fact that he learned from Whedon & Abrams is special experience. Jenkins I could see going for this, but also avoiding it as her luck with sequels. I would also consider Nolfi, but he will be likely to get CAII. I've seen some of Susanna White's work and she is very good and another reason to look at British talent. I would love Danny Boyle to do this as he would be perfect for Hunger Games. Doubt he'll say yes though. Lynne Ramsay could also do an exceptional job, and better still she is available as her Moby Dick project seems to be dry at the moment.

  • Zinjo | April 11, 2012 2:50 PMReply

    First off, THANK GOD shaky cam Ross isn't running the next one!!!
    I would hope to see either Nolfi or Goddard get the gig (though I may change that opinion about Goddard after seeing Cabin...). There is something comforting to me to have a writer who understands story directing a film. In a day where flash is more important than substance, where directors have forgotten how to tell visual stories, I like the idea of a writer/director getting the spot light for a change and blasting it out of the park. Chris Nolan and Jim Cameron can't be the only W/D out there who can make money entertaining our minds as well as our eyes?

    I guess time will tell... but Nolfi has the edge I want in my opinion. He has demonstrated a solid skill in executing his projects, now if he can resist the urge to employ shaky cams he would be amazing!

  • Kathy | April 11, 2012 2:06 PMReply

    Joe Wright wouldn't do it.

  • JD | April 11, 2012 1:16 PMReply

    Of the candidates named, Susanna White seems like the best to me. I'd love to see a couple of older established directers be given a shot at it, though. Walter Hill (think "Southern Comfort", "Streets Of Fire" and "The Warriors"), John Carpenter, John Landis, and John McTeirnan would all be great....

  • Molly | April 11, 2012 12:16 PMReply

    Why not Joss Whedon? He has a history with projects that involve strong female characters: Buffy, anyone? He directed the upcoming Avengers movie, which looks bad-ass. I say he's perfect for the job.

  • Porter | April 11, 2012 11:45 AMReply

    I'm happy that Ross is gone. He did a good film but it was nothing memorable, and the material is really good! That's what makes The Hunger Games worth checking out! But, what made The Hunger Games (film) go to a whole new other level was Lawrence's performance.

  • Porter | April 11, 2012 11:39 AMReply

    Cuáron, Soderbergh, Boyle, O'Connor, Jenkins, Fresnadillo and Espinosa would be excellent choices. But, I would love to see bold choices like Sofia Coppola, Gus Van Sant, Lynne Ramsay, Cary Fukunaga, Fernando Meirelles or Nicolas Winding Refn (I think he wouldn't do it)...

  • a | April 11, 2012 1:27 PM

    That would be a bold choice on the part of the filmmaker; completely unrealistic and silly on the studio's part.

  • Sean | April 11, 2012 11:22 AMReply

    I know it's not going to happen, but I do think Cuaron would be perfect. Lionsgate should suck it up and hire a big director. The series is going to make a ton of money no matter what, and a big reason is the first film was actually good. They can't go all Twilight on us and hire people who won't really care.

    http://indiesunchained.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/who-should-direct-the-hunger-games-sequel/

  • Nik Grape | April 11, 2012 10:46 AMReply

    Lynne Ramsey is too smart for this stuff, come on guys. Whoever directs this next installment will be a no-name like the first 5 you mentioned. Rupert Sanders would be a good choice I think, SWATH looks visually stunning if nothing else and Hunger Games is in sore need of a director with a keen visual eye, something Ross was certainly not. Whoever it is, as long as the movie isn't all close-ups and medium shots and shaky cams, it will be better than the first.

  • Bawpsherep | April 11, 2012 10:32 AMReply

    Andrea Arnold perhaps?

  • Matt | April 11, 2012 10:31 AMReply

    Soderbergh taking over would be amazing. And I can see Francis Lawrence doing a movie like this.

    Also, an easy solution to the scheduling conflict with X:FC 2.... don't make a sequel to that turd in the first place. Poof! Now you have all the time in the world to make Catching Fire. Not to mention, Lawrence becomes the new Halle Berry. That is, the biggest star in a franchise is stuck in a boring supporting role.

  • Kim | April 11, 2012 10:17 AMReply

    You said Nolfi and the Capitol citizens ".... is he right man to be let loose on the ridiculous haircuts and beards of the Capitol?" Part of "Mocking Jay" (if this man then goes on to direct "Mocking Jay"...) is the ridiculousness of the citizens of the Capitol. There's a lady who has had enough plastic surgery and tattooing she looks like a cat. There are lizard people. The stylists get tortured. I think come "Mocking Jay" when you really see the Capitol and how overtly lavish these people live and out of touch with how the rest of Panem lives, it needs to be ridiculous.

    I am bummed that Ross is out (he directed one of my favorite movies of all time "Pleasantville." That movie was so pretty), but parts of "Hunger Games" got me sick. I hate this whole shaky camera thing.

    Whomever directs "Catching Fire" needs to recognize the importance of certain scenes and one of those is the scene where all the tributes stand hand in hand. Everyone I've spoken to who has read the books cries during that scene. When Katniss has her PTSD moment, that's important and that scene made me fall for the series (that and Haymitch in "Mocking Jay."). Certain scenes need to be done right. I wonder if they're going to do the Avox thing. I think that was one thing I missed from "Hunger Games" because it provided this sense of danger, that while you survived the Games, the Capitol can still mess with you--- which is important to Cinna's story. Sorry babbly, I just really love this series.

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