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Another Missed Opportunity - Francis Lawrence Hired to Direct Catching Fire

by Melissa Silverstein
May 4, 2012 11:59 AM
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There are not many times where people have enough juice to make change in a lumbering system that is so resistant to it.  But the gig of directing Catching Fire, the second film in The Hunger Games trilogy was one of those golden opportunities and now it is gone.

Think about it.  The film has grossed over $600 million worldwide and it is still rolling out in countries.  People -- men and women, boys and girls -- love it.  The next film has a built in audience.  This would have been an amazing moment for Lionsgate -- a company better known for its slasher films -- and Nina Jacobson who has pushed this project all the way through to do something quite extraordinary.  But no.

If they had hired a top tier male director because he would be able to take the movie to a whole new place that would have been one way to go, but they didn't.  They hired a guy -- Francis Lawrence -- who directed I Am Legend and Water for Elephants.

I don't have anything against Francis Lawrence.  But I just want to voice my disappoinment for the lack of vision in picking the director for this project.  It could have really been a game changer.  Now its just same old same old.

It's Official: Francis Lawrence Will Direct 'The Hunger Games' Sequel 'Catching Fire' (Playlist)

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  • bob hawk | May 5, 2012 12:29 AMReply

    Craig: Since when is "top tier" equated with how much money a film has grossed? I'd like to think top tier has something to do with quality. Lots of really bad films have grossed tons of money. Lawrence's ouevre primarily bespeaks snore-inducing mediocrity (which to me is worse than making a juicily risible turkey -- like SHOWGIRLS). CATCHING FIRE is going to make tons of money no matter what, and Katniss Everdeen is an iconic female character -- so I'd love to see what a kick ass woman director would do with it -- and maybe light a fire under Jennifer Lawrence's ass in the process.

  • bob hawk | May 6, 2012 2:31 AM

    Well, Craig, I have no idea of how long you've been around (either on this earth or around show biz), I just know that, at 74 years of age -- and having read Variety since the age of 14, which means for 60 years -- I've never known "top tier" to be a studio term for directors. It IS a common term, heard mostly in the realms of commerce, education, CEO's, management and other kinds of directors. But in the world of show biz -- where "show" usually comes before "biz" and directors of all stripes are often romanticized and hyperbolically referred to as artists who are "the best" or "great" -- those who make lots of money are usually referred to as "top earners" whose films do "boffo business." This discussion is getting way too semantical (my fault, if you will), but I do appreciate precision in expression, even if what we're talking about is anything like a precise science. Success in "the biz" is always a crap shoot. The bottom line for me: Lawrence is a studio hack, as is Bay (they sure ain't no Christopher Nolan) and they do have their place -- making high-grossing tentpole drek in order to enable studios to once in a while greenlight some really classy, top tier films. I think the original point of Melissa Silverstein's article and that of the first posters is that, damn, this series is going to be a cash cow for many years to come and that, to quote Ms. Silverstein: "This would have been an amazing moment for Lionsgate . . . to do something quite extraordinary." But Lionsgate did not take a chance on (whether female or male) another potential Chris Nolan, and create the opportunity for CATCHING FIRE to possibly even surpass HUNGER GAMES in terms of quality and artistic achievement. (IMHO, of course.)

  • Craig | May 5, 2012 7:20 PM

    "Since when is "top tier" equated with how much money a film has grossed?" Since the studios started running things. Top Tier is a studio term. Michael Bay is a top tier director because his films make the studios and their investors a ton of money. I personally cannot stand the vast majority of Bay's movies. But if I were an investor or ran a studio that was dependent upon making a profit, I would probably make a deal with him, even though I loathe him as a director and human being. The movie industry is a business first and foremost. Lawrence's films make money. Personally I did not like I Am Legend, although I really enjoyed Constantine and wish that they would do another one. I have not yet seen Water For Elephants, so I cannot comment on that one. Personally I think Kathryn Bigelow is an amazing and gutsy director, I would love to see her take on Hunger Games or its sequel. Unfortunately as audience members we do not get a say on what the studios choose to do or not do. We can be armchair quarterbacks all day long. I was merely commenting on the authors mis-interpretation of an industry term. Top tier has nothing to do with quality of director, merely their ability to make money for the studios or not. I wish things were different in this day and age, but sadly the business of entertainment often trumps the art or actual entertainment value of the final product. There you have it.

  • Sergio | May 5, 2012 9:31 AM

    "Craig: Since when is "top tier" equated with how much money a film has grossed?" Yeah exactly. I mean who are you really Craig, Lawrence's agent? I Am Legend? Please The Omega Man with Charleton Heston was (and is) way better. Hell even the first version with Vincent Price, Last Man on Earth, was better than Legend with its cartoon CGI vampires. Like they spend $150 million on film and can't afford to hire actors in make-up? I was hoping that Mimi Leder who directed Peacemaker, which is still a really solid action thriller, might get the gig

  • Craig | May 4, 2012 9:01 PMReply

    I'm confused. The author is insinuating that Francis Lawrence is not a top tier male director? I am Legend grossed $584 million. Constantine grossed $250 million. Water for Elephants only grossed $120 million to date but should do well in DVD sales and VOD and is still playing and earning money all around the world. Most directors never come close to these numbers in their career. Just because the author does not like Francis Lawrence or his artistic take on his movies does not take away the fact that he is a top tier male director. His music videos alone have grossed hundreds of millions of dollars for the music industry, and his movies have earned just shy of a Billion dollars at the box office. How much money has this author ever made for anyone? Those who cannot actually make movies usually go on to write critical articles about those who actually can and do.

  • Jen | May 4, 2012 5:37 PMReply

    Typo Alert:If they had hired a top tier (FE)male director because (s)he would be able to take the movie to a whole new place that would have been one way to go, but they didn't.

    (or am I missing something -- I'm assuming you're missing the opp of attaching a female director, no?)

  • Katherine | May 4, 2012 12:34 PMReply

    This is terrible news. I thought "I Am Legend" and "Water for Elephants" were just awful. I read Water for Elephants and LOVED it--and I loved I Am Legend in college, actually--and was terribly let down by both films. I love the Hunger Games story, and I'd really like to see the films elevate the source material. We're going to end up with a weak, lackluster film. I am so, so disappointed.

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