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There's good news and bad news for fans of The Hunger Games. On the bright side, the dystopian thriller passed the $300 million mark over the weekend, making it the 37th highest-grossing film of all time (and climbing). The bad news, however, is that the director who helped make The Hunger Games such an unqualified success may not return to direct any of the franchise's sequels.
Director Gary Ross is reportedly quitting the film series, despite his apparent commitment to remaining faithful to author Suzanne Collins' beloved books.
According to Indiewire's film blog The Playlist, Ross has walked away from his negotiations with Lionsgate. Should it prove true, the news would prove quite a shock, considering it seemed the only holdup to starting the second movie in the series, Catching Fire, was star Jennifer Lawrence's need to shoot the second installment of X-Men: First Class for Fox (an issue which was resolved by allowing Lawrence to shoot both films back to back). But now The Hunger Games has a much bigger problem to deal with than Lawrence's full schedule.
The Playlist claims the issue wasn't solely based on the relatively low salary Lionsgate initially offered Ross (who received a reported $3 million plus back-end for the directing and co-writing the first film). Without a lucrative deal on the table, Ross is shifting his focus to directing another project altogether.
But just a couple of weeks ago, Ross had said he was ready to move on to Catching Fire, which introduces Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) to an entirely new set of dangerous conditions, including the increasingly watchful eye of the dictatorial President Snow (Donald Sutherland).
"I'm looking forward to it," he told Moviefone in March. "Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire), who's a writer I've been a fan of for a long, long time, is doing the script. I can't write the Catching Fire script right now because I'm finishing Hunger Games, and we're on a schedule where the script has to get written right now. So I'm unbelievably fortunate that someone like Simon is going to be writing the script. ... That's a thrill. He's somebody that I respect and I just love his work."
Neither Ross nor Lionsgate has confirmed the news, but perhaps the studio is waiting to hire a new director before it formally announces Ross has left the project.