Score a win for new media sources, Gary Ross is off Catching Fire.

Deadline and other old studio source outlets did their best to pop the brakes on the story –and to be fair, all signs did kind of suggest that negotiations were still open over the weekend — but ultimately The Playlist’s call that Ross would walk ended up correct. It would seem from here looking back that those negotiations were less open discussions and more last-minute begging on Lionsgate’s part. However it went down, Ross had this to say:

Despite recent speculation in the media, and after difficult but sincere consideration, I have decided not to direct Catching Fire. As a writer and a director, I simply don’t have the time I need to write and prep the movie I would have wanted to make because of the fixed and tight production schedule.

I loved making The Hunger Games – it was the happiest experience of my professional life. Lionsgate was supportive of me in a manner that few directors ever experience in a franchise: they empowered me to make the film I wanted to make and backed the movie in a way that requires no explanation beyond the remarkable results. And contrary to what has been reported, negotiations with Lionsgate have not been problematic. They have also been very understanding of me through this difficult decision.

I also cannot say enough about the people I worked with: Producer Nina Jacobson, a great collaborator and a true friend; the brilliant Suzanne Collins, who entrusted us with her most amazing and important story; the gifted and remarkable Jennifer Lawrence whose performance exceeded my wildest expectations, and the rest of the incredible cast, whom I am proud to call my friends.

To the fans I want to say thank you for your support your faith, your enthusiasm and your trust. Hard as this may be to understand I am trying to keep that trust with you. Thank you all. It’s been a wonderful experience.

Lionsgate replied with a statement expressing regret but perfectly polite assurance that Ross is still in the studio’s good graces.

So here we are back to wondering who might pick up the gig? It’s unlikely they’re going to get a particularly interesting or visionary director to come in and squeeze this thing out, especially now that they’re locked in to shooting it so soon. Frankly, I’m happy to see Ross walk since he shot the film like shit, sold his characters short, and built a remarkably unconvincing world. That’s me. That said, I don’t know that anyone is going to manage doing much better with such a strained schedule- these scenarios never work out well. I get that Lionsgate is in a tough place having to cram this in before First Class 2, or wait much longer than they’d like to get rolling, but if you’re director is walking because there’s not time to get shit together… a long, hard look at schedule and priorities is in order.

Source | The Playlist