Gary Ross has officially stepped away from directing "Catching Fire," the sequel to "The Hunger Games."
"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," Ross said in a statement.
Despite reports that the director and "Hunger Games" studio Lionsgate were at odds over salary demands for "Catching Fire," Ross said there were no hard feelings.
"I loved making 'The Hunger Games' -- it was the happiest experience of my professional life," he said. "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."
Ross potentially made that decision sometime last week. On Friday, Indiewire's blog The Playlist reported Ross had stepped away from "Catching Fire" because he wanted to try something different. "Ross has never been a filmmaker that repeats himself," the site wrote, "and we're told the burning desire simply isn't there to spend another couple of years with Katniss in the Capitol."
The Playlist story was discounted by Deadline.com's Nikki Finke and Mike Fleming on Saturday, who wrote that Ross hadn't left the franchise and was likely to return. Whether things changed in the last two days or were already decided is unclear, but THR did report that Ross and Lionsgate were back at the negotiating table on Monday.
"We’re very sorry that Gary Ross has chosen not to direct 'Catching Fire,'" Lionsgate said in a statement. "We were really looking forward to making the movie with him. He did an incredible job on the first film and we are grateful for his work." Lionsgate said it hopes to work with Ross again in the future.
As for "Catching Fire," the search for a new director starts immediately. Production on the sequel is scheduled to start in August.
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