Gary Ross, director of The Hunger Games, has walked away from working on the sequel due to concerns over scheduling. Ross, who also co-wrote the first film, has said that he made the decision not to direct the sequel, Catching Fire, because the tight production schedule required would not give him enough time to write the script in the way he wanted.

In a statement released by Lionsgate, Ross said:

‘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.’

Ross went on to thank some of his colleagues on the film, and gave a special mention to the fans of the franchise, thanking them for their support and trust; ‘Hard as this may be to understand, I am trying to keep that trust with you,’ he said.

Lionsgate also released a shorter statement expressing their sorrow at Ross’ decision:

‘We’re very sorry that Gary Ross has chosen not to direct Catching Fire. 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. This will not be the end of our relationship, as we consider Ross to be part of the Lionsgate family and look forward to working with him in the future.’

The Hunger Games, which made over $150 million on its opening weekend alone, is the first in what is expected to be a four film series chronicling the adventures of young heroine Katniss Everdeen, who must struggle against a corrupt government in a dystopian America. As yet there is no word on who will replace Ross as director of Catching Fire, but many fans have already taken to the internet to bemoan the fate of the second movie now that he is no longer at the helm.

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