Despite seeing The Hunger Games romp to $400 million at the global box office, Gary Ross has released an official statement confirming that he will not return to direct the second in the series, Catching Fire.
Having directed just two films since 1998, it is thought that Ross was unwilling to completely overhaul his method of working in order to meet the stringent release deadlines dictated by Lionsgate.
"Despite recent speculation in the media, and after difficult but sincere consideration, I have decided not to direct Catching Fire," said Ross. "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."
"Lionsgate was supportive of me in a manner that few directors ever experience in a franchise," he continued. "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 the cast and crew of the first film, as well as the many fans of the books, in a very dignified withdrawal. It's an understandable decision on his part, given that Catching Fire will be turned around in little more than a year, with filming beginning this autumn ahead of the opening on 22 November 2013.
It's still a shame though, particularly in light of how good a job he did on The Hunger Games. May the odds be ever in his favour, whatever he does next...
Who would you like to see replace Ross? Share your suggestions, below.