Because I failed to check Twitter as last night’s 7:30 pm premiere screening of Cabin In The Woods began, I didn’t read breaking reports about Gary Ross decision to not direct Catching Fire, the Hunger Games sequel. I didn’t read the news, in fact, until 9:45 pm when I sat down at Sam Woo’s. My first reaction was “great!…so there’s a decent chance that Tom Stern‘s jiggly-ass, bob-and-weave close-ups won’t be used on Catching Fire? Whoo-hoo! I’ll have the vegetable dumplings!”
Diplomatic side-stepping always prevails when a significant person leaves a company or a project. Statements never allude to anyone being unhappy or frustrated or quitting or being canned. It’s always a calm mutual decision, never about emotion, always about practicalities. So you can bet the deed to the ranch that Ross’s departing statement — “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” — is only one piece of the pie. Although it probably was a factor.
It is axiomatic that when a movie is a huge hit, the suits always want the sequel to be made and released quickly before the public mood changes and the zeitgeist turns another page. So whatever polite and supportive noises the Lionsgate guys were making during meetings, the subtitles read “Let’s not spend too much time twiddling our thumbs on Catching Fire…we need to make this sucker sooner rather than later so we can juice the guys we gotta juice, so we can make more money so we can juice the guys we gotta juice. We need to get the third and fourth film made right after the sequel so we can maximize the merchandising and ancillary revenues and generally go to town and fly to Paris and light cigars and dazzle our wives and girlfriends. We’re not artists — we’re Lionsgate executives. We see life in relatively simple terms.”
When Twillight director Catherine Hardwicke walked away from directing New Moon it was allegedly because she didn’t want to make the sequel under deadline and budget constraints that would have cramped her creative style, according to an Entertainment Weekly interview. Those constraints were at least partly imposed by Summit honcho Rob Friedman, who is now Lionsgate’s co-chairman. Do the math.
The Lionsgate guy who told Deadline‘s Nikki Finke and Michael Fleming last weekend that things were hopeful as far as Ross directing Catching Fire now says, “I am in shock.” The source and his colleagues “expected the deal to go down right after Easter weekend,” Finke reports. “And they even went so far as to privately deny an internet report that Ross had told the studio at the start of last week that he would not helm the sequel because he didn’t want to repeat himself.”
The line about needing to “juice the guys we gotta juice, so we can make more money so we can juice the guys we gotta juice” is from a mid ’70s film noir set in Los Angeles. Name the film, the director, the character who said the line and the actor who played him.