Francis Lawrence Will Be Catching Fire

He's been offered the next Hunger Games

The old saying runs that nature abhors a vacuum, but that’s nothing compared to the howling void a studio fears when a director departs a big name franchise. So you can understand Lionsgate acting quickly to plug the gap created by Gary Ross’ decision to pass on Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire. His replacement elect? I Am Legend director Francis Lawrence.

After a fast but apparently extensive search, word broke earlier this week from the gang over at The Playlist that Lionsgate had narrowed their choice down to either Lawrence or Moneyball man Bennett Miller. But with Miller ploughing ahead on true-life tragedy tale Foxcatcher (Mark Ruffalo just joined a cast that already includes Steve Carell and Channing Tatum), he was simply too busy to take on the gig.

And Lawrence, who has shown he can handle both spectacle and more intimate dramas such as Water For Elephants, seems like a solid pair of hands for the Suzanne Collins sequel. Even if the choice may well be divisive (we’re preparing for the standard derogatory comments).

His hiring will come as a relief to the executives, who are staring down a November 2013 release date and the fact that Catching Fire will need to be finished shooting by this December to free up Jennifer Lawrence in time to shoot the X-Men: First Class sequel for Fox.

Simon Beaufoy has written the first draft of the script, though Ross was originally supposed to be tinkering with it himself, since he co-wrote the first film. We’ll have to wait and see how Lawrence decides to proceed.

So then… What do you think of Francis Lawrence as the director of Catching Fire? Hot stuff or hot mess?