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“The Hunger Games” sequel eyes a new screenwriter, director Gary Ross will return

"The Hunger Games" sequel eyes a new screenwriter, director Gary Ross will return (photo)

"Catching Fire" is slated for a November 22, 2013 release date.

Lionsgate doesn’t want to make “The Hunger Games” fans wait overly long while they adapt the best-selling novels for the big screen. It’s the reason they carved out a release date — November 22, 2013 — for the second installment of the series, “Catching Fire,” well before the first glimpse of footage ever saw the light of day. Thanks to the positive response to the recently-released theatrical trailer, it looks like Lionsgate is continuing to fast-track the project to be ready for its release in two years.

Director Gary Ross co-wrote “The Hunger Games” script with “State of Play” scribe Billy Ray. According to Deadline his intention was to write the outline of the “Catching Fire” script now and then stick close to the source material and co-write the actual screenplay with the novels’ writer, Suzanne Collins. But Ross is apparently knee-deep in post-production right now and doesn’t have the time to pen the script that he had planned on. So now Lionsgate is courting “Slumdog Millionaire” writer Simon Beaufoy to write the script instead.

There’s no word on whether or not Ross will attempt to help Beaufoy write the script, or if he’ll recommend that Beaufoy and Collins write it together. Either way, Ross has had a big hand in this production from the start and will likely at least take several passes at the screenplay to shape it to his liking. “Catching Fire” will be a tricky film to adapt because it has two very different acts with extremely different tones.

There’s also no guarantee that the end of the “Catching Fire” film will correlate with the end of the novel. Lionsgate has planned on making four films out of the three novels, and there isn’t exactly enough source material to divide the third book, “Mockingjay,” into two films.

Deadline also reports that Ross definitely plans on coming back to direct “Catching Fire.” Hopefully that means he’s on board for the whole series, which will be good for the films’ tonality. Other franchises like “Harry Potter” and “The Twilight Saga” have jumped around between directors, and it could be argued that they suffered for it. At least those series had novels with different tones, while “The Hunger Games” is pretty dark and bleak the entire way through.

“The Hunger Games” tells the story of Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old girl from the poor District 12 section of the futuristic country Panem who volunteers herself into the annual Hunger Games to take the place of her sister. In the Hunger Games, she must fight to the death against 23 of her peers on national television to win fame and fortune to her District. But Katniss only thinks about her survival and returning to her family, and that’s what gives her the edge. “The Hunger Games” hits theaters on March 23, 2012.

Do you think Simon Beaufoy will be a good person to adapt “Catching Fire”? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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