Gary Ross (Pleasantville, Seabiscuit) is looking like the man who’ll get the job directing The Hunger Games, a film based on the first of three novels by Suzanne Collins. The story is a sort of Running Man +/- Battle Royale, and has been the impetus for a rat race between directors as diverse as Ross, Sam Mendes, Francis Lawrence, David Slade, Andrew Adamson, Rupert Sanders, and Susanna White. But as things stand, Ross is the man.
Deadline has been all over this one, and now reports that Gary Ross is in early talks to direct from a script by Billy Ray, who rewrote Collins’ first draft. Ross isn’t the first guy I’d think of when it comes to material like this, but I don’t think he’s particularly less suited for the gig than the rest of that shortlist. And he could be able to craft a film that will be appealing to a mainstream audience. Francis Lawrence and Andrew Adamson would do that, too, but I’d rather see Ross with the job, frankly.
Question now is: who gets cast? There are a few big roles for young actors, and the Deadline report spins this as LionsGate’s hope for a Twilight-like franchise. The third and final book in the Hunger Games series was just published a couple weeks ago and has already sold half a million copies. That’s hardly Twilight numbers, but the subject matter sounds broad enough that the film could pull in a big audience if cast and marketed properly. Not sure I have faith in the latter aspect when it comes to LionsGate, but we’ll see what they can do.
(Not having read the books, I consequently don’t have a horse in this race. It’s more a question of: can LionsGate craft a big franchise out of this material? An academic/economic exercise, really. Kinda repugnant, right? Let’s see if the cast can make it all a lot more appealing to non-fans.)
Just on the off chance you’re not part of that growing Hunger Games audience, let’s go to the synopsis:
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In a not-too-distant future, the United States of America has collapsed, weakened by drought, fire, famine, and war, to be replaced by Panem, a country divided into the Capitol and 12 districts. Each year, two young representatives from each district are selected by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games. Part entertainment, part brutal intimidation of the subjugated districts, the televised games are broadcasted throughout Panem as the 24 participants are forced to eliminate their competitors, literally, with all citizens required to watch. When 16-year-old Katniss’s young sister, Prim, is selected as the mining district’s female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart, Peeta, the son of the town baker who seems to have all the fighting skills of a lump of bread dough, will be pitted against bigger, stronger representatives who have trained for this their whole lives.