This is why we can never make any assumptions about how a deal is going to go down before the ink is set and dried. Even before the massive success of The Hunger Games, most assumed that Gary Ross would return to direct the sequel, Catching Fire. Simon Beaufoy was hired to script the sequel, and said to be working under the supervision of Ross.

In the weeks since the release of The Hunger Games, we’ve heard about negotiations between Ross and Lionsgate, and while there seemed to be some contention over money, the general takeaway was that Ross and the studio would come to terms and he would once again be in the director’s chair for the sequel.

Turns out that might not be the case. Rather, Ross may have been playing his own smart game, letting many think he would be ready to move on to the sequel, but instead using his new cachet from the film’s success to ensure he could do a film he has been developing for a while. In other words, if the report we’ve got today is correct, Catching Fire will have a new director.

The Playlist says that Gary Ross “has officially exited the franchise” and won’t make the sequel Catching Fire. In fact, he resigned earlier this week. We’ve reached out to both Lionsgate and Ross to confirm, but haven’t heard back from either yet.

(Edit: Lionsgate seems to be trying to figure out how to respond to this, and we don’t have an actual statement from them at this point.)

The site says that Ross isn’t terribly interested in spending the next few years in Panem, and would rather do something different. (Reportedly, he was most a fan of the first book, and that factors in slightly to his choice.)

So what’s his next movie? The site has been told that “it will be something he has written that (ironically) will earn him a better payday that he would’ve received on Catching Fire.” That ‘ironically’ line is mentioned because it isn’t the lowball salary offer from Lionsgate that pushed him out of the franchise, but the interest in doing something else.

Catching Fire will still shoot this fall, in part so that star Jennifer Lawrence can move on to the new X-Men film early in 2013. The Hunger Games sequel is set for release on November 22, 2013.

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