Francis Lawrence steps in to helm Hunger Games sequel

The I Am Legend and Constantine director was chosen to replace Gary Ross, who left the series due to time constraints.

It’s official: Mere weeks after Hunger Games helmer Gary Ross announced his departure from the series’ future installments, Lionsgate has announced that it has found a new director for the series, which is based on the novels by Suzanne Collins.

The Vancouver-based prodco has tapped Francis Lawrence to direct Catching Fire, the second film in The Hunger Games trilogy.

Lawrence previously directed the post-apocalyptic thriller, I Am Legend, the graphic novel adaptation Constantine, and the period romance Water for Elephants.

Former helmer Ross, who also wrote the screenplay for The Hunger Games, cited time constraints as his reason for his departure, saying the accelerated and fixed production schedule didn’t leave him enough time to make the movie he wanted.

Ross’ departure left Lionsgate in a tight spot, as it faces immense pressure to improve upon its success with The Hunger Games, which has broken box office records, grossed $373 million in North America, and recently surpassed the $500 million mark worldwide.

Production for Catching Fire is slated to begin this fall, with the film scheduled for release on Nov. 22, 2013.