As Ross Rides Into The Sunset

Because I failed to check Twitter as last night’s 7:30 pm premiere screening of Cabin In The Woods began, I didn’t read breaking reports about Gary Ross decision to not direct Catching Fire, the Hunger Games sequel. I didn’t read the news, in fact, until 9:45 pm when I sat down at Sam Woo’s. My first reaction was “great!…so there’s a decent chance that Tom Stern‘s jiggly-ass, bob-and-weave close-ups won’t be used on Catching Fire? Whoo-hoo! I’ll have the vegetable dumplings!”

Diplomatic side-stepping always prevails when a significant person leaves a company or a project. Statements never allude to anyone being unhappy or frustrated or quitting or being canned. It’s always a calm mutual decision, never about emotion, always about practicalities. So you can bet the deed to the ranch that Ross’s departing statement — “I simply don’t have the time I need to write and prep the movie I would have wanted to make because of the fixed and tight production schedule” — is only one piece of the pie. Although it probably was a factor.

It is axiomatic that when a movie is a huge hit, the suits always want the sequel to be made and released quickly before the public mood changes and the zeitgeist turns another page. So whatever polite and supportive noises the Lionsgate guys were making during meetings, the subtitles read “Let’s not spend too much time twiddling our thumbs on Catching Fire…we need to make this sucker sooner rather than later so we can juice the guys we gotta juice, so we can make more money so we can juice the guys we gotta juice. We need to get the third and fourth film made right after the sequel so we can maximize the merchandising and ancillary revenues and generally go to town and fly to Paris and light cigars and dazzle our wives and girlfriends. We’re not artists — we’re Lionsgate executives. We see life in relatively simple terms.”

When Twillight director Catherine Hardwicke walked away from directing New Moon it was allegedly because she didn’t want to make the sequel under deadline and budget constraints that would have cramped her creative style, according to an Entertainment Weekly interview. Those constraints were at least partly imposed by Summit honcho Rob Friedman, who is now Lionsgate’s co-chairman. Do the math.

The Lionsgate guy who told Deadline‘s Nikki Finke and Michael Fleming last weekend that things were hopeful as far as Ross directing Catching Fire now says, “I am in shock.” The source and his colleagues “expected the deal to go down right after Easter weekend,” Finke reports. “And they even went so far as to privately deny an internet report that Ross had told the studio at the start of last week that he would not helm the sequel because he didn’t want to repeat himself.”

The line about needing to “juice the guys we gotta juice, so we can make more money so we can juice the guys we gotta juice” is from a mid ’70s film noir set in Los Angeles. Name the film, the director, the character who said the line and the actor who played him.

16 thoughts on “As Ross Rides Into The Sunset

  1. moviemaniac2002 on said:

    I’m right there with the “Good Riddance” crowd….never have I witnessed a first-film franchise starter so agressively sabotaged and undermined by its director….it literally looked like it was directed by a
    deaf, dumb and blind man wielding an 8mm Kodak Brownie Box….Uwe Boll would have been a step up from Ross….(it’s hard not to succumb to mutter the usual…”now that Lionsgate has banked hundreds of millions, maybe they can afford a tripod…”)

  2. The compressed schedule and “let’s shove it out the door ASAP” attitude is going to hurt the sequel(s), regardless of who directs. Spielberg seems capable of banging this crap out and maintaining a semblance of quality and craftsmanship; I don’t know of anyone else up to the task. So, Ross being out is a good thing, but I’m thinking Lionsgate is going to screw up a potentially interesting set of films.

  3. I just saw THG this weekend. I thought it was competent, and I had just finished reading the trilogy. What got me about that #%#%!! un-steady cam was that it was used in the wrong places. In the first 20-30 mins, it was ridiculous — using unsteady cameras on a calm, quiet place? Stupid. Then it was used more judiciously, I felt, during the games — when the movement was appropriate to get across the chaos of it all. I hope they get a good director for the next one; the book has such good visual possibilities.

  4. I haven’t seen Hunger Games, but I can’t imagine that there’s anything that Ross brought to the table that can’t be replaced. I mean, isn’t there a reason the guy has only directed 3 movies in the last 15 years?

  5. ,,,,while we’re on the subject of production schedules…..I knew they’d boxed themselves into a tight corner when they cast Lawrence, who’s almost six years too old for the role…..now they’ve got no choice but to hurry up the remaining films before she ends up looking like one of the ‘teenagers’ in “Grease”(…imagine if Warners had started the Harry Potter leads at 15 years old in the first film…)

  6. The Long Goodbye

    Wells to Tapley: Correctamente. You can’t do dialogue quizzes any more. I did this on Reel.com in the late ’90s and early aughts, but besides those who know this stuff on their own (like yourself) anybody can find dialogue sources with search engines nowadays. It takes four seconds.

  7. “they’d boxed themselves into a tight corner when they cast Lawrence, who’s almost six years too old for the role”

    This is one of those things that I usually don’t get too worked up about, like whether an actor physically resembles a real life person s/he’s playing. But clearly the smart thing for LG to do, now that Hunger Games is a proven property, would be to not rush Part 2 into production but hold off a year and film 2 and 3 back-to-back.

  8. There’s a hipster bar in Brooklyn called Bushwick Country Club. They identify which is their men’s room with a picture of Elliot Gould. On Saturday I stood in a line of about 4 guys and their girl friend. None of them knew who he was.

  9. And your thoughts on Cabin in the Woods are/were…? (I assume it’s not under embargo given all the plethora of stuff up at RT already).

    Less checking Twitter and rapid reactions to so-far-into-the-future-it’s-rather-insubstantial movie news (there are literally a million other more well-staffed sites that already do this Jeff — I don’t really think that’s why people keep coming back here), and more thoughts and writing on actual cinema being released right this very minute, please & thank you. :)

  10. DiscoNap – in a hipster bar, that’s pretty unforgivable. You could make a fairly convincing argument that Gould’s persona, particularly in The Long Goodbye – a kind of loser who’s too cool and laconic to really give a shit about winning and losing – is very proto-hipster.

  11. What franchises are you thinking of that cranked out sequels fast and was better off for it? I’d say they deliberately take their time with sequels these days. The fans stick around, especially for the properties based on books. LOTR releases were spaced out over 3 years. Harry Potter pushed back release dates with the film in the can a couple of times with no ill effects. Break the final HP & Twilight chapters into 2 films? No problem. The times are different, there’s tons of ancillary product to entertain the kids while they wait and just get even wilder for the next one.

    Also, this stink over Ross seems like a good chance to clarify the difference between a Director and a DP.

  12. Lionsgate will probably get someone who directed one of the Twilight sequels to do it though they should get James Wan or Darren Bousman on the phone, stat. Both can work quickly and within budget constraints.

  13. I find it a little unnerving that my wife and I just got done streaming The Long Goodbye on Netflix, and I hop on HE and find JW quoting the film. What are the odds?

    It made me want to go back and watch more sterling Hayden. And wish I had neighbors like Marlowe.

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