Gary Ross In-Out at LionsGate? Where is Suzanne Collins?

by John on April 10, 2012

A dear friend wrote to me after seeing the Katniss Barbie doll, the one modeled on Miss Everdeen of the Esquire photo shoot, not Pippi of Panem of the novels, to express his alarm:

So, the question is: did Collins agent let her get hoodwinked and sell rights for things she’d never approve of? (Remember JKR’s promise that there would be no Harry Potter Happy Meals? I don’t think there ever was one, buy-your-own-wand aside.) Or has she in fact cheerfully and lucratively embraced the very culture she was claiming to subvert?

I mean, seriously–can you see Orwell approving little plush Napoleons?

I can see why my friend wrote me directly rather than post this thought, this note of disappointment in the Capitol-ization of the books, in that thread’s comment boxes. Who wants to say the ugly ‘sell-out’ words about the author? I sure don’t.

But I thought of Suzanne Collins this week and last during all the hullaballoo about the movie premiere. She was conspicuously absent, no? Except for the photo above (which came with a story explaining she didn’t do any interviews on the red carpet) she is out of the picture. Contrast the number of her interviews and photo shoots with those of the movie director, Gary Ross.

He is everywhere — at least as in the news as any of the stars and starlet, and with the speculation that he won’t be director any longer, he is more in the news than anyone. Ms. Collins is relatively invisible, only alluded to as justification for major changes in her screenplay and novel story line and meaning. In comparison with her triplet sisters in the Book-Become-Movie-Mania Bazillionaire Club on Roll-Out Day, Suzanne Collins makes near wall-flowers Joanne Rowling and Stephenie Meyer seem like exhibitionists off their meds and on a tequila bender.

Two thoughts:

(1) John’s Wish Fulfillment Fantasy: Ms. Collins is disgusted by Gary Ross as the living cartoon of a Gamesmaker she tried to show us in the stylists and Plutarch-on-a-bad-day in her Everdeen Saga. She is invisible because she is distancing herself from the hijacked parody of her stories coming to the screen in the movies made by Gilderoy Ross-hart. The conflict with Mr. Ross in the negotiations is her attempt to reclaim her achievement — and force Lionsgate to tell the anti-media story that Gamesmaker Ross is not able to tell.

Well, that was a lot of fun to write. Then I wake up from fantasy world with no rides.

(2) Gary Ross isn’t going anywhere. One of the reasons he is in every photo shoot and he’s doing interviews even on High School fangirl podcasts is because he’s in negotiations for control of the next film (or two). The more fans, reviewers, and the average person identifies him with this franchise, the more leverage he has in asking for percentage of profits and money for production. He’s the auteur, right?

I suspect Ms. Collins’ reserve just reflects a certain practical wisdom and self-awareness. She’s not a god and therefore doesn’t want to be entrained by the tsunami of attention and demands that engaging with reporters, photographers, and television personalities all but guarantees. She’s written about the madness of the Capitol and does not intend to become a part of it — or to try to stand in front of the Tiananmen Tank of Tinsel Town in the senseless attempt to slow or diminish its tawdry trek.

I suspect she likes what Gary Ross has done, because, bad as I may think his political allegory stripped of its spiritual and media messages, I know, she knows, we all know it could have been a lot worse. So we get the Katniss Everdeen action figure with the usual Barbie elephantiasis and disproportion… Maybe a few more young women will read the books because of this hype and nonsense, and, in that,  get to meet the real heroine and experience her choices and transformation into the mutt-Phoenix and holder of the Pearl of Great Price. Maybe a few young men will aspire to be like the Boy with the Bread.

If not, at least Ms. Collins has her personal dignity and the leisure consequent to her wealth to write more indictments of the way things are in books supposedly about a world that might be.

In her absence, Gary Ross Will Answer Reader Questions About ‘The Hunger Games’. It’s a shame, but, again, it could be worse. I doubt serious readers will be hanging on his insights or pronouncements the way we would be the thoughts of the author. I know I won’t be.

Your comments and corrections are coveted, as always.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Hanna April 11, 2012 at 12:28 pm

So, John, any thoughts from you about who you would like to see in the director’s chair?

David April 11, 2012 at 12:29 pm

John,

I saw this today: http://www.deadline.com/2012/04/gary-ross-decides-not-to-direct-hunger-games-2-catching-fire-lionsgate-in-shock/ Perhaps there is hope for the Districts after all.

David

John April 11, 2012 at 12:53 pm

This is so funny…

I wrote a piece last Sunday saying how glad I was that Ross wasn’t returning (because that was the story then) but had to scrap it when the word came down that it was just a bump in the road. And now the bump, whatever it was, is the story ender.

My first thoughts:

First, color me skeptical that this really is the last word. Ross is walking away from a lot of money even if he has, via the film and “his post-production efforts” at self-promotion, increased the value of his brand exponentially.

Second, if Ross really isn’t returning, it isn’t because of the cramped production times. He’s known about those dates probably from before he took the first job. My ‘wish-fulfillment-fantasy’ scenario of a Collins-Ross disagreement and her insisting on a return to her story got a surprising boost from this paragraph in the story David mentioned:

“He and The Hunger Games trilogy author Suzanne Collins had been working on this sequel since last November. They drafted Slumdog Millionaire screenwriter Simon Beaufoy when The Hunger Games post-production schedule became too arduous for Ross to carry through with a plan to write the sequel outline and then pen the script with Collins.”

Um… Mr. Ross decided he had to make every self-promotional photo shoot and interview imaginable — unlike every director in the Harry Potter and Twilight franchises, all of whom were side-liners on the Red Carpets — rather than write the script of the second film? The idea that he and Ms. Collins had different ideas about Catching Fire (and the Gamesmakers portrayed therein) suddenly seems almost credible.

The person I want to hear from is Janet Batchler at ‘Quoth the Maven.’ She knows what is going on and how Hollywood works — or at least a lot more than know-nothing books-are-best folks like me ever will!

Janet, are you out there? Help us out!

David April 11, 2012 at 1:46 pm

I also appreciated the unintentional irony in the article’s title “Lionsgate in Shock”. If you replace “Gary Ross” with “Seneca Crane” and “Lionsgate” with “Gamesmakers” then perhaps life really does imitate art.

John April 12, 2012 at 7:25 pm

Lionsgate is in Shock” may also refer to the big shake-up going on consequent their having purchased Summit Entertainment. See this in the LA Times business blog:

Lions Gate cuts 80 jobs following Summit acquisition

Layoffs at both companies were anticipated as they merged their motion picture and home entertainment operations. Most of the layoffs Friday were in those departments.

The cuts total about 12% of a combined workforce of 675 people, said the person, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the layoffs. Some jobs will also be eliminated through attrition, reducing the total workforce to about 575.

A friend in Hollywood wrote: “It may also be possible that whoever [Ross] was working with at Lionsgate is no longer there, and he didn’t want to work with Summit after the two companies merged…..”

For a review of how franchises fare when switching directors, see the Miami Herald’s For film franchises, switching directors is hit and miss. It’s mostly ‘Hit’ and I expect the buzz today about the great loss of Ross is largely due to his great success in positioning himself as the auteur of this film series.

As you know if you’ve been reading posts here, I think the loss of Ross is a great boon if they can find someone not wanting to hijack the anti-media message of the series to take his place. Good luck, though, with finding the anti-Gamesmaker in Hollywood! Seen Cinna, anyone?

Nicole Olson April 12, 2012 at 11:25 pm

Sadly, it really could be a whole lot worse. In addition to your wish fulfillment fantasy and probable reality, there is also the nightmarish possibility that the script for Catching Fire veers further from the book than even Ross is willing to go and that Suzanne Collins may have very little control at this point in the game.

And as horrifying as that may be, Lionsgate will eventually have to decide how to handle the Mockingjay issue. Exactly what are they going to do with Mockingjay? A sizable chunk of the Hunger Games fan base detested the direction the series took in Mockingjay. I’ve seen a handful of internet ramblings expressing hope that the movies will “fix” what some readers saw as a botched and unsatisfactory conclusion. I fear that the Hollywood Gamesmakers will decide that Mockingjay’s negative book reviews give them the liberty to spin the story in a direction that is not supported by the text. If that is their strategy, Catching Fire may become the jumping off point.

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