HUNGER followed in the giant footsteps of TWILIGHT’s five episodes, which did $3.3B worldwide from 2008-10. But moviegoers’ global appetite for HUNGER’s four episodes generated $4.2B from 2012-15. Both series were based on bestselling young adult fiction — Stephenie Meyer’s four fantasy vampire TWILIGHT novels & Suzanne Collins’ three dystopian HUNGER tales.
Like other Hollywood mega-hits, HUNGER had variables that could have spelled disaster had they been handled differently. Without director Gary Ross, HUNGER’s first episode could have been it’s last. Ross was one of three directors being considered in 2010. The other two seemed more likely choices at the time. David Slade had perfect credentials, having directed 2010 hit THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE. Sam Mendes made his feature directing debut in 1999 with AMERICAN BEAUTY, which won five Oscars, including best picture & directing. Ross was best known then for two smaller films — PLEASANTVILLE, a 1998 teen fantasy with Reese Witherspoon & Tobey Maguire; & SEABISCUIT, a 2003 sports drama with Tobey Maguire & Elizabeth Banks.
Casting Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen was another key decision without which HUNGER might never have worked as well. Other young actresses reportedly then under consideration included: Emma Roberts, Chloë Grace Moretz, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, Saoirse Ronan, Brie Larson & Shailene Woodley. When Lawrence was offered the role, she didn’t say yes, worrying she might be too old at 22 and too blonde to play 16-year-old brunette Katniss. Lawrence signed on only after Suzanne Collins insisted she was perfect casting.
Lawrence went on to star in three more episodes, but Ross didn’t direct them. In comments on the film’s DVD, he explained: “We were under tremendous financial pressure for this movie. It’s under $80 million, and it’s a really, really big movie. Other blockbusters cost twice or three times as much.” Between the money stress and a high-pressure production schedule, Ross had suffered enough HUNGER.
That was a lucky day for Francis Lawrence, director of the 2007 sci-fi drama I AM LEGEND. Lawrence was brought in to make the next three HUNGERs — 2013’s CATCHING FIRE, 2014’s MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 & 2015’s MOCKINGJAY – PART 2.