19 April 2012 6:05 PM, PDT | EW - Inside Movies | See recent EW.com - Inside Movies news »

Barely a week after Gary Ross bowed out of directing Catching Fire, the sequel to his blockbuster megahit The Hunger GamesFrancis Lawrence has been offered the hotly contested job, EW has confirmed.

The I Am Legend helmer — no relation to star Jennifer Lawrence — won the gig over reported contender Bennett Miller (Moneyball), whose commitment to a fall shoot for the biopic Foxcatcher likely ultimately put him out of the running. (The Hollywood Reporter first broke the story.)

Catching Fire is set on a much larger, more exotic canvas than The Hunger Games, and the choice suggests Lionsgate was keen on Lawrence’s ability to handle large-scale visual effects sequences while also giving them a sense of style. He’ll have precious time to prepare; Catching Fire already has a set release date (Nov. 22, 2013), and needs to finish shooting by December, in time for Jennifer Lawrence to begin production on the sequel to X-Men: First Class. »

- Adam B. Vary

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