It came as a shock to just about everybody that director Gary Ross has decided not to direct "Catching Fire," the sequel to the phenomenon that is "Hunger Games." Seriously? Not just angling for more money or a bigger piece of the back end. Amazing.
Last week, the "Los Angeles Times" reported that Lionsgate has "cobbled together" a list of eight possible replacements for what is probably the directorial plum of the decadeÔÇªand two Latino directors are on the short list: Alfonso Cuar??n and Alejandro Gonz?ílez I???írritu, among others (including, for some reason, cult fave David Cronenberg. Yeah, right.)
It says somethingÔÇôthough we're not sure whatÔÇôthat Latino directors continue to be tapped, or at least considered, for major "mainstream" movies that have little or no Latino contentÔÇôin fact, for movies that are often iconically non-Latino. Cuar??n, of course, directed "Harry Potter and the The Prisoner of Azkhaban," one of the hugely successful chapters of the ultimate British kid's book; Rodrigo Garc?¡a directed another quintessential British project last year in "Albert Nobbs" (and didn't receive nearly enough notice for it). And though Guillermo del Toro, like many of these others, has worked hard to bring a Latino point of view to his works, his most popular pictures are clearly the more general, vaguely Europeanish "grand guignol" of "Hellboy." And don't get us started on Latino TV directors who can't get Latino project off the ground.
It's also worth noting that you see very few African American or Asian directors on the same "non-ethnic" list, with the possible exception of Spike Lee for his occasional thriller and Ang Lee, with his mostly unsuccessful forays into pop films, like the original "Hulk" feature.
What are the chances that Cuar??n or I???írritu will actually get the gig? Frankly, I???írritu is a longshot; though his thrillers like "21 Grams" and "Babel" show that he can handle action, these are very tight (and very grim) 'little' pictures with big stars that feel as if they were half-improvised (and quite nicely, too), where "Catching Fire" is about as 'big' a picture as you can get, and one that requires an almost religious dedication to the original story.
Cuar??n, on the other hand, may be the perfect candidate: he's proven his ability to handle big, sprawling stories while sticking to the impossible tight strictures that accompany the adaptation of an insanely popular work, and he's already had practice at picking up a major-major project in the middle of a run, as he did from Chris Columbus, who set the tone and pace of the "Potter" movies before him. Still, even with all that at stake, Cuar??n still managed to bring his own look and feel to the project in a way that made almost everyone happy, and left us all a little breathless.
We'll see what the final decision isÔÇôand it will have to be soon; filming has already been schedule to begin as early as August. Meanwhile, it's a testament to these men's skill and the acknowledged abilities of Latino directors in general that two of that small club are on a list that's no longer than seven. An encouraging sign for the future.