Over the past week or so, news has been coming in from all sides as to whether ‘Hunger Games’ director Gary Ross would be returning to direct the sequel ‘Catching Fire’.

At first, word was that Ross was out. Then Ross stated that he wasn’t necessarily out. Now it seems that things at flip-flopped again and this time it seems permanent.

Deadline reported yesterday evening that Lionsgate, the production company behind ‘Hunger Games’ had put out an official statement that Gary Ross was indeed out of the director’s seat for ‘Catching Fire’.

According to an executive at Lionsgate, Ross had been working closely with ‘Hunger Games’ author Suzanne Collins and had already begun preparations on ‘Catching Fire’. Allegedly, Ross had brought in screenwriter Simon Beaufoy (‘Slumdog Millionaire’) to pen the sequel after deciding that he didn’t have time to work on the script himself. However, Ross’s final decision to pull out seems to be made based on the scheduling of both the filming schedule and the schedule of the lead actress, Jennifer Lawrence (who played Katniss Everdeen in ‘Hunger Games’).

Here is the press release from Ross and Lionsgate on the situation:

Despite recent speculation in the media, and after difficult but sincere consideration, I have decided not to direct Catching Fire. As a writer and a director, 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.

I loved making The Hunger Games – it was the happiest experience of my professional life. Lionsgate was supportive of me in a manner that few directors ever experience in a franchise: they empowered me to make the film I wanted to make and backed the movie in a way that requires no explanation beyond the remarkable results. And contrary to what has been reported, negotiations with Lionsgate have not been problematic. They have also been very understanding of me through this difficult decision.

I also cannot say enough about the people I worked with: Producer Nina Jacobson, a great collaborator and a true friend; the brilliant Suzanne Collins, who entrusted us with her most amazing and important story; the gifted and remarkable Jennifer Lawrence whose performance exceeded my wildest expectations, and the rest of the incredible cast, whom I am proud to call my friends.

To the fans I want to say thank you for your support your faith, your enthusiasm and your trust. Hard as this may be to understand I am trying to keep that trust with you. Thank you all. It’s been a wonderful experience.

With Ross out, Lionsgate will be rushing to find a new director since ‘Catching Fire’ is set to begin filming in the fall of this year. Who would you like to see come to the table to work on ‘Catching Fire’? Comment below and let us know.