Despite introducing America's most successful new movie franchise, Catherine Hardwicke will not direct the sequels to "Twilight." Summit Entertainment Co-Chairman/Chief Executive Rob Friedman tells Nikki Finke of DeadlineHollywoodDaily.com: "Catherine and Summit have agreed to part ways on the sequel because our visions are different."
Finke reports a source says the studio is taking Hardwicke off the sequel because she "was 'difficult' and 'irrational' during the making of "Twilight." The movie received lukewarm reviews — scoring 53 on Metacritic — but it nabbed respectful notices from some major media, such as Entertainment Weekly magazine and the Los Angeles Times, was produced for a modest budget of $40 million and has grossed more than $160 million in several weeks. Most hit films suffer huge attendance plunges after opening weekend, but "Twilight" has held on for a third weekend, coming in second place these last few days, reaping $13.2 million. The success of "Twilight" is so spectacular that plans are now underway to shoot the next two installments of Stephenie Meyers' books — "New Moon" and "Eclipse" — back to back in order to save money.
"This terrible news for Hardwicke comes just as she and the 'Twilight' cast (Robert Pattinson, Kristin Stewart) are on their European press tour," Finke adds. "No doubt tomorrow's interviews in France will now focus entirely on what, if anything, Catherine did to deserve this treatment. This also could blow up into a scandal for Summit if it chooses a male director over Hardwicke, whose 'Twilight' easily beat Mimi Leder's 1998 'Deep Impact' box office gross as the biggest opener for a female director."
The Los Angeles Times applauded Hardwicke's direction of "Twilight": "Neither Laurence Olivier attempting Shakespeare nor Konstantin Stanislavski tackling Chekhov approached their material with the degree of reverence that Hardwicke brings to 'Twilight.' A director whose entire career ('Thirteen,' 'Lords of Dogtown,' even 'The Nativity Story') has been built on the veneration of young adults, Hardwicke has connected so intensely to the Meyer novel that it's hard to imagine anyone else making a better version.
"Hardwicke also was instrumental in casting Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson as the star-crossed Bella and Edward, and those choices were excellent, not only because they're skilled performers but also because they too threw themselves into their parts as if they were Greta Garbo and Robert Taylor doing 'Camille' for George Cukor."
Entertainment Weekly said: "On screen, 'Twilight' is repetitive and a tad sodden, too prosaic to really soar. But Hardwicke stirs this teen pulp to a pleasing simmer." The Philadelphia Inquirer cheered Hardwicke for helming "Twilight" with "savvy humor."
The studio issued the following press notice:
"Summit Entertainment and director Catherine Hardwicke jointly announced today that the filmmaker will not be directing the next installment in the newly minted 'Twilight' film franchise. Summit’s targeted end of 2009 or early 2010 release of the film, 'New Moon,' does not work with Ms. Hardwicke's required prep time to bring her vision of the film to the big screen. Thus, as has been done before with many successful film franchises, the studio will employ a new director for 'New Moon.'
"'I am sorry that due to timing I will not have the opportunity to direct "New Moon,"' said Hardwicke. 'Directing 'Twilight' has been one of the great experiences of my life, and I am grateful to the fans for their passionate support of the film. I wish everyone at Summit the best with the sequel — it is a great story.'
"'Catherine did an incredible job in helping us to launch the 'Twilight' franchise and we thank her for all of her efforts and we very much hope to work with her on future Summit projects,' said Summit President of Production Erik Feig. 'We as a studio have a mandate to bring the next installment in the franchise to the big screen in a timely fashion so that fans can get more of Edward, Bella and all of the characters that Stephenie Meyer has created. We are able to pursue an aggressive time frame as we have the luxury of only adapting the novels into screenplays as opposed to having to create a storyline from scratch.'"
Top photo: Catherine Hardwicke. Lower photo: Robert Pattinson and Hardwicke. Credit: Rick Bowmer / Associated Press