UPDATE: Summit Entertainment Co-Chairman/CEO Rob Friedman just phoned me to add: “Catherine and Summit have agreed to part ways on the sequel because our visions are different.” The start-up studio’s hastily prepared statement (below) notes: “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.”
EXCLUSIVE: So the rumors are true. I’ve confirmed that Summit Entertainment has rejected Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke from heming the sequel in this big new franchise. No doubt my news will speed up the studio’s announcement, and Summit will surely spin this as all going down amicably along the lines that “she couldn’t fit the film into her time frame”. (Summit does want a ridiculously speeded-up sked for the next installment.) But this terrible news for Hardwicke comes just as she and the Twilight cast are on their European press tour. 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. That was a record embraced by Hollywood feminists as a sign of growing gal power. [“To think that the people at Summit are sexist is insulting,” an insider there replies to me.] This wasn’t a good weekend for female film directors because Lexi Alexander’s Punisher: War Zone bombed, earning less than half what Hollywood thought it would. As to whether Hardwicke’s career will be damaged by this very public firing is up for grabs because, even though the pic was skewered by critics, it is already a $160M low-cost blockbuster. Summit has started preparing the sequel New Moon, based on Meyer’s second book in the series, and, to contain costs, the studio is considering making third book Eclipse back to back.
The word from inside Summit is that Hardwicke, the acclaimed Thirteen and Lords of Dogtown and The Nativity Story director, “was ‘difficult’ and ‘irrational’ during the making of Twilight,” one insider explains to me. “That doesn’t mean anything when you’re talking about a filmmaker because they all are, but still…” (Joe Roth and Sony kept saying that about Julie Taymor on Across The Universe. Yet she made a cult classic and is now directing Marvel/Sony’s Spider-Man for Broadway.) But an outside source also informs me, “Summit didn’t like her. They’re saying the DP [director of photography] Elliot Davis is the one responsible for the film’s sumptuous visual look, that the editor Nancy Richardson had to save the film in post-production, and Summit thought Hardwicke’s [CAA] agent Beth Swofford was alternately ineffectual and hysterical. It certainly demonstrates, while CAA agents boast of their vast influence, how little clout and muscle they actually have, or are willing to use, to protect their artists.”
I’m told that the studio has even had quiet talks with other CAA directors for the last week. “And Swofford never told Hardwicke about that and that she was about to get kicked to the gutter,” an insider tells me. “To add insult to injury, Hardwicke can now look forward to being grilled by the press for days on end, in front of the cast, about why she’s getting shit-canned.” Adds another source: “Catherine is the consummate professional so she’s continuing the press tour.”
Here’s Summit’s news release tonight:
Los Angeles, CA, December 7, 2008 – 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 Erik Feig, Summit’s President of Production. “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.”
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