EXCLUSIVE: Bill Condon has emerged as the number one choice to direct the final two installments of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, I’m told. Summit Entertainment hasn’t signed him, but I’m told that after several strong meetings, they are negotiating. Condon was among a list of A-list directors approved by Summit and Twilight author Stephenie Meyer. That list included Gus Van Sant, Sofia Coppola and Fernando Meirelles. Shooting will begin in the fall, and I heard the plan is to shoot two films back to back. That was just what my colleague Nikki Finke reported. She also wrote that Summit was looking for a big director and Dreamgirls and Gods and Monsters director Condon certainly fits that bill. Presumably, Condon would do this as his next project, and push back the picture he had planned to direct. That’s an adaptation of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, which he was putting together to be distributed by Fox Searchlight. Casting had been difficult on that one, as Colin Firth was in and out, along with Rachel Weisz and Kristin Scott Thomas. The Twilight job came open when The Twilight Saga: New Moon director Chris Weitz decided not to reprise, despite directing a film that grossed $707 million worldwide., almost doubling the Catherine Hardwicke-directed original’s $385 million worldwide gross. New Moon also broke Twilight’s opening weekend DVD sale record when it moved 4 million units to the 3.8 million of the original Twilight, which went on to become 2009’s top DVD title with 9.2 million sales. David Slade helmed the upcoming installment, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, which Summit releases June 30. Condon is also going to direct the Richard Pryor biopic that will star Marlon Wayans and will be made by Columbia Pictures through a put deal held by Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison, which is a producer on the project. Like Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, that is going to have to wait for Condon to finish the double feature. Hollywood hasn’t given Summit its due on the Twilight pictures. Like them or not, these pictures have been better than they had to be, given the ferocious fan base. They are exciting movies with a fresh contemporary feel. That Summit keeps pushing the envelope, where director quality is concerned, says a lot in how to keep franchises engaging for fans–something that studios now readying prequels, four-quels and reboots, would be smart to emulate.
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