Catherine Hardwicke not returning to direct ‘Twilight’ sequel

Due to a timing conflict, Summit Entertainment will move forward with the sequel to “Twilight” without director Catherine Hardwicke.

Variety reports Summit has pushed to get “New Moon” (the next book in Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series) into production which has caused a conflict with the studio and the director – who reportedly wanted more prep time to work on the film.

Summit has planned to get the film in theaters by the end of 2009 or the start of 2010.

In Variety, Hardwicke stated: “I am sorry that due to timing I will not have the opportunity to direct ‘New Moon.’ 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.”

 “Twilight” has earned an estimated $138.6 million at the box office so far, and a draft screenplay of “New Moon” (which reportedly will require more which CGI shots) has already been turned in by writer Melissa Rosenberg.

Summit announced plans to bring “New Moon” to the screen on Nov. 22nd, and had been in talks with Hardwicke for the past two weeks.

In Variety, Summit production prexy Erik Feig stated: “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. 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.”

Although the departure is being blamed on a timing issue, the studio and Hardwicke reportedly had strong opinions about the direction of the next film and how the book should be adapted.

“New Moon” has a stronger werewolf slant, and doesn’t have as strong a role for Edward (Rob Pattinson) – which the studio and Rosenberg have been working to change.

Hardwicke is at work on two other projects – including one with “Thirteen” producer Michael London.

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