Man to Direct 'Twilight' Sequel 'New Moon'

Now that a new director has signed on for the "Twilight" sequel, the PR campaign to win over the fans begins.

Chris Weitz, who directed "American Pie," "About a Boy" and "The Golden Compass," will be taking the helm of "New Moon" from Catherine Hardwicke, who was reportedly dropped from the sequel because of scheduling conflicts.

Possibly to head off any criticism of producer Summit Entertainment's choosing a male director after Hardwicke's super successful launch of the franchise, both Weitz and Stephenie Meyer, who wrote the bestselling novels on which the films are based, released statements online.

On her official Web site, Meyer praised Hardwicke: "Like you, I'm sad that Catherine is not continuing on with us for "New Moon." I'm going to miss her, not just as a brilliant director but also as a friend. She has such a distinct, authentic voice that did amazing things for 'Twilight.' I'm looking forward to every movie she does in the future.

"And she didn't leave us empty-handed," Meyer continued. "We still get the benefits of her amazing casting and the beautiful visual world she created. This foundation puts us in a good place for "New Moon."

Weitz, first known for his teen male gross-out film "American Pie," addressed any concerns about a male director taking on a series that is enormously popular with teen girls.

"To those who doubt that as a male director I can capture Bella's experience," he wrote in a letter posted on Hardwicke's Web site, "I can only say that emotion is universal and that my work has often involved working with some of the most talented actresses in the world."

It has been a good year for women at the box office. First there was the success of "Sex and the City," based on the hit television show about four female friends, followed by "Mama Mia," the Broadway musical-turned-movie in which Meryl Streep (gasp!) sings.

"Twilight," which opened Nov. 21, is on its way to eclipsing both with a three-week take of nearly $140 million. The film delivered about half of that in the opening weekend, giving Hardwicke the biggest opener ever for a female director.

Why Was Hardwicke Axed?

So, why, industry watchers wonder, is Hardwicke not returning to the director's chair for "New Moon," the next installment of author Stephenie Meyer's bestselling series on which the films are based?

"She's done exactly what Hollywood said we have to do as women -- delivered a successful box office movie," Melissa Silverstein, who runs the blog Women & Hollywood, told ABCNews.com. "It does not add up."

Silverstein wrote a blog about Hardwicke's departure under the headline: "What Does a $70 Million Opening Weekend Get Catherine Hardwicke? Fired."

Summit Entertainment, the film's distributor, and Hardwicke, who also directed "The Lords of Dogtown," released a statement Sunday pinning the director's departure on a timing conflict.

"I am sorry that, due to timing, I will not have the opportunity to direct 'New Moon,'" Hardwicke said. "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."

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