UPDATED: Is Summit Intentionally Torpedoing the ‘Twilight’ Sequel?

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UPDATE: Entertainment Weekly is reporting Chris Weitz has officially signed on to direct New Moon and says to expect an official announcement from Summit on Sunday. They say Weitz could be in Vancouver as early as Monday to begin pre-production.

Entertainment Weekly has a new report on the upcoming Twilight sequel New Moon, which includes a tentative release date of Nov. 20, 2009 and word that the director replacing Catherine Hardwicke needs to be in “Vancouver by Dec. 15 to begin 12 weeks of preproduction before a mid-March start date.” What the hell are they trying to do?

I am starting to think Hardwicke had a much larger role in her departure than I originally speculated. No director in their right mind would agree to such terms and if Summit actually wanted to make anything resembling a good movie they would have been much smarter to stick with Hardwicke considering she at least has a reasonable understanding of the material and what worked and what didn’t with the first film. If rumors are true Golden Compass helmer Chris Weitz has been offered the director’s chair for the film, but we are still waiting for any kind of confirmation on that report and considering these terms I can’t imagine why he would agree to do it. Weitz doesn’t need to make two fantasy busts in a row. Of course New Moon is likely to make money no matter what but I get the feeling the fans would be less likely to flock to New Moon if it ended up worse than Twilight. After all, the excitement for a sequel is always greater, but if it is a letdown the repeat business is far less, just ask Disney and the Narnia folk.

A comment from a representative at Summit told EW, “She’d love to do the sequel if she could do it better than Twilight. It ­became clear that Summit didn’t have those same priorities.” Apparently not. For those that don’t know when December 15 is, that’s this Monday. Weitz better be signed and packed if he’s the one signing on.

One of the other complaints over the first film was the rushed script by Melissa Rosenberg who was working against a deadline as the writers’ strike loomed. One of the good things about the sequel was Rosenberg would have time to turn in a properly penned story. Considering it was officially announced Rosenberg would be penning both New Moon and its follow-up, Eclipse, on November 22 that means 24 days later Summit wants pre-production to begin. I sure as hell hope she was working on that script beforehand.

EW also reports Summit is hoping to replace Taylor Lautner who plays Jacob and that the $50 million budget is likely to be spent on the two leads Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, both getting a reported $12 million each, and then location shoots in Italy and ramped-up F/X. What is left for the rest of the cast and actual production?

As for what director is going to take the chair, EW continues the talk that an offer is out to Weitz and has a quote from a studio exec saying, “You’d have to have a very high standard for art, hate the movie business, and hate ­money to walk off this sequel.”

Good Lord, what a mess.