Chris Weitz To Direct Twilight Sequel; Risks Alienating Another Literary Cult

As you may have heard, Chris Weitz has been tapped to replace Catherine Hardwicke as the director of New Moon, the sequel to Stephanie Meyer’s vampire love story Twilight. ("TOLDJA!," Deadline Hollywood Daily’s Nikki Finke shouted when the news was announced.)

By way of introduction, Mr. Weitz sent an open letter to Twilight‘s diehard fans—those adolescent girls and forever-adolescent young women drawn to, (per The Atlantic‘s Caitlan Flanagan), "the dangers and dramatic consequences of… forbidden love"—which he partially addressed to the books’ characters.

From the letter:

I am very grateful to have received her permission to protect New Moon in its translation from the page to the screen.

For fans of the books and of the film of Twilight, this may come as an unexpected twist. So I want to write briefly to try to put you at ease, and to give you reason to hope for and expect the best.

For the last decade of my career as a director, I have chosen to make adaptations of complex and involved works of literature. This has always begun with the love of a book and its characters, story, and theme; and it has always involved a respect of and responsiveness to the feelings of other people who loved those books.

It’s true that Mr. Weitz has been involved with several adaptions. He was nominated for an Oscar in 2002 (along with his brother, Paul, and writer Peter Hedges) for the adaptation of Nick Hornby’s About a Boy. At the time, some felt that the movie was nominated by mistake: Fox News’ Roger Friedman speculated that, "Academy voters got confused between About Schmidt and About a Boy when they were picking Best Adapted Screenplay nominees?" While not an adaptation, Mr. Weitz’s co-directorial debut, American Pie, was in its own way a cinematic tribute to Philip Roth, seeing as how co-star Jason Bigg’s ode to the love that dare not bake its name was a lot closer to the spirit of Mr. Roth’s Alexander Portnoy than Richard Benjamin’s whiny portrayal of the character in Ernest Lehman’s 1972 adaptation

Mr. Weitz’s biggest—and most controversial—adaptation came last year when he directed a film based on another beloved fantasy book series, Philip Pullman’s Golden Compass. For his efforts on that film, Mr. Weitz was criticized by fans and taken to task in a pointed Atlantic article from December 2007 by Hanna Rosin.

The article, headlined How Hollywood Saved God, detailed the challenges of adapting a book that has such an intense, protective group of fans and that’s laced with the sort of anti-regilous sentiment Hollywood fears handling.

Ms. Rosin wrote:

The message boards quickly soured on Weitz. ‘Like it or lump it, Pullman’s atheism is an integral part of his novels,’ one fan wrote. ‘I’m led to assume that Weitz isn’t currently pursuing a career in spin only because he’s crap at it,’ sneered another. The Times of London ran a story headlined ‘God Is Cut From Film of Dark Materials.’

"Weitz told me that after reading the Times story, he went into a cold sweat," Ms. Rosin continued. "’Why am I doing this?’ he remembered thinking. ‘I’ll end up being hated by the fans and ripped into by the press. And this is a huge, huge endeavor. Maybe this isn’t for me.’"

One person who seemed not to like the finished product was Ms. Rosin, who in a Web-only follow up to her piece provocatively called Compass Without Direction (ouch!), wondered if the director had "lost his nerve."

In the next issue of The Atlantic, Mr. Weitz wrote an impassioned letter in response to Ms. Rosin’s article, calling it a "hatchet job" and an "assemblage of carefully cut-and-pasted quotes and surmises pumped up with paraphrase." (The director even criticized a caption used in the layout.)

Fans of the Twilight series will have to wait for New Moon to see if Mr. Weitz’s treatment of the book lives up their expectations or if he again lets down fans of his source materials. Meanwhile, Mr. Weitz is currently developing two other literary adaptations for the screen. The first is a movie based on Christopher Isherwood’s A Single Man to be produced by Mr. Weitz and directed by the fashion designer Tom Ford. The other is The Game, based a book about picking up women by journalist-turned-love guru Neil "Style" Strauss.

Chris Weitz To Direct Twilight Sequel; Risks Alienating Another Literary Cult