'Twilight' Director Bumped From Sequel; We Size Up the Replacements

As hinted at two weeks ago and confirmed Sunday, director Catherine Hardwicke is done with the Twilight franchise, leaving a giant "Help Wanted" sign around the blockbuster's swoony, more wolfy sequel New Moon barely a year before its studio hopes to rush it into theaters. No problem, though — after a helpful consultation with Defamer HR, producers should be able to lock up a qualified helmer by the end of the business day.

Hardwicke and Summit Entertainment officially confirmed their split on the basis of a late-2009/early-2010 release date for New Moon, according to Variety, a turnaround that Hardwicke declined with the script's first draft delivered only last month. Read: Summit doesn't have the time or inclination to haggle with CAA over Hardwicke's raise, especially facing budget spikes for co-stars Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson and for New Moon's more complex werewolf effects.

Moreover, Nikki Finke cites rumors about cinematographer Elliot Davis and editor Nancy Richardson saving Hardwicke's ass in the first place — not an unreasonable conclusion considering they've been doing it for Hardwicke off-and-on since Lords of Dogtown, sussing what life they could from characters smothered beneath the thick, surface-level sheen for which Hardwicke made her name as a production designer in the '90s. Still, difficult or sketchy or otherwise, nobody can take her biggest opening ever for a female director away from her; if she really wanted New Moon, she could have had it, '09 release or not.

But she didn't, and so begins Summit's new director hunt (if it's not months along already). On one hand, it hardly matters who the hell directs New Moon; the fan base isn't reading the name in the box at the bottom of the one-sheet, and unless Summit recruits, say, Joel Schumacher (God forbid), most critics might even view the switch as an upgrade. That said, we have our own wish list of filmmakers we'd like to see handed the franchise if Summit had any sense of adventure whatsoever:

'Twilight' Director Bumped From Sequel; We Size Up the Replacements

· Jonathan Levine — Was a Toronto Film Festival sensation in 2006 with his indie thriller All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, which the Weinsteins bought, shelved and relinquished a year later just as Levine's second film, the pot-culture autobiopic The Wackness, was about to become a Sundance sensation. Between his inexpensiveness, his genre smarts and the smoky principles over which he and Kristen Stewart can surely bond, Levine should at least get an interview. Bonus: He's not with CAA!

· Nanette Burstein — If it's still the woman's touch Summit wants, then Burstein should be a front-runner: The Oscar-nominated documentarian had her fiction skeevy pseudoreality breakthrough earlier this year with another young-skewing Sundance hit, American Teen. It flailed at the box office, but so did Hardwicke's last two films before Twilight, so that hardly seems a deal-breaker.

· Tomas Alfredson — We told you back in September that Alfredson's bloody Swedish coming-of-age drama Let the Right One In would endure as the more memorable of this season's chaste young-vampire flicks. The critics have spoken affirmatively (audiences, too, to a lesser degree), and we nominate New Moon as Alfredson's English-language crossover.

· Deborah Kampmeier — The director of Hounddog works fast, cheap and is great with younger actors.

'Twilight' Director Bumped From Sequel; We Size Up the Replacements

· Larry Clark — Speaking of younger actors, how fantastic would it be to see the man behind Teenage Lust, Kids, Bully and other benchmarks of corrupted youth entrusted with the supernatural romance of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen? And with the indie Summit having the option of releasing New Moon unrated, Clark could raise the bar on interspecial monster sex higher than ever. Probably a longshot, but if you've seen Clark's 2002 masterpiece Ken Park, then you'll know nobody does longshots better. Ahem.