SANTA MONICA, California — She's an award-winning indie director known for her gritty style, ability to effectively fuse music with film and firm grasp on the difficulties of being young. And she recently reinvented herself as an estrogen-fueled Michael Bay, capturing the [article id="1600145"]record for largest opening by a female filmmaker[/article]. Twilighters know that [article id="1600080"]"New Moon"[/article] is the next movie for their beloved Edward and Bella -- but what does the immediate future hold for Catherine Hardwicke?
"Well, right now we're trying to figure out if the studio people, and me, and everyone's on the same page," the "Twilight" director explained exclusively to MTV News, addressing the fans who've already begun debating where — and with whom — the franchise should go from here. "I want to do ['New Moon'] better than we did 'Twilight,' and do it really cool. I definitely don't want to do it as something just tossed off, like a 'Saw II' or something like that. We want to be sure that it's really going to be great and that everyone's on the same page.
"I would say that the film could be finished by the end of 2009, if not the beginning of 2010; cameras could be rolling in about five months," Hardwicke said of her March/April timetable, should she return to helm the pic. "We spent about a year and three months getting ['Twilight'] ready, between writing the script and casting. We could probably do things a little bit faster this time, but who knows? It depends. And sometimes you can do things really fast. You can get two editors on, and you can just zip through."
The affable filmmaker — who famously had [movieperson id="365131"]Robert Pattinson[/movieperson] and [movieperson id="262629"]Kristen Stewart[/movieperson] audition with kissing scene on her bed to see if their chemistry was right — also revealed to us that she's already read the first pass at the "New Moon" screenplay that was turned in recently by [article id="1594849"]"Twilight" writer Melissa Rosenberg[/article].
"There's a draft, but then of course, you do more than one version of the script. You work on it. You try to bring it to life," Hardwick explained. "I've read the draft; we're looking at it and trying to think of cool ideas that will bring it to life, bring it to the screen."
Hardwicke then revealed that many of these "cool ideas" have been simmering in her head for quite some time — especially those revolving around the hairy situation that will soon transform Jacob Black ([movieperson id="373803"]Taylor Lautner[/movieperson]).
"I was doing a lot of research on wolves before [filming 'Twilight'], and we had a scene with the wolves in it," she explained. "So we're already thinking a little bit about [Jacob's transformation into a wolf]. Then there's the stunts, and there's Italy. It's all cooking in the brain."
She also reiterated her confidence in Lautner's ability not only to accurately portray Jacob — described in the books as growing to a muscular 6-foot-7 during "New Moon" — but also to carry a romantic storyline with Kristen Stewart's Bella for much of the next film. "We are putting him on a medieval torture thing and stretching him," Hardwicke laughed. "No, he's only 16, so he is still growing. His dad is tall, and he's working out, so you never know. ... [Creating the love triangle] will definitely be the challenge. That would be a thing to work on too. How do you deepen that chemistry and make it go to the next level?
"The wolves will be tricky, because they are supposed to be these giant wolves," she continued. "Is it going to be CGI, real wolves or a combination? There are five standard industry ways of doing it. Which will be most effective. When you read the book, you see how quickly they transform, and you see the shredding clothes and the popping collars, so that's a challenge. How does that read on film? How does that translate to film? What you normally do is you do tests. You figure out some things that are working better, and things that are not working better. You try them out, hopefully, on real people."
And the other challenge, as Twilighters know, is staying true to the novel while also figuring out how to get more screen time for breakout star Robert Pattinson. "When you look at the book, you wonder, 'How is this going to work?' That's one of the balancing acts that is being considered. It's definitely an issue, because we all love that chemistry between Rob and Kristen, but that's also what's great about 'New Moon' — [Edward] has to break himself away from [Bella], and the depression she gets into, the deep depression. That is the whole story, and you have to keep the integrity."
To get around the problem, Hardwicke conceded, she and Rosenberg may abandon the series concept of the story being seen through Bella's eyes. "That could be one of the ways," she said, contemplating scenes depicting Edward's journey without Bella. "Though, his story was a little bit depressing; it seems like he just sat down in a room and [moped]. But, you can always make that interesting."
With the success of the "Twilight" movie, Hardwicke feels that the keepers of the franchise have been blessed with an affirmation that such story tweaks are permitted — as long as they're within reason. "People know the book, so obviously that's the main structure of 'New Moon,' but like in 'Twilight,' where we took a lot of the emotions that were inherent to the material and brought them to cinematic life, like the jumping out of the trees and the dinner — we [could do the same]," she explained. "So that's what we are working on right now, a way to make it active and dynamic and create conflict, and make it leap off the page."
Asked which other "New Moon" elements she could see as receiving an extreme makeover, Hardwicke singled out the regal Italian vampires known as the Volturi, who'll play an important role in the next film. "Well, I definitely do not think they should look like those old dudes, like in an old 'Star Trek' episode where they are just wearing robes from some Universal [movie prop] closet. We're working on that," she laughed.
As for the actors who'll play the pivotal roles, she cryptically revealed: "Stephenie [Meyer] actually has a few people in her head right now that she's mentioned could be cool. But before I say who, we have to see their schedule and if they're interested in doing it. ... [One is] a very cool, unknown person."
These questions — and many more — will undoubtedly be answered in the next five months. But before the "New Moon" cameras can begin rolling, the most important one is whether Hardwicke will have the opportunity to make her vampire magic again.
"Where's my crystal ball? I need a crystal ball, I need a fortune teller," the director laughed. "I hope [I make 'New Moon'], but you just have to see if everything can work out. I don't know."
Check out everything we've got on "Twilight."
For breaking news, celebrity columns, humor and more -- updated around the clock -- visit MTVMoviesBlog.com.