Who Is ‘New Moon’ Director Chris Weitz?

We take a closer look at the man who's been handed the keys to the 'Twilight' universe.

Despite fan fears that a male director might not be able to connect with the love-struck mind-set of Bella Swan, filmmaker Chris Weitz is probably feeling quite close to his main character right now, as he enters pre-production for “New Moon.”

He’s the new kid at Forks High, similarly hoping that he’ll make friends and become a straight-A student. Now, in order to talk the millions of “Twilight” fans into taking him to the prom, he’s begun cozying up to them in biology class.

“Dear fans of ‘Twilight,’ ‘New Moon,’ Bella, Edward and Jacob,” reads a new letter from the 38-year-old filmmaker that has begun flooding the Web. “In the past few days, I have been involved in a whirlwind romance with Stephenie Meyers’ [sic] extraordinary books.”

But before they’re ready to commit the same undying love to Weitz that they developed for Catherine Hardwicke, “Twilight” fans are eager to learn more about their new classmate.

Born in New York, Christopher John Weitz graduated with an English degree from Trinity College in Cambridge, then began a career in Hollywood with the 1998 Woody Allen animated flick “Antz.” While toiling in minor sitcoms, he teamed with his brother Paul to direct and produce “American Pie,” an enormously successful film that grossed nearly 10 times its budget.

From that almost-unheard-of immediate success in Hollywood, the Weitz brothers have launched an impressive and varied career. The duo went on to work together again on the Chris Rock vehicle “Down to Earth,” before getting serious with what many consider to be their greatest film, “About a Boy.” The film garnered the brothers an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.

“For the last decade of my career as a director, I have chosen to make adaptations of complex and involved works of literature,” Weitz said in his letter to the Twilighters, referring to his work with Nick Hornby’s “About a Boy” and other books. “[My work] 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 was this love of literature, however, that would soon create the biggest stumbling block in Weitz’s career, as he followed up “Boy” with “The Golden Compass.” After years of teaming with his brother to produce solid-but-underachieving flicks like “In Good Company” and “American Dreamz,” as well as a seemingly endless supply of “Pie” sequels, he landed the most ambitious job of his young career adapting Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy.

Weitz wrestled with the project for more than a year, was replaced by Anand Tucker, and then returned after Tucker resigned in 2006. After a lengthy production period spiked with controversies over Weitz’s fantasy-vs.-religion tightrope walking, “The Golden Compass” was oddly marketed as a “Narnia”-esque family film without religion and a Daniel Craig action flick that only had the actor in a handful of scenes. Not surprisingly, the mixed messages (and lack of an ending) contributed to the $180 million film pulling in only $25 million at the box office during its opening weekend in 2007.

“When I saw the film of ‘Twilight,’ I was alternately entranced and left hungry for more,” Weitz said this week of his newest passion project. “I was also struck by the extraordinary passion for the characters, story and theme that was evident in the people sitting in the seats around me. My job is to live up to that devotion.”

Unfortunately, the final moments of “Golden Compass” tease sequels that will never be made, as the movie’s failure was largely seen as a contributing cause to the collapse of its studio. The Nicole Kidman film did do solid business overseas, however, and Weitz is now taking on another fantasy franchise in “New Moon” — albeit one with as little as a quarter of the “Compass” budget.

“I will devote myself to making the very best and most faithful version of ‘New Moon’ that can be brought to the screen,” Weitz wrote in his letter to the “Twilight” fans. “To those who doubt that as a male director I can capture Bella’s experience, 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.”

Now that Weitz has begun reaching out to the “Twilight” fanbase, it will be interesting to see their response over the next 12 weeks of pre-production. He has already won over the prom queen, however. Author Stephenie Meyer posted her own message to fans Saturday, professing a desire to give the new kid a good seat in the school cafeteria.

“I am very pleased to announce that he’s agreed to be a part of our Twilight world,” Meyer wrote. “I’ve had the chance to talk to Chris, and I can tell you that he is excited by the story and eager to keep the movie as close to the book as possible. He is also very aware of you, the fans, and wants to keep you all extremely happy.

“Torches and pitchforks,” she insisted, “are not going to be necessary.”

Check out everything we’ve got on “New Moon.”

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