BREAKING: Chris Weitz Named ‘New Moon’ Director, While Taylor Lautner Comes Up Short

Wow, it’s been a crazy week for Twilighters, hasn’t it? Now, only six days after director Catherine Hardwicke parted ways with the fall’s biggest franchise, it is official: Chris Weitz has been handed the keys to the kingdom.

“I am honored to have been entrusted with shepherding ’New Moon’ from the page to the screen,” Weitz said in a statement released today, discussing his involvement with Stephenie Meyer’s second novel. “The extraordinary world that Stephenie has created has millions of fans, and it will be my duty to protect on their behalf the characters, themes and story they love. This is not a task to be taken lightly, and I will put every effort into realizing a beautiful film to stand alongside a beautiful book.”

Throughout the week, “Twilight” fans have voiced their concerns over the film series’ future, and their fears about whether the “Golden Compass” director could successfully continue the story of Edward Cullen and Bella Swan. Now that it’s official, the question remains: Will they warm to Weitz as much as they did to the affable Hardwicke?

“We love Stephenie Meyer’s fantastic ’Twilight’ series,” promised Erik Feig, Summit’s President of Production. “Thinking long and hard about how to turn ’New Moon’ into the amazing movie we know it will be, and working with Stephenie Meyer to find the right candidate, we are thrilled to announce Chris Weitz as director of the film. Chris very much understands the world of ’New Moon,’ and has the skill set required to bring the book to glorious life as a movie. We think he will be an excellent steward of Stephenie Meyer’s vision.”

It’s no secret that Meyer and Hardwicke became the best of friends during the process of making “Twilight,” and it remains to be seen whether she will be able to create the same dynamic with the new director.

Explaining the Weitz selection further, the Summit release added: “Weitz, an Academy Award-nominated writer, director and producer, has a proven track record working with a broad range of material dealing with youth-oriented characters, fantasy and action. As such, he has the potential to bring alive in ’New Moon’ the dimensions and depth that fans will demand in the next installment.”

The release also offered, for the first time, the studio’s official synopsis for the sequel: “In ’New Moon,’ Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) is devastated by the abrupt departure of her vampire love, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) but her spirit is rekindled by her growing friendship with the irresistible Jacob Black. Suddenly she finds herself drawn into the world of the werewolves, ancestral enemies of the vampires, and finds her loyalties tested. Production on ’New Moon’ is scheduled to begin in the coming months and the studio is planning to release the film towards the end of 2009 or early 2010.”

Sharp-eyed Twilighters may have noticed that although Stewart and Pattinson’s name appears in the synopsis after their characters, Taylor Lautner’s does not. This can’t be welcomed news for the 16-year-old star of the first film, particularly following on the heels of concerns that he’s too small to continue playing Jacob, and rumors that other actors are being considered as replacements (read Lautner discussing “New Moon” here).

Click here to read all of our ongoing “Twilight” coverage.

What say you, Twilighters? Are you excited to see what Weitz has in store? And are you worried for Lautner’s future?