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New director not afraid to take on ‘Twilight’ series

From left: Taylor Lautner, Kristen Stewart, director Bill Condon, and Robert Pattinson at a preview of “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1.’’ From left: Taylor Lautner, Kristen Stewart, director Bill Condon, and Robert Pattinson at a preview of “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1.’’ (Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Summit Entertainment)
By David Germain
Associated Press / July 23, 2011

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SAN DIEGO - One person who’s not sweating over the poor reviews of the first three “Twilight’’ movies is the guy directing the final two.

Bill Condon has gotten used to critical acclaim with his own last three films, “Dreamgirls,’’ “Kinsey,’’ and “Gods and Monsters.’’ He’s virtually guaranteed a colossal commercial success with parts one and two of “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn,’’ the final installments of the supernatural saga due out this November and next year.

But if “Breaking Dawn’’ follows the pattern of the previous “Twilight’’ tales, he may find critics a tough crowd.

“I don’t think you can ever anticipate that,’’ Condon said in an interview at the Comic-Con fan convention in San Diego, where he and stars Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner previewed two scenes of “Breaking Dawn - Part 1’’ for eager viewers.

“I was turned on by the story and then by the script, and I have to say for me, I started out in horror movies, and I’ve been looking for a way to make another horror movie. And horror movies don’t tend to get the greatest reviews. Some of them do, classics, but a lot of them don’t. So I think that comes with the territory.’’

Condon, 55, began his directing career with 1995’s fright flick “Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh,’’ a critical and commercial dud.

Three years later, he was an Academy Award winner for his screenplay for “Gods and Monsters,’’ the director’s portrait of “Frankenstein’’ filmmaker James Whale. Condon scored again with his Oscar-nominated screenplay for the musical smash “Chicago,’’ and after making the film biography “Kinsey,’’ he delivered his own song-and-dance hit with “Dreamgirls.’’

Now he’s the final custodian of an enormously popular fantasy series, following “Twilight’’ director Catherine Hardwicke and her successors, Chris Weitz and David Slade, to conclude the story of teenager Bella Swan’s bizarre love triangle with vampire Edward Cullen and werewolf Jacob Black.

Adapted from Stephenie Meyer’s books, “Twilight’’ is a rarity in Hollywood for building blockbuster success from a mainly female audience, rather than the young males normally targeted by studios. That idea thrills Condon.

The final films touch on loss of virginity, marriage, pregnancy, and death, “all touchstones in a woman’s life that are played out against this genre story,’’ Condon said.

“That is so rare in the way that we tell movies. All the parts of a boy’s adolescence are endlessly covered and examined in our mainstream movies, but women don’t get that.’’

Fans cannot get enough of “Twilight,’’ but Condon does not blame critics for being out of step with popular taste by trashing the movies.

“I would say absolutely not,’’ he said. “That’s their job, to hold to their standards and their sense of movie history.’’

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