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Why Director Catherine Hardwicke Has No Regrets About Walking Away From Twilight - Exclusive

From the moment she made her directorial debut with the wrenching teenage drama "Thirteen," Catherine Hardwicke has pursued an eclectic and unpredictable career as a filmmaker. She's tackled skateboarding culture in "Lords of Dogtown," the birth of Jesus in "The Nativity Story," a reinvented fairy tale in "Red Riding Hood," and a drug cartel thriller in "Miss Bala." But her biggest commercial success and best-known film to date is the first "Twilight."

Stephenie Meyer's teen vampire books were quickly and quietly becoming a massive pop culture phenomenon (via USA Today), so Hardwicke unknowingly landed the biggest assignment of her career at that point when Summit Entertainment signed her up to direct the movie. Starring then-relative unknowns Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, "Twilight" grossed more than $407 million worldwide (against a paltry budget of $37 million) (via Box Office Mojo) and made instant superstars out of its young leads. The film's success also ensured that Meyer's three succeeding books — "New Moon," "Eclipse," and "Breaking Dawn" — would hit the big screen as well.

But although Hardwicke was initially involved in the development process for "New Moon," she ended up stepping away from the project and the entire "Twilight" franchise. "The first book Stephenie wrote was very odd and unique and original," Catherine Hardwicke tells Looper now, some 14 years after "Twilight" was released. "That's the one I responded to the most, so I can't be sorry. I think I did the right thing."

What led Catherine Hardwicke to leave the Twilight series?

Catherine Hardwicke remains the only woman to direct a film in the "Twilight" saga, with the others helmed by Chris Weitz, David Slade, and Bill Condon, respectively. Hardwicke says now that it was because of the studio's muted outlook for how well the film would do that she got to direct it at all.

"When I got to do 'Twilight,' I got to do it like an indie film, because no one had any expectations," Hardwicke explains. "Let's be honest — they would have never hired a female director if they thought it was going to be a blockbuster. They didn't micromanage me at all. I got to cast actors who were unknown at that time. Everyone at Summit was very cool and they encouraged me. They weren't on my back and giving me a million notes."

All that changed, however, when "Twilight" became a monster hit and Summit suddenly had a potential cash cow on its hands — the kind of ongoing franchise that studio heads dream about. "After that, the expectations went through the roof, so there was a zillion notes and committees and everything," recalls Hardwicke. "I don't think I would have worked well like that."

So even though Hardwicke's work on the first film was acclaimed and she was offered a substantial amount of money to return (via MTV News), the increased pressure and tight turnaround time for the sequel led her to walk away. "I think I did do better just creating the first world," she says.

Catherine Hardwicke's latest film, "Prisoner's Daughter," recently premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.