This is getting very ugly.
Initially, yesterday's surprising news of Rachelle Lefevre being replaced by Bryce Dallas Howard in the key role of Victoria in "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" seemed like it would fade away as both sides tried to put the best light on the situation. That's hardly been the case. Lefevre responded earlier today saying she was 'stunned' by the news and had been 'fully committed' to the role having turned down several other film opportunities to complete her character's three picture arc. While many studios would have just stayed quiet hoping to quell the controversy, Summit went on the defensive Wednesday evening issuing the following statement:
"We at Summit Entertainment are disappointed by Rachelle Lefevre’s recent comments which attempt to make her career choices the fault of the Studio. Her decision to discuss her version of the scheduling challenges publicly has forced the Studio to set the record straight and correct the facts.
* Ms. Lefevre's representatives were advised as early as April that THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE was expected to start shooting in early August.
* If Ms. Lefevre was, as she describes “passionate,” about being part of THE TWILIGHT SAGA, we feel that she and her representatives would have included us in her decision to work on another film that would conflict with the shooting schedule of THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE.
* It was not until July 20th that Summit was first informed of Ms. Lefevre’s commitment to BARNEY’S VERSION, a commitment we have since been advised she accepted in early June. Summit had acted in good faith that she would be available to fulfill her obligations both in terms of rehearsals and shooting availability for THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE. We feel that her choice to withhold her scheduling conflict information from us can be viewed as a lack of cooperative spirit which affected the entire production.
* Furthermore Ms. Lefevre took a role in the other film that places her in Europe during the required rehearsal time, and at least ten days of THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE’s principal photography. This period is essential for both rehearsal time with the cast, and for filming at key locations that are only available during the initial part of production.
* Contrary to Ms. Lefevre’s statement, it is simply untrue that the Studio dismissed her over a ten day overlap. It is not about a ten day overlap, but instead about the fact that THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE is an ensemble production that has to accommodate the schedules of numerous actors while respecting the established creative vision of the filmmaker and most importantly the story.
The fact remains that Ms. Lefevre’s commitment to the other project - which she chose to withhold from Summit until the last possible moment - makes her unfortunately unavailable to perform the role of Victoria in THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE."
[Statement initially posted on MSN Movies Twilight Fan Blog]
If you read between the lines, there is way more to this story than what both parties are revealing here. Lefevre's management may be at fault for misrepresenting their client and mistakingly playing hardball, but couldn't the studio really have handled this more smoothly? If Lefevre was truly blindsided by this news -- and you have to take her at her word she was -- why did Summit not try to broach her personally about the conflict? From all accounts, Lefevre has been a willing and drama-less ambassador for the franchise making almost any appearance or publicity request asked of her. What makes this whole situation even more peculiar is Summit expertly maneuvered around the touchy issue of "Twilight" director Catherine Hardwicke not returning to helm "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" when she'd publicly stated her desire to on numerous occasions. In fact, Hardwicke went on to help publicize the film's DVD release after Chris Weitz was brought on to direct "New Moon" (although she did have a financial incentive for the DVD to do well).
On the sideline is Howard, who no doubt is wondering, 'What have I gotten into?' and whether she'll be answering questions on the casting change for the next 12 months (yep). It's hard to imagine she thought the blowback would be this bad when she was agreed to come on aboard over the past few days.
Sadly, the biggest losers here are the fans who are getting caught in a tug of war between a rising star whose was extremely fan-friendly and a studio who has done everything possible to satisfy their constant hunger for new material. Is it going to take franchise author Stephenie Meyer to broker peace between everyone involved? One thing is clear, if you end up seeing Lefevre on Larry King Live or hearing her on Ryan Seacrest's radio show over the next few days? Then it's really gotten ugly.
Look for more updates on this story as it develops on HitFix.